Hillary and Bill Clinton made the surprise announcement today that they will attend the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th. This has caught her supporters off guard, prompting some of them to ask her to reconsider her decision. They think that her presence there will somehow legitimize Trump’s otherwise illegitimate impending occupancy of the White House. But they may be missing the point: Hillary is sending a signal here that she intends to be a public figure during the Trump era.
Sure, Hillary Clinton could skip the inauguration or even make a point of boycotting it. But while that kind of symbolic move might make her supporters feel warm and fuzzy for a few moments, it wouldn’t slow down Donald Trump the slightest bit. Instead the media would attack Hillary for being petty or for giving up and disappearing, and that would be the end of it.
But by showing up on that date, Hillary Clinton is sending a clear signal: I’m still here. What does it mean? That’s not clear yet. But if you’re looking to remain in the game and retain a voice, you never go silent, particularly at a time when the media is looking for an excuse to write you off anyway. Hillary and Bill have decided to keep themselves entrenched as public figures, by showing up and having a presence at the inauguration.
It’ll take a bit of attention away from Donald Trump on his biggest day, which he’ll hate. More importantly, it’ll remind America that the Clintons are still around. They’re not going anywhere. At some point in the upcoming Trump administration debacle they’ll decide to insert themselves into the public discourse, either as critics or resistance leaders or whatever role they choose to play. Silently staying home in protest now would do no one any good. But by remaining in the public eye, by staring Trump down on his big day, Hillary and Bill Clinton are opting to stay in the game. And that should give their supporters hope.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report