Following the lead of Georgia congressman John Lewis, a flurry of Democrats will not be attending Friday’s inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, on the grounds that Trump, in Lewis’s words, “isn’t a legitimate president.”
The notion that Trump is not “legitimate” has picked up steam as the extent of Russia’s attempt to sway the recent presidential election has become clearer, although exactly how Trump is not legitimate is never explained. Donald Trump was nominated in accord with the rules of the Republican party. He was then elected by more than 270 members of the Electoral College, in accord with rules that have been in place since the 18th century. There is no evidence that electoral fraud or disenfranchisement account for his narrow victories in key states, and no one forced Hillary Clinton to forgo late-October visits to key swing states.
Nonetheless, a recent poll found that a majority of Democrats believe that Russia not only waged a campaign of misinformation but actually manipulated ballot totals — an allegation for which there is not a shred of proof. This is what happens when Democratic leaders and media partisans recklessly declare that Russia “hacked the election,” preferring to peddle that tale rather than admit that Donald Trump had a more appealing message to American voters.
Donald Trump is no less “legitimate” a president than was Barack Obama in January 2009. That does not mean that he comes into office popular, and no one expects Democrats to withhold criticism. However, there is an obvious distinction between suggesting that Donald Trump is ill-suited to the presidency and that he is illegally in office.
Unfortunately, Democrats are choosing to make political point-scoring their foremost priority.
Friday’s inaugural ceremony is an opportunity for Democrats to acknowledge that difference. Set aside the spectacle that now accompanies it; at the core of the inauguration is a quadrennial reminder that the president is not a monarch, but a public servant subordinate to the Constitution. The duty to “preserve, protect, and defend” America’s founding charter applies equally to Republicans and Democrats, or to presidents who won the popular vote and presidents who didn’t. Representative Lewis, who has done so much to advance the Constitution’s promise of equality before the law, should be the first to recognize this.
Unfortunately, Democrats are choosing to make political point-scoring their foremost priority. At the same time that they are warning about the threat Trump poses to “norms” and “institutions,” Democrats are setting a precedent for inauguration ceremonies that they see as little more than another opportunity for partisan grandstanding.
Every president-elect has his critics, and Donald Trump more than most. But no one has to celebrate Trump to celebrate America’s unique success: 225 years of elections decided by ballots, not bullets.