To find a similar episode of enthusiasm for an incoming President, you might have to go back to 1829. The outgoing President, John Quincy Adams, was the son of another President. He had won office in a way his opponents considered corrupt: the 1824 election had been thrown to the House of Representatives, which picked him. The new President, Andrew Jackson, was his era’s version of change. Unlike his predecessors, he was not from the founding generation, not related to a founder, not a member of the Virginia dynasty. He embodied the Western future of the country, just as Obama does our multiracial future. An unprecedented number of Americans trekked to see him take the oath of office. His Inaugural was a massive party at the White House, one that got so out of hand that Jackson was forced to lodge elsewhere.
But historical precedent can justify only so much. Going to D.C. to celebrate the election of a President you believe in? That’s fine. Hanging around at his hotel just “to be breathing the same air,” as one man told the Washington Post? If you can picture a stalker giving the same quote, maybe it’s time to think again.