In 2005, WashPost Noted Area Residents Unimpressed with Inaugural; No Such Article Eight Years Later with Obama's

January 22nd, 2013 6:45 PM

Native and long-time Washingtonians see presidential inaugurations every four years, and, for them, they're pretty run-of-the-mill, regardless of one's party affiliation. This is especially true when they're the second go-around for a given president. Washington proper is heavily liberal Democrat, and the outlying suburbs are so too, to a lesser degree, but still, enthusiasm for a presidential inauguration in the nation's capital region is bound to be less intense for natives and long-time residents than visiting out-of-towners.

So in 2005, the Washington Post devoted 1,345 words to this phenomenon in a January 21 page A29 story headlined, "Away From Capitol, It's Just Another Day; Many Locals Choose Routine Over Ritual." Staff writers Paul Schwartzman and Karin Brulliard dutifully worked their way around the capital region talking to area residents who were not too thrilled about all the fuss and bother, some of whom hinting Bush was to blame for their unemployment. No similar article appeared in the paper's pages eight years later with Obama's second inaugural (emphases in article mine):

The president's motorcade was crawling along Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday when Lillian Brown walked into the Capital Laundry Mat on Benning Road NE, pulling a blue basket filled with two large black plastic bags fat with clothes, including the white uniform she wears as a food server at St. Elizabeths Hospital.
Brown unloaded her clothing, fed $4 worth of quarters into two washing machines and folded her arms across her chest. She said she looked forward to spending the rest of her day off at her apartment, cleaning, smoking cigarettes and listening to music -- maybe the O'Jays or Chaka Kahn. She said she would expend not a moment observing or ruminating on the second inauguration of George W. Bush.
"It has no meaning for me," said Brown, 54, unfazed by a phalanx of police officers on motorcycles who roared past the coin laundry. "I'm poor, and he's for the rich. I'm going home to rest, like I always do on my days off. I like it quiet; I like the peace of mind."
Downtown Washington was transformed into an inaugural theme park yesterday, its klieg-lit streets crowded with people floating from the swearing-in to the parade to black-tie balls.

But for many residents across the city and surrounding suburbs, the pageantry was little more than background noise for the routines of everyday life -- a reminder that, beyond the fishbowl that is otherwise known as Official Washington, the region is a collection of neighborhoods and towns with rhythms all their own.

In some cases, people chose to shun the event because of their allegiance to the Democrats. In others, they observed from afar, watching on television or listening to the radio rather than enduring the hassles of venturing downtown. And then there were those who were oblivious because they were consumed by more pressing concerns -- going to work, or even finding work.

"No money for lunch, no money for coffee, hungry," said Julio Melano, 37, among a half-dozen Latino men hoping to be hired for the day on a construction crew, as they stood outside the site of a former paint store at 15th and P streets NW.

"You tell Bush, I need a lot of work," said Antonio Cisneros, 35, speaking in broken English as he stood a few feet away, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his work pants. He hoped to land a painting job to help support his wife and two young children.

In the Trinidad neighborhood in Northeast, Jimmy's Tire Shop has been a Florida Avenue institution since the mid-1970s, and manager Rick Colburn was at work as usual, dressed in a blue work jacket, turtleneck and knit cap as he patched a customer's damaged radial.

"Your souvenir, sir," Colburn told the man, handing him a mangled, inch-long nail he pulled from the tire.

The radio was tuned to WTOP-AM, not because Colburn hoped to listen to the president's inaugural address, but so he could stay on top of the weather forecast. A snowstorm, he said, could be good for the tire business.

Colburn, 46, has spent his entire life in the Washington area, and he has always been at his job on the day of the inaugural. "Sure, it would be neat to see how everything works, the ceremony and the balls," he said, surrounded by shelves stocked with hundreds of tires. "But this is my ball and chain. This is where I've got to be. There are bills to pay."

On Georgia Avenue, near the Maryland border, Lisa Howell stood just off the curb dressed as the Statue of Liberty, wearing a green dress over her pants and sweater and a crown to match the dress. Her costume was not an ode to the day's events but the uniform for her $8-an-hour job, trying to draw motorists' attention to the accountants at the nearby Liberty Tax Service office, as the sign that she held advertised.

"All week, everyone has been honking and smiling because they think I'm out here for the inaugural," she said. "I have to tell them that this is my job."

Howell said she would much prefer to attend the inauguration, just to take in the spectacle, but she needs to earn money to support Christiana, her 11-month-old daughter whom she is raising on her own in Southeast's Fort Dupont neighborhood. When she completes her shift as Miss Liberty, Howell said, she picks up extra money delivering pizzas.

A lifelong Washingtonian, she said that she has never attended an inaugural ceremony or parade, though she feels proud that the celebration is held in the town where she grew up. "This is my city, and everything that goes on today is part of my city -- this is it," she said, turning back to wave to passing motorists.

In some corners, people chose to devote the day to familiar rituals, even though they had the opportunity to attend the celebration.

Drew McGowen, 17, and two pals spent part of the afternoon at the Best Buy on Route 1 in Alexandria. In his pocket, he had three gold-edged invitations to the parade, given to them by their teachers at Episcopal High School. The teachers had tried to impress upon them the importance of witnessing history. The teens were more interested in playing a "Star Wars" video game.

"It's just not so important to us," said E.J. Morgan, a shaggy-haired 16-year-old. "We're so young."

McGowen added: "He was president last year, too."


Don Heiney, 75, a technical writer, flipped through the newspaper and said he would have gone to the swearing-in, except for the cold. Instead, he watched Bush's speech on television, although he said he would have enjoyed hearing it in person.

"I wish they'd hold them in the spring," he said of the ceremonies. "Maybe about the time that the cherry blossoms bloom."

Some people clung to variations of their routines, even though security precautions made it all but impossible.

A group of Northern Virginia pilots revved up their single-engine planes even though the region's air space was closed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The pilots from Aviation Adventures took off at 9:40 a.m. from the Manassas Regional Airport and flew west, away from the restricted space, to Basye, Va., where they hit the slopes at the Bryce ski resort. Their seven-person party included a defense contractor, a computer analyst and a pilot for Independence Air.

"We wish President Bush well in his second term," said Bob Hepp, Aviation Adventure's owner, speaking by phone from the resort. "We're going skiing."

You'll notice the early focus on blue-collar, working class Washingtonians, lending readers the impression that President Bush was out of touch with these folks and that his policies were hurting them economically.

At George W. Bush's second inaugural, the unemployment rate (SEE Dec. 2004 Bureau of Labor Statistics report) was 5.4 percent. Latino unemployment -- Schwartzman and Brulliard quoted two out-of-work Latino men -- was 6.6 percent. By contrast, in January 2013 (SEE Dec. 2012 BLS report), the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, with Latino unemployment at 9.6 percent.

The economic prospects of working class Washingtonians is worse at the dawn of President Obama's second term than it was at the beginning of Bush's second. Yet the Washington Post failed to go about to find District residents who failed to see the hope and change they were promised.