A dance troupe called the Republican Hindu Coalition was on the outdoor stage, waving the tricolor of India and twirling to “Jai Ho” in red and yellow harem pants and waiting—like the crowd, like the country, like the flabbergasted world—for a slumdog billionaire from New York, New York to fly in for the party, and the presidency.
It was the Eve of Trump, so warm and un-January-like on the National Mall that gnats were hatching and even Rick Perry of Texas, the secretary-designate of the Department of Energy, a bureaucracy that he once pledged to abolish, was telling senators at his confirmation hearing that “I believe the climate is changing” and “some of it is caused by manmade activity.”
At one end of the two-mile greensward was the United States Capitol, decked out in bunting, ringed with chicken wire, and bristling with grizzled cops for Friday’s swearing-in. At the other was the Lincoln Memorial, dedicated to the president who, even in the midst of a grinding, grisly civil war, promised to press onward with malice toward none and charity for all.
“Trump and Lincoln,” a reporter suggested to a Vietnam vet from Raleigh, N.C., named Randy M. Dawson, who was watching the subcontinental dervishes.
“One hundred per cent similarity, in my opinion,” Dawson said. “They both strive to pull this country together like it used to be.”
“Have you been with Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy?” Randy M. Dawson was asked. He was a sizable man with silver rings on every finger—death’s heads, Celtic crosses—who fought with the 82nd Airborne Division in another war that tore America apart.
“I’ve been with Donald Trump since he slid down his mama’s leg,” he replied.
“I might be wrong,” Dawson continued. “He might be the worst thing that ever happened. But with what’s going on in this country—with cops getting shot and innocent people getting shot who didn’t do nothing—we’ve got to give him a chance. He ain’t gonna pull any punches. Whether you want to hear it or not, it’s the truth.”
Honest Don was still a few hours out. He was flying in from Fifth Avenue on a military jet, forsaking Trump Force One until the electorate forsakes him, four or eight years hence, or until his deep-fried diet and allergy to exercise get the better of his 70-year-old bulk. The first stop for Trump on Inauguration Eve was to be Arlington National Cemetery, the repose of thousands of his fellow Baby Boomers who did not have the money or the moral equivocation to beg out of military service because of a tender heel.
After that, the president-elect was to make a brief appearance at the Make America Great Again Starting Tomorrow concert, perhaps to join Toby Keith for a duet on—how Trump would savour that moment—”How Do You Like Me Now?”
Before that epiphany could occur, however, the several thousand “deplorables” on the Mall were being made to listen to not one, not two, but three swarms of bagpipers, beginning with the South Park Pipe Band of Neptune City, N.J.
A man named Bill McLeod was one of the kilted Neptunians. He reported that, like so many of the other small towns that brought Trump within three million votes of Hillary Clinton, his little city had known tough times of late, with businesses gone and houses empty.
“I’m not a Trump guy,” he said. “I’m not with him for all the regular reasons everybody else gives—the things he says, the way he says them. But I am proud to be an American and we’ve got to unite. I don’t know if Donald Trump is capable of uniting this country, but I have to hope that he is.”
It turned out that the South Park Pipe Band was not the only Jerseyite delegation in the pre-show; the Republican Hindu Coalition is based in the mellifluous town of Parsippany. It was there that a tycoon known cryptically as “S.K.,” an avowed friend of the incoming 45th president, received an invitation to truck his troupe down to D.C. for the big celebration. Politically, the young dancers, most of them Indian citizens or very recent immigrants, were not in Trump’s harem. S.K., it seemed, was a coalition of one.
But then came a surprise—an Indian singer and actor named Mika Singh, one of the brightest stars in the Bollywood constellation, happened to be in Washington just in time to jump on stage and join the Hindu Republicans.
“I really like Trump,” Singh told Maclean’s when the performance was over. “His confidence. He’s very faithful. He speaks from the heart. People have their own opinion, but I think he’s fantastic. We should give him a chance. He’s very new.”
Mika Singh is not a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, but he, too, would not be attending the oath-taking of the 45th president, Friday noon. By then, he said, he would be back in India for a performance that was scheduled long in advance.
“I wish I could be here,” the Bollywoodian sighed.
“Is Trump flying you home on his plane?” he was asked.
“There is no need,” said Mika Singh. “In India, I have my own.”