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Presidential Job Approval
Gallup Wkly: 40% - 2/19/17)
Average Daily Consumer Spending in Jan '17: $88
What Americans reported spending "Yesterday"
Gallup - 2/6/17
Gallup Payroll to Population in Jan '17: 44.8%
% of adult population employed full time for an employer
2/2/17


Quotable

It is sad that governments are chiefed by the double-tongues.
Ten Bears to Josie Wales in the movie The Outlaw Josie Wales


 2/22/17 -- The Natives Are Restless 

Americans first began with a relish to protest their incoming presidents in 1829 when John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, refused to attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, as did many congressmen and senators.

(His father, John Adams had chosen not to attend the inauguration of his successor, Thomas Jefferson, but that was mostly because he was simply dying to get the hell out of Washington. He had spent large parts of his one term in office conducting the affairs of state from his home in Quincy, MA.)

Quincy Adams/Jefferson was, if you can imagine, a far nastier contest than Trump/Clinton: Jackson's wife Rachel fell ill and at length died after suffering through a torrent of viscious, unrelenting attacks against her virtue and character. (Andy never forgot. Nor forgave.)

Inaugurals are supposed to be celebratory affairs not particularly marked by angry demonstrations. But through the years there have been ample and notable exceptions that served to emphasize the nation's differences rather than its commonalities. They haven't all brought us together.

In the run-up to Donald Trump's Presidential inauguration, The National Park Service granted demonstration permits to at least 28 groups. They were expecting more than 350,000 protesters in all, including about 200,000 for the "Women's March on Washington" planned for the next day. The latter drew approximately 2,000,000 by some third-party estimates, dwarfing the crowd that had gathered to watch the swearing-in, much to the new President's chagrin.

Most of the demonstrations were orderly, but six police officers were injured and 217 protesters arrested in several ugly street clashes in downtown Washington. Police in New York, Dallas, Chicago, Portland and Seattle arrested scores at demonstrations in those cities as well.

Protests also took place beyond America's borders in Australia, London, Hong Kong, Berlin and the West Bank.

In another form of protest, one-third of House Democrats boycotted the inauguration entirely.

Anti-Trump forces may have been heartened by this outpouring of opprobrium, but the truth is the day wasn't that much out of the ordinary for a US Presidential inauguration.

Some cite the 1853 swearing-in of Franklin Pierce as the first inaugural to draw an official protest, by a group of unemployed workers.


Wilson, 1913, East Portico.

Obviously, front-burner issues present greater incentives for crowds to show up and grab some of the spotlight, even if that issue has little actual direct connection to the president-elect. When there's nothing going on the crowds are less inclined to turn out. After all, January in D.C. is cold.

The day before President Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, as many as eight thousand women suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in what one inaugural historian said was likely the first large-scale inauguration protest. But Wilson wasn't the target. He supported the women's suffrage movement, if not overly enthusiastically, and worked for legislation to grant women the vote. Which was stronger support than that offered by many.

James Bendat, who wrote the book Democracy's Big Day: The Inauguration of Our President 1789-2013, said the women, who had a parade permit, were "pushed, spat upon, and beaten up" by irritated onlookers. The incident led to the firing of the capital's police chief. Four years later, the women were allowed to march in the inaugural parade, for the first time. Women gained the vote in 1920.

From the '20s to the '60s inaugurals tended to be orderly. What with three big wars, the death of FDR, the stolidity of the '50s and the can-do idealism born of Kennedy and Camelot, people weren't in a protesting mood.

Noteworthy, during that period, Roosevelt's 4th swearing-in took place on the rear balcony of the White House, and Kennedy's famously and stirringly memorable inaugural address was one of the quickest on record. Good feelings all around.


Kennedy, 1961. "Ask not what your country can do for you..." Under 14 minutes, fourth-shortest inaugural address in history.

Richard Nixon, inheritor of a hugely unpopular war, would not be so lucky. Americans had learned the art of protesting by the end of the '60s. They didn't just march. Anti-war demonstrators threw burning miniature flags and stones at police during Nixon's 1969 inauguration.

According to The Boston Globe, about 500 people participated in the protests. The paper noted it was first time in recent history that an inauguration fomented such a large public demonstration. And Vietnam wasn't even Nixon's war then; he ran for office as the man with the plan to end it.

According to another news report, as many as 5,000 demonstrators converged on a site where a reception for Vice-President-elect Spiro Agnew was being held, and U.S. Park Service police used horses, for the first time in a Washington demonstration, to drive them back (with mixed results).

Firecrackers were hurled at the horses, which reared up and then began dropping manure.

Agnew's guests began arriving and had to walk, in their formal attire and finery, a red-carpeted gauntlet from the street to the venue, while enduring a steady barrage of shouted epithets, hurled rocks and, yes, steaming handfuls of horse manure. Resourceful mob.

As police attempted to move the protestors back, they lost control and, as will happen, began clubbing people. Several protestors were trampled by the mounted horses.

One over-enthusiastic officer charged wildly into the crowd, on foot, before suddenly and belatedly realizing he had surrounded himself with demonstrators, with no other officers in sight. They proceeded to remove his helmet, gun, badge, and nightstick and then began pummeling him with their fists before some of his fellow officers realized his plight.


Nixon, 1969. Before things turned ugly for Agnew.

The situation was then different again in 1973 when Nixon won reelection and the war was still dragging on. Not only was he greeted with unruly inaugural crowds, but by then the war was his and the demonstrators' feelings were even more pointed and more personal. Plus, by this time, anti-war protests in America had evolved into highly sophisticated undertakings. The war issue helped draw over 25,000 protesters to Nixon's second inaugural, resulting in dozens of arrests.

When Ronald Reagan was sworn into office in 1981, there were some protesters in Washington led by the National Organization for Women, but they did not have a major impact on events. The freeing of the Iran hostages was the news of the day, creaeting a decidedly feel-good national moment. In 1985, a snowstorm and cold snap resulted in the cancellation of the usual outside ceremonies. Dutch: born lucky.


Reagan, 1981. Happy days are here again.

George W. Bush was greeted with notable demonstrations in both 2001 and 2005, the latter focused on his decision to invade Iraq; the former on the manner of his victory over Al Gore and his relatively low, for an incoming president, public approval ratings.

Earlier cultures felt there was little to be gleaned of much significance from the beginning of a person's journey. They were more inclined to commemorate their notables' deaths than their birth dates. Preferring to take stock at a point where they felt better able to assess the worth of a man's or woman's contribution to posterity. They saw the real story, as it were, as being more in where you finished up than in how you started out.

Donald Trump could perhaps take some comfort in such a perspective and fret less about the magnitude of his victory and the size of his crowds. In the great scheme of things such measures won't really amount to enduring accomplishments, even if successfully embellished. If he's learned anything from his first thirty days in office, our new President should realize by now that his future reputation is not going to hinge on accomplishments achieved before he actually took office.

Take the case of Abraham Lincoln. Seven states seceded from the Union upon his election. How's that for a protest? Lincoln's procession to the Capitol had to be surrounded by heavily armed cavalry and infantry, providing an unprecedented amount of protection for the President-elect as the nation stood on the brink of an actual war with itself.


Lincoln, 1861. Large crowd for its day, not altogether friendly.

His inauguration was the first time Lincoln appeared in public with a beard, which he had begun growing only after being elected to the presidency (supposedly on the advice of a little girl). This effectively made him the first president to have any facial hair beyond sideburns.)

In time, Lincoln would also become the first president to be assassinated by political opponents. And yet, in time, notwithstanding his truncated term in office, he came to be looked upon most favorably by both professional historians and the general public. His reputation endures to this day.

Size matters?
The National Parks Service stopped issuing official crowd estimates in 1995 after "The Million Man March" organizers accused the service of low-balling its estimate of the turnout for their event.

The Park Service's number: 400,000, significantly lower (obviously) than March organizers had in mind. (ABC-TV-funded researchers at Boston University eventually made an estimate of 837,000 with a 20% margin of error.)


How many people can you count in this picture? Million Man March, 1995

Whatever the actual number, the Parks Service concluded it was way too many people to have mad at you and exited the crowd-size estimating business.

Today estimates are done by private research organizations and educational institutions using a variety of techniques: aerial photo analysis (hard in D.C.; airspace restrictions), satellite images (weather permitting), mathematical area and density map analyses and, quite naturally, computer algorithms and even artificial intelligence.

Still in all, it remains a bit of an art. Crowd estimates for recent inaugurals:

  • Barack Obama, 2013: 1 million
  • Barack Obama, 2009: 1.8 million (generally considered a record for people on the National Mall)
  • George W. Bush, 2005: 400,000
  • George W. Bush, 2001: 300,000
  • Bill Clinton, 1997: 250,000
  • Bill Clinton, 1993: 800,000
  • George H.W. Bush, 1989: 300,000
  • Ronald Reagan, 1985: 140,000 tickets sold, but record cold moved the swearing-in ceremony indoors
  • Ronald Reagan, 1981: 10,000, according to The New York Times. This was the first year the ceremony was performed on the west side of the Capitol.