Do you know the hardest part of writing this column? The Wednesday deadline. It presents a challenge offering something relevant and topical in the midst of evolving events.
That’s especially true on a week like this, which began with one president in the White House and ends with another.
It started with Rep. John Lewis, claiming Trump will be an illegitimate president. That is a shocking statement; regardless of individual Americans’ rationale for casting their ballot, a sufficient number of voters in states making up a majority of the Electoral College voted for Trump.
Lewis, a man known for taking principled stands, declared he would skip Trump’s inauguration. On principle. And he said it would be the first inauguration he missed since his first election to Washington in 1986. The only trouble with that? He also skipped President Bush’s inaugural in 2001. Why? He thought Bush also was an illegitimate president. His principled stand appears a bit more partisan.
Lewis might forthrightly believe the Electoral College is an undemocratic anachronism from an earlier era. That’s his prerogative, even if it is mistaken — the undemocratic nature of the Senate never seems to enter that conversation. But regardless, in his 30-plus years in Washington, there have been a few times his party controlled Congress and the White House. What did they do about this tragic electoral system that produces, in Lewis’ words, illegitimate presidents? Bupkis.
Of course, Donald Trump couldn’t simply use Lewis’ thinly-veiled partisanship to prove the statement of Martin Luther King that there is wrong in even the best of us or let Lewis’ statements lie. Instead, Trump fired back with his Twitter machine. This gave some Democrats, such as Rep. Chellie Pingree, the opportunity to circle their wagons and “boycott,” turning what should be a celebration — the peaceful transfer of power in the world’s most powerful nation — into another partisan production.
While we might hope to be insulated from the machinations of Washington up here in Maine, no such luck. Two members of the Green Party in Portland have decided to leave for greener pastures in the Socialist Party. Why? The music teacher in Madawaska — who happens to be an officer of the Greens — is headed to the inauguration with the students of the school band he directs.
The now-socialists from Portland believe the teacher should’ve turned down the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his students. In their words, attending “normalizes something that should never be normalized.” Peculiar that individuals who hew to a utopian ideology based on collective, consensus action fault a teacher for not utilizing his position of authority to unilaterally deny students a unique opportunity.
Meanwhile, with other peculiar choices, we learned President Obama commuted the sentence of a person who knowingly stole and leaked classified information. The individual convicted as Private First Class Bradley Manning and sentenced to 35 years will leave Leavenworth in May as Chelsea Manning. In an environment where hacking and leaks are alleged to have gone so far as to make Donald Trump’s election illegitimate, the choice to grant clemency to a convicted perpetrator seems strange, to say the least.
So here’s to a crazy inaugural week. In this month we’ve already seen a full moon, a Friday the 13th, and strange behavior from elected officials at all levels. I’m taking solace in the idea that things can’t get much crazier.
I just hope a Wednesday deadline doesn’t prove me wrong.