When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated, he sought to dismantle the evolving Federalist tradition of pomp and circumstance. In a ceremonial sense, royalism seemed to have been restored, or so it appeared to him. As this blogger put it, “Dressed in simple attire, Jefferson walked over to the Capitol with a phalanx of riflemen, friends, and fellow citizens from his home state of Virginia.”
In these last days of the American Empire, such austere republicanism would be considered impossibly quaint. Having long ago morphed into Jefferson’s worst nightmare, the closer we get to the end, the more glamorous our inaugurals become. The poorer we are, the more millions we’ll throw at a ceremony that is really the crowning of a monarch – and not just any old king, but an emperor bestriding the globe.