End the Inaugural Inanity


1200px-Obamas_dance_at_Neighborhood_Ball_1-20-09_090120-F-9629D-686Ideas need time to gather momentum, and no idea —  no matter how good — works if introduced at the last minute. So if we start talking about this now, it will seem natural in January of 2017. So listen up candidates! I mean, “Mr. President.”

Don’t throw an inaugural ball. Just don’t. Don’t invite musicians to play and jam with on stage. Don’t ask poets to exhort you, or the public to line up and greet you with a parade. Don’t give the press an opportunity to speculate about who will wear which gown or what singer will belt out the national anthem. Take the oath, give your speech, and get to work.

Oh, the howls of cynicism and sneers of “optics”! The gnashing of teeth of the political class! But there are huge payoffs to this approach.

The first is literally fiscal. No Republican can win without a compelling plan to reduce the size and expense of government, and — no matter how underwritten with private money an inaugural ball may be — it will inevitably involve massive security costs on the taxpayer’s dime. So start walking the walk with the very first thing you have control over.

The second payoff is simple virtue. Our presidents are not kings. There will be innumerable opportunities for pomp and circumstance over the next few years. Show some restraint. Make the day boring. Make it about the work.

The final payoff is symbolic. This presidency, your decision will say, will be different. In advertising, you always push to differentiate yourself from your competitors. If they sell quality, you sell price. If they talk speed, you talk relationships. Throwing a better version of the same party won’t work — the last guy really could get A-listers; you can’t — and will signal you’re no different than your predecessor. Besides, no one wants to see you dance. It’s awkward for you and for us.

To those who say that the inaugural ball and related festivities are critical ways to say “thank you” to campaign staffers, volunteers, and donors, I would simply suggest that the best way to thank them is to do the job you were elected to do. And to those volunteers — whom I plan to be among — I would simply say that this is not the form of thank you we should want. Let’s throw our own party. One without the grownups. They’re at work.

So in late January of 2017, be better: be boring and be about the job. And if you start thinking about it now, you won’t feel like you’re missing anything important in January 2017. Because you won’t be. You’ll be at work.

Image Credit: “Obamas dance at Neighborhood Ball 1-20-09 090120-F-9629D-686” by Tech. Sgt. Suzanne Day, USAF – Source. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

There are 15 comments.

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  1. TG Thatcher

    This is an excellent idea, FIP.

    • #1
  2. TG Thatcher

    To be followed by delivering the State of the Union report on paper.

    • #2
  3. user_2505 Contributor

    Another great post, Fightin’.

    To tell the truth, though, I’d probably feel differently if I were J.P. Gotrocks, champion campaign contribution bundler, who’d helped make (say) victory possible in Pennsylvania. I’d turn to my trophy wife and whine, “I say there, Muffy, no par-tay? What will I tell those jackals at the country club? I feel so, so common.”

    • #3
  4. FightinInPhilly Coolidge

    Gary McVey:Another great post, Fightin’.

    Thanks Gary!

    • #4
  5. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male

    I’d love to see it.

    I don’t expect it to happen.

    If it did happen, it really would be a signal that “this time things are different”.  Which means if a candidate would pledge to do this, he’d be likely to pick up support from a lot of us who are really frustrated by the failures of the Republican party ever since 2010 (at least).

    But I don’t expect it to happen.

    And even if it did happen, you know in the end they’ll wind up having “just one little ball, but at least we’re not throwing all those extravagant parties like in the past”.  Which would completely screw the whole message and symbolism on day one and set the tone for further betrayals down the line.

    So I guess I do expect it to happen (the pledge, I mean), just as I expect the second part to happen (the betrayal) as well.

    I may just start supporting Bernie Sanders – if we’re going to go full socialist, at least let’s get an honest one.  And we can light the rocket sled to hell and get on with it.

    • #5
  6. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer

    Loved this piece.

    During Washington’s Administration, there was a very strong case to be made for going for the pomp. The nation and its new government were just getting on their feet in a world of monarchies and it was probably worth while to signal that our government had all the dignity of its peers… indeed, to make the point that they were our peers. Even if you agree with Jefferson that a republic is supposed to be different — and esteem his intentionally non-glitzy inauguration for the same reasons the OP suggests we return to that form — there was a strong case to be made the other way.

    These days, we know Washington can do empty pomp and ceremony and nothing is accomplished by trying and failing to outdo previous efforts and — as you say — there will be plenty of other opportunities for glitz. Skipping the ball wouldn’t just send a signal, it’d send the right one.

    • #6
  7. Larry3435 Member

    On the other hand, if Hillary wins, it would be nice to see her throw a four-year long party, and never “get to work.”

    • #7
  8. Butters Inactive

    yes, end the trappings of power

    1) stop attending the White House Correspondents Dinner

    2) deliver the State of the Union in written form

    3) If you must have state dinners, invite normal people, not billionaires or entertainment celebrities or media figures. Invite soldiers, teachers, etc.

    • #8
  9. HeartofAmerica Inactive

    THIS! ^^^

    • #9
  10. Ricochet Member

    Amen to your proposal, Fightin!

    • #10
  11. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA

    Great Idea.

    Rejecting the parties & the pomp and their expense is substantial–not just a posture.

    I’m not sure I would publicize it as part of the campaign, but surely make a private commitment to it, then unveil the ‘new normal’ just like cabinet announcements are made, after the election.

    Now, you can’t stop individuals from hosting parties, but the president can decline to attend, eschewing all pomp.

    • #11
  12. user_7742 Member

    But who will Al Roker shout at? I suppose he could find another parade. Never mind. Go about your business.

    • #12
  13. FightinInPhilly Coolidge

    Jules PA:Now, you can’t stop individuals from hosting parties, but the president can decline to attend, eschewing all pomp.

    Exactly. Send the message early to their side, and ours.

    • #13
  14. Casey Way Inactive
    Casey Way

    This is something I have always had an affinity for heightened by the unabashed opulence of this Celebrity-in-Chief. If you have spent months indicating there are national problems to rectify, and the first thing you do is party, it seems incongruous.

    You are Commander-in-Chief, the elected successor to an unbroken legacy of peaceful transfers of leadership of arguably the most powerful nation on Earth. Go and visit Mt Vernon, Ford’s Theatre, and Arlington with your family before spending the rest of the evening with the military and defense leaders overseeing the transition. Touch the legacy, face the threat, and acknowledge the responsibility. Oh, and forget the party.

    • #14
  15. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA

    I might suggest soliciting donations for specific charities at the rate of the traditional ‘cost per person’ for the Inaugural Balls…people make donations to the charities, and stay home. Seems like a win-win.

    One charity for each of the ‘traditional’ balls. (can I use the word traditional anymore?)

    Charities, not government agencies. :)

    • #15
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