Of all the things for public officials to worry about, you’d think whether to accept an invitation to a presidential inauguration wouldn’t be one of them. After all, it’s an honor that even high-ranking officials don’t often get to witness.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others in blue New England had to think about this one. Does an elected official — even a Republican — want to hand an opponent a weapon for the next campaign? How about a still shot or video footage of the candidate shivering in the weak January sun and listening to the much-loathed bloviator-in-chief, Donald J. Trump?
But Malloy is chairman of the embattled Democratic Governors Association, so it would behoove him to be seen there since he’s now something of a national figure. Besides, misery loves company.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Washington will be thick with Democrats crying in their beer that Russian President Vladimir Putin, FBI Director James Comey, and “fake news” combined to defeat the saintly Hillary Clinton.
As if to signal their agreement with the titular head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, the state’s entire congressional delegation — all Democrats — will also travel to Washington for what is shaping up to be a very unusual inauguration. This despite a growing trend to skip the event that, as of Thursday, stood at more than 60 members of Congress and counting.
That might sound extreme. For a bit of historical perspective, however, 80 federal lawmakers boycotted the second inauguration of President Richard Nixon in 1973, largely in protest over his administration’s Vietnam War policy. That was the largest boycott since the Civil War.
The explanations coming from Connecticut politicians all fall along similar lines: Trump is a loathsome man but we’re going out of respect for the peaceful and orderly transfer of power. And besides, as Malloy added, he doesn’t want “compassionate and reasoned voices to shrink away” — be they Democrats, Republicans, or independents.
Other high-ranking politicians in the state will be making the trip to D.C., too. The felonious mayor of the state’s largest city, Joe Ganim of Bridgeport, will already be in Washington for the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and will stay an extra day to see old pal Trump become the 45th president. The decision has raised eyebrows in Bridgeport’s African American community.
Ganim and Trump rubbed elbows in the early 1990s when Trump considered building a casino in Bridgeport and Ganim attended The Donald’s wedding to Marla Maples. Ganim has even boasted that he might be able to leverage his “residual relationship” with a President Trump, who once owned a fancy home in Greenwich, to benefit The Park City.
Curiously, another big-city Connecticut mayor won’t be staying after the Washington conference is over. Republican Mark Boughton of Danbury, who has already run two unsuccessful campaigns for governor and is eying another run, will return promptly to the Hat City because, he told Hearst Connecticut newspapers, “I’ve just got a lot to do.” Really? Bear in mind that rather than vote for Trump in Novmeber, Boughton wrote in the name of his own dog.
But another Republican municipal head, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, has no such qualms about remaining in D.C. and being seen in the company of the divisive Trump. Herbst explained that, “Whether you agree with him or not, whether you like him or not, people are fed up with Washington and that’s why they want him there.”
Hard to argue with that. That’s precisely what enabled Trump to score an electoral college victory in the first place. And what does Herbst have to lose politically since Trumbull went for Trump, albeit narrowly. Still, Herbst, 36, has run for statewide office before and, like Boughton, is almost certain to run for governor in 2018.
And thousands of other Connecticut residents, ranging from members of the General Assembly to ordinary citizens will make the trek, thanks in part to the 1,600 tickets made available to the state’s congressional delegation. In addition, some 4,500 men and women from Connecticut will descend on Washington the day after the inauguration to protest Trump at the Women’s March On Washington. Both of Connecticut’s U.S. senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, have said they plan to stand in solidarity with the protesters.
The next few years will be fascinating to watch. What will a Trump presidency actually look like? Will any of his cabinet picks either be blocked by the Senate or implode after being confirmed? His nominee to be education secretary, Betsy DeVos, looked like she had given little more thought to preparing for her hearing than deciding where to have lunch.
Will Malloy run for a third term? If so, will he vanquish the other Democratic Dan, Middletown’s upstart Mayor Drew, in a primary? Who will be the GOP nominee? What will be the slogan of the new governor? I have a feeling “Make Connecticut Great Again” will be available.
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