For the first time in my adult life, I won’t be watching the inauguration tomorrow. Of course when I watched it, I always watched it on television. You get a great view and there is never a line at the restroom. Unlike with Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, it’s unlikely that the national mall will be jammed to capacity tomorrow. In fact, it may be the least attended inauguration in forty years or more.
It’s not surprising. District of Columbia residents voted 94% for Clinton, so they’re not going to show up. Both nearby Virginia and Maryland also went for Clinton, as well as the country. Clinton after all won the popular vote by over 2.9 million votes. Last I read DC officials had approved 200 bus permits for inauguration day, a record low. The protests the day afterward has at least 1000 bus permits approved. If you want to see hoopla, you might want to wait to turn on the TV until Saturday. So many entertainers have refused to perform at his inauguration festivities that he may be reduced to the U.S. army band. At least they can be made to attend.
Anyhow, I won’t be watching. I’ll be avoiding media tomorrow, which is one reason I’m getting this off today. For many of us it will be a black day, made blacker by the overwhelming nature of the unqualified people Donald Trump has chosen for his cabinet. One after another they embarrassed themselves at their confirmation hearings. Nominee Rick Perry at least apologized for wanting to get rid of the Department of Energy. He was so naïve that he had no idea that its principal mission is to regulate our atomic energy and nuclear stockpile. Even a Tea Party Republican will make an exception for the Department of Energy, well, at least those who take the time to learn about its mission, and that wasn’t Rick Perry. And so it went and is going, nominee after nominee. If you were looking for the least qualified people to head up the departments they will probably be running, they’ve been in front of Congress exposing their woeful ignorance. But I guess if you are trying to drain the swamp, why not throw in a whole bunch of stink bombs and hope the swamp’s denizens quickly evacuate?
Some really can’t leave, and that includes some three million federal employees, one of which used to be me. I spent my last ten years before retirement with the U. S. Geological Survey, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. A big part of its mission (aside from the earthquakes) is monitoring climate change. Our new president has declared it to be a hoax created by the Chinese, so naturally plenty of them are scared they will be intimidated into publishing false science or fired when their mission is declared over.
For over 100 years, even through conservative administrations like Bush II and Reagan, the USGS has been protected from political pressure. That’s probably not going to happen this time around, at least not with Ryan Zinke as the new Interior Secretary. When Bush II was president, the USGS got an Alaskan geologist for its director, and even he managed to leave the USGS nonpolitical. Naturally, I keep in touch with many of my former colleagues still working there. They are appalled and frightened by the ignoramus in chief about to be unleashed. Those who could retire mostly opted to do so on January 1.
Trump has already promised to freeze federal hiring. If draining the swamp means destroying a government we’ve spent centuries carefully building, this is a great way to affect change. The federal workforce is predominantly older anyhow. Without fresh blood coming in, it’s going to wither on the vine. Each agency is a complex system. Knowledge is primarily transferred via mentoring. With older employees leaving and no new ones coming in, those left will be increasingly ignorant, just like their new leaders.
There are signs that America is waking up. Saturday we’ll see plenty of them on the mall angrily protesting. Trump’s pre-inauguration approval ratings are dismal, reaching levels not seen since Jimmy Carter was sworn in. As his appointees get confirmed and bumble badly through their new roles, the press will be rife with lurid stories reporting their endless boondoggles. Obama ran a virtually scandal-free administration. Trump’s has already started; it’s clear that from the moment he is sworn in he’ll be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the constitution.
For Trump, it’s unlikely that Republicans will hold him to account for it. Once the master bullies, they are now the bullied. Trump warns them via tweets that they better not oppose him. They would be wise not to do so, as his supporters will raise holy hell if they do. These portraits of courage under Obama will prove wallflowers under Trump. So expect Republicans mostly to sit on their hands while we drop Russian sanctions, reduce our commitment to NATO and as he makes impulsive and catastrophically bad decisions in the months and years ahead.
For me this would be a good time to go into a coma, to be woken in four or eight years. I’m not sure we’ll still have a country then, but I’m hardly the only one not anxious not to watch this predictable wreckage to our once great country. I can fight like hell, but traveling 400 miles to D.C. to protest Saturday won’t be one action I’ll take, although there are plenty of marches locally that I can easily attend.
Or I could do what my wife is doing and literally escape. Her birthday falls on Inauguration Day. I happened to be out of town the night Trump was elected. I came home to find her barely functional, all her muscles tense, sleepless, with chronic headaches and crying a lot. Most of her friends are in the LGBTQ community and they were in a similar state. In the weeks that followed she did not get much better. Her relief is to fly to Aruba, hole up at a B&B near the beach for a few days, read trash and go nowhere near the news. She comes back early Monday morning at which time I expect she will be headachy again, her muscles all taunt, her lower back a mass of agony and despondent. And then the real carnage starts. But at least for a few days she can escape it all.
Welcome to 2017. Thought 2016 was bad? It was just a warm-up.