The inaugural parade organizers held a dress rehearsal in Washington, D.C., yesterday to prepare for Barack Obama’s second swearing-in, but the president is facing a public that is much less enthusiastic about the ceremony the second time around. The number of attendees is expected to be less than half of the 1.8 million who packed into Washington four years ago.
In interviews with Obama supporters, it appears that a combination of finances, fear of the cold and the fact that the novelty of the occasion is gone have contributed to an expected drop in both attendance and excitement level.
“People are very excited about Obama being re-elected, but not excited about going to D.C. and enduring the cold like the last time,” Marvin Lyman, a Kansas City restaurateur, told McClatchy Newspapers. “Some of it could be financial. Some people overspent over the holidays, and I know some people’s job status changed in the last four years.”
Whereas Lyman filled two 55-seat buses to make the trip to DC for the 2009 inaugural, this time he’s had trouble filling one 45-seat bus.
Although the 600,000 to 800,000 people expected is a big drop-off, it’s still significantly more than the numbers at other recent second-term inaugurations. George W. Bush’s second inauguration drew between 300,000 and 400,000 people, while Clinton’s got about 450,000.
Back in March, Obama himself predicted the inevitable decline in enthusiasm.
“So, I’m a little grayer now. It’s not as trendy to be involved in the Obama campaign as it was back then,” Obama said at a Chicago fundraiser. “Some of you have rolled up those “Hope” posters, and they’re in the closet somewhere.”
This was reflected in a decline in voter turnout from 62.3 percent in 2008 to 57.5 percent in 2012.
Former Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said he can certainly understand the excitement dip because he saw the same pattern when he was the first black mayor of Kansas City. He said it’s just human nature.
“Having been the first African-American mayor of Kansas City, I can tell you the second time around isn’t as exciting as the first. People have already been a part of history,” he told McClatchy. “My first inauguration was one of the biggest in Kansas City. The second time, you could have had it in my garage.”
In 2009, he said his office received more than 5,000 requests for tickets, but this time he’s only gotten about 1,700 inquiries.