Having never attended an inauguration before, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I was figuring on massive crowds and a lot of excitement and/or acrimony but I found neither. I fully anticipated screaming hordes of Trump supporters excited to "take their country back" from that uppity Negro but from the sparse crowd to Trump himself, the entire affair felt perfunctory, like people were going through the motions and little more.
At first, it seemed like the promised crowds were going to be there. The metro was running slow so I got there late, closer to 10:30 than the 10 I had been planning. There was a fairly long line of people, 20 wide, slowly shuffling forward to get through security. But once I got through the gate, I was greeted by open space. A lot of open space.
Through happenstance, as opposed to shrewd planning on my part, I ended up in the front half of the sections open to the general public. I could have easily moved to the front of Section 1 (the very front left) but I was enjoying the freedom of movement after bracing myself for a crushing crowd.
Vox was kind enough to give us a short video showing just how empty the inauguration was:
But aside from the low attendance (the official numbers are not in but I expect they will be dismal), the lack of enthusiasm was impossible to avoid. There was a bit of booing (and some cheering) whenever the large screens set up for the crowds showed Hillary Clinton and some more booing for Vice President Biden but it wasn't much. There were three curious things about the crowd's reactions: There was no concerted booing I could hear for either of the Obamas, the loudest jeering came for, of all people, Bernie Sanders and the most (relatively) enthusiastic cheering, aside for Trump himself, came for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the two men working overtime to take healthcare away from probably a significant chunk of the very people cheering for them.
There were a few desultory attempts to start "Trump! Trump! Trump!" and "USA! USA! USA!" chants but they petered out within seconds. It was the aural equivalent of watching a crowd do the wave with only a handful of people standing up, adding to the depressing atmosphere.
When Trump came out, he was barely smiling on what was supposed to be the day of his greatest triumph. He took the oath of office with all of the enthusiasm of a person reading the ingredients off a can of soup. Even his speech was the usual boilerplate nonsense peppered with applause lines. These were the only times the crowd showed any real life and even then, not for long.
As soon as Trump was done, the crowd immediately dispersed, either to line up for the parade or, like me, to just go home. There was almost no hyped up Trumpsters excitedly talking about the future. Very few people beaming with pride. No one proclaiming their allegiance to white supremacy. I saw exactly 4 bikers but they were on their best behavior.
Even when faced with all of the protesters with signs scattered throughout the crowd, no one really protested the protesters. A lot of people took pictures of, and with, them, though.
Overall, the mood of the crowd was "Meh." Despite the sea of red dunce caps, it didn't feel like their hearts were really into supporting Trump. Three months ago, this same crowd would have roared their hatred of the Obamas and their lust for "draining the swamp," but today, they were far more subdued. It's almost like now that this is really happening, a lot of Trump supporters are wondering if perhaps Obama, with his lack of scandals and corruption, might not have been so bad. That maybe, just maybe, Hillary Clinton wouldn't have dared picked 6 different Goldman Sachs employees for high-level positions in her administration. Or that Trump, champion of the little guy, wouldn't be so blatant and crass about using the office of the president to line his pockets.
Starting with a historic low of 38% popularity among voters, Trump's sad and depressing inauguration was the perfect kick off to what is almost certainly going to be the most derided administration in American history. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.