Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Tone will be different from Clinton/Gore celebrations

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Stan Purdy of Georgetown is like millions of Republicans around the country — he has been waiting for what will take place on the steps of the Capitol on Saturday for a long time: the inauguration of a Republican president.

        “If you're an American and you make a list of 100 things you ought to do in your lifetime, this should be on the list,” said Mr. Purdy, a Brown County lawyer.

        Presidential inaugurations are supposed to be nonpartisan, unifying events. But the reality is that the party that won the election is the one that gets to party.

        For the first time in 12 years, since President-elect Bush's father took the oath, the inauguration will be a Republican affair.

        The last two inaugurals belonged to Bill Clinton and the Democrats. In 1993, throngs of Democrats, deliriously happy over recapturing the White House after 12 years, poured into the nation's capital, for a weekend of Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac and $5 commemorative buttons proclaiming “Bill and Al's Excellent Adventure.” The 1997 inaugural was more low-key. The theme that year was about “building a bridge to the 21st century.”

        The inauguration of George W. Bush is likely to be a much different affair.

        Rock 'n' roll dominated the music scene at the Clinton inaugurals; country music is more likely to be heard at the Bush festival — even though Irish rocker Van Morrison has signed up for the inaugural kick-off concert Thursday night. Lyle Lovett and Tanya Tucker are headlining the Texas Black Tie and Boots Ball on Friday, the night before the swearing-in.

        The crowd that shows up for the three days of inaugural concerts, prayer services, the swearing-in and the parade will reflect the great divide in American politics between Republicans and Democrats.

        In 1993 and 1997, the people celebrating the Clinton inaugurations were drawn in large part from the Democratic Party's principal voting blocs.

        Entire hotels were filled with union officials, including a sizable contingent from the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

        People from many of the environmental groups and feminist organizations that will be on the streets of Washington this weekend protesting the Bush presidency had tickets to the inaugural events in 1993 and 1997.

        Black Americans showed up for the Clinton inaugurals by the thousands, including party activists from places like Evanston, Lincoln Heights and Avondale, many of whom brought their children and grandchildren along to witness a piece of history.

        At the Clinton inaugural in 1993, they wandered the Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, going from booth to booth in a mile-long festival of artists, craftsmen, ethnic foods, rock bands and folk musicians.

        This time, the Republican inauguration is likely to draw a crowd that reflects the Republican voter base — white, suburban, upper-middle class. It will include a heavy influence of well-to-do business people who turned Mr. Bush into the most successful presidential campaign fund-raiser in history.

        Many of the Republicans heading to D.C. will be elected state and local officials, including Blue Ash Mayor Jim Sumner.

        “It's a big opportunity,” said Mr. Sumner, who has tickets for the swearing-in, the parade and the Saturday night ball for Ohioans. “After all the hard work of the campaign, we've got a lot to celebrate.”

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