Report: By Justin Marinelli.
Justin Marinelli reports from Washington on the ushering in the 45th President. The nation is divided, but the Capitol remains orderly and relatively free of tension.
The train grinds to a screeching halt and the scent of burning rubber hits my nose. I think briefly of the rumor that the #DisruptJ20 movement was going to chain up the metro system and I wonder if I will end up spending Inauguration Day trapped underground in a subway car.
Washington DC as a city voted 91% for Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential Election. Donald Trump picked up 4% of the vote here. This is not Trump Land, and these past few days there has been a very palpable sense of unease as the candidate the Capitol never wanted has arrived in triumph to claim his prize. It was not the hostile tension of a city girding itself for a fierce resistance to its would-be conqueror, however, but rather the passive acceptance of a population that has resigned itself to defeat.
My train starts moving again. Was it even 30 seconds since we had stopped? I sense that this is an omen that portends a far more peaceful event than perhaps one might suspect. I check my watch. I still have more than an hour to go before the Oath of Office is taken and the Presidency is handed over.
Trump was swept into office by those who hoped he would fall upon the beltway barons like a hurricane, and now he has arrived, and now he is president, and now the storm descends. But I wonder if he is perhaps not the storm but the thunder. This is a divided country, and it was not Trump that divided us. All he did was shine a light on how far apart we have become.
The dangerous part is that now that everyone realizes it, the assumption that one’s political opponents are acting in good faith is slowly washing away. It did not surprise me that in his Inaugural Address the new President called for Americans of all views and identities to find solidarity in shared patriotism. This is a time now more than ever when it is sorely needed.
I emerge from the metro station to cloudy skies and bright buildings. The National Mall is not far to the south. I wander past stands of vendors hawking buttons and T-shirts of fire-engine red. Trump smiles down on me from what must be a hundred racks of shirts. A pair of black SUVs drive past me on my right. They are driven by stern-looking men in dark suits. Flashing lights explode in red and blue. I wonder who might be inside them, tucked away in the back behind tinted windows.
With Pennsylvania Avenue closed off entirely, and numerous other areas fenced off entirely, navigating the downtown becomes an exceedingly complicated experience. I had hoped to ensconce myself somewhere near the Washington Monument, but by the time I finally stumble across an entrance to the National Mall, the moment had passed. The new President had taken his Oath of Office and given his first speech as the Chief Executive of the United States of America.
I wandered a bit more, not wanting to leave just yet. I passed by Trump supporters in camo garb and would-be protestors in masks. I saw mounted police and military Humvees. What I did not see was chaos or violence. For all the sound and the fury that was promised, this was not a day defined by riots and anger, but instead, by peaceful protest by a small number and calm restrain on the part of many.
The only clash of any note was over fairly quickly, though being the only real form of any serious unrest, it was perhaps inevitable that it earned itself a disproportionate degree of media attention. Having walked through the site of that outbreak about 30 minutes before it exploded, I can attest that a heavy police presence and a group of loud demonstrators did indeed hint that this location, if any, was the most likely to be a flashpoint for violence, but there was not a single other spot in this city I could put in that same category.
Calling it a day, I hopped back on the metro, this time riding it away from the downtown and towards a refreshing cup of tea. I found myself in a train car that was divided in half. On the one side was a group of about eight or nine black teenagers playing loud rap music. One the other was a small cluster of white and asian Trump supporters proudly displaying their TRUMP buttons and swapping stories of funny signs they saw. It was impossible not to notice the invisible line, but on neither side was there any hostility. There was no unrest. there was no tension. It was calm and orderly in the end.
I therefore remain hopeful that, divided as we may be, the United States might just be able to hold itself together in the years to come.
Justin has recently graduated from Durham University with an Msc. in Global Politics. He has experience working for Washington DC think tanks and also holds a BA in Philosophy and Comparative Humanities from Bucknell University, Pennsylvania. His main interests are in the areas of geopolitics, grand strategy, political risk, and covert operations.