PAR-TAY…. If conservative commentary is any indication, there are two main complaints about the Obama inaugural festivities: 1) they cost too much; 2) this is hardly a good time for a celebration.
The argument about cost, as we talked about yesterday, is unpersuasive. The most expensive aspect of the inauguration is the security, and with 2 million people on the National Mall, it’s going to be pricey.
The second point, at first blush, may seem more compelling. Celebrating in the midst of multiple, ongoing crises may strike some as inappropriate, if not gauche.
Michelle Cottle makes the argument that this complaint is largely backwards.
No matter how ominous the economic outlook, the inauguration of a new president is something to celebrate. And, yes, that is all the more true because of the “historic nature” of this particular president. (Translation: OMG! Can you believe we finally elected a black guy!) In addition to feeling the burden of the nation’s current situation, the Obama people are keenly aware of the widespread, pent-up desire to celebrate this day with all of the “ridiculousness” that this country can muster. The entire globe is watching. We should not shortchange the moment.
Moreover, I’d argue that the current anxiety and pessimism people are feeling make a large-scale, communal moment of celebration all the more important. In general, during tough times, people crave a little glamour and escapism. (There is a reason that the Great Depression spawned a Hollywood glut of high-society comedies.) More specifically, when there is an uneasy sense that our nation is struggling, people need to be reminded of its greatness. We need to feel like our best times are yet to come. We need spectacle. We need uplift. We need pomp and ceremony and, yes, silly whistle stop tours and cheesy speeches that self-consciously remind us how far we have come. […]
Obviously, the Obama team must make clear they are mindful of the fear and pain afoot across the country. No one wants to see incoming administration officials scarfing caviar and dousing one another with bottles of bubbly while leading a gaudy Conga line through the Washington Convention Center tonight…. But Americans, perhaps now more than ever, could use a reminder that there is still much to celebrate in and about this nation.
Sounds right to me.