The word in Washington is that Donald Trump will deliver a unifying inaugural speech after he accedes — at precisely noon — to the presidency. And that he will pivot to a proper presidential persona.
Certainly the oath Trump is about to take — the affirmation required before he “enter on the execution of his office” — ought to be the occasion of national unity. It’s an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.
What makes it so unifying is that every officer of the United States — every legislator and judge, not just of the federal government, but of the state and county governments — must be bound by oath to support the Constitution. New citizens, too.
So why are the Democrats so bitter? Why are some 50 members of Congress vowing to boycott the inauguration? Why is California hiring a former attorney general to fight the new administration? Why the incessant weeping and wailing?
The most persuasive theory is that it has nothing to do with meddling by the Russians or James Comey or the crustiness of Trump’s campaign or his personal behavior. Rather, it’s something other than politics. It’s almost psychiatric.
This was an insight I first heard from one of my journalistic mentors, Robert Bartley, editor of The Wall Street Journal. Shortly before he died, he wrote two columns on the anger of the Democrats.
Bartley comprehended that the Democrats’ fury went beyond politics and “must have deeper, subconscious roots.” His theory was that they were unable to deal with a sense they were losing their “birthright.”
What he meant was that, as he put it, “base Democrats think of themselves as the best people: the most intelligent and informed, the most public spirited, the most morally pure.” If that’s what’s at stake, no wonder they’re so devastated.
At the time Bartley wrote those columns — late 2003 — the Democrats were gearing up to run John Kerry for president. They seemed as confident of impending victory then as Hillary Clinton was just three months ago.