The hoary rituals underway in Washington this week are repeated without fail every four or eight years.
The lobbyists' revolving door spins ever faster. The news media courts the new Inside the Beltway players and they the news media. There is a mad scramble for the best corner offices. The hills are alive with the sound of paper shredders. And at noon on a day in the third week of the first month of the new year following the quadrennial ratfuck known as the presidential election, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court swears in the winner. But while Donald John Trump ostensibly will become president of these United States on Friday, unlike his 44 predecessors, he was not elected. He was elevated from sleazy celebrity television stardom by Russian hackers and the director of the FBI in a before-the-fact coup d'état.
Absent a constitutional or statutory mechanism, this is a done deal and not merely a really bad case of partisan sour grapes as your crazy brother-in-law in the cherry red baseball cap tried to tell you at Christmas dinner.
And although vaguely akin to the asterisk next to George Bush's name that leads to a footnote about the Supreme Court throwing the 2000 election to him, the Orwellian circumstances surrounding Trump's elevation are a cancer that will eat away at his presidency, although not for the next four years. This is because Trump probably will not serve a full term, or anything near it as the skeletons -- as opposed to the saints -- come marching in.
John Lewis spoke for many of us -- a majority of voters, anyway -- when he said the other day that "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president."§
Trump, true to form, attacked the beloved civil rights icon for his act of patriotism, or at least exercise of free speech, in a series of tweets bordering on hysteria from Trump Tower, where he is lurking with his loyalist cadre while creating the veneer of accessibility. Trump enters office with less popular support of any new president in modern times and seems intent on continuing, if not deepening, the polarization of the election. More insults but no healing for The Donald.
The irony of the fact that Lewis was getting his head split open by baton-wielding cops during civil rights marches while Vietnam draft-deferred Trump was playing squash at Fordham and gearing up for a lifetime of lechery and shady business practices, as well as discriminating against people of Lewis's persuasion, was lost on no one except that minority of voters like your crazy brother-in-law who think Cheeto Jesus is going to Make America Great Again even if it isn't broken.
The evidence against Trump's legitimacy has gone from persuasive to overwhelming.§
The Russian intervention, which Trump has kind of sort of finally acknowledged may have happened after days of blistering jeremiads against the U.S. intelligence community he will now lead, at the least deeply tainted the election. But it was FBI Director James Comey's delegitimizing conduct that stole it from Hillary Clinton, and as erratic as public-opinion polling was during the campaign, post-election polling shows a convincing and marked drop-off in her support after a Comey blast a mere 11 days before balloting.
I come slowly to accepting conspiracies, but I cannot escape the feeling that there is a seriously creepy backstory to Comey believing it was appropriate to make repeated disclosures during the campaign about the investigation into Clinton's emails but he still refuses to say if the FBI is investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Justice Department inspector general's investigation into Comey's conduct will go nowhere, as likely will the congressional probes into Russia's interference. But there is a possible upside to this grotesquery: Trump craves nothing more than respect, but he is not going to get it so long as he makes up his own rules and doesn't care what anyone else thinks, and that may end up helping to limit his power while making somewhat easier the task of Republicans to impeach him when the skeletons pile so high atop his scorched earth style of governance that you won't be able see the flag flying over the Capitol dome.
John Lewis will not be attending the inauguration. Neither will I. Barack Obama did much to restore my faith in the power of government to do good, but a peculiar consequence of the turmoil of the past several weeks is that I now respect the office of president more than ever, although this does not mean that I have to respect the man. And I will not respect President Trump.