Donald Trump has spent a large portion of his first week in office obsessed by the size of his crowd.
250 thousand isn’t anything to be ashamed of – it’s a large number. Given that Trump’s shtick is that he is supposedly one of the few people willing to tackle difficult issues, he’s not going to be as popular as a unity candidate like Obama. Add in that Obama’s 2009 inauguration was on a Monday and Trump’s on a Friday, meaning that supporters could take the time off work more easily, and it’s not hugely embarrassing that Trump failed to hit the historic highs for inauguration attendances.
A wide variety of news sources shared a side-by-side comparison of photos from the 2009 Obama and 2017 Trump inaugurations. This includes those who lean right ideologically – the images are a dramatic way to put the news into context. For Trump opponents like ourselves, it’s a fun way to get at Trump’s thin skin. But it’s actually quite scary how thin his skin is.
The Trump administration have put out a series of lies to dispute the truth, most notably claiming that the Trump half of a side-by-side comparison of Trump and Obama’s inaugurations was taken earlier in the day than the Obama half. This is false – the Trump image was taken 11 minutes before the ceremonies began. The Washington Metro’s comparative figures for travel on inauguration days bear this out – “Metro Ridership: As of 11am, 193k trips taken so far today. (11am 1/20/13 = 317k, 11am 1/20/09 = 513k, 11am 1/20/05 = 197k)”. Nielsen ratings show that viewing figures were behind Nixon, Reagan, Carter and Obama’s figures. Even adjusting for internet live feeds, Obama beat Trump’s viewing figures. Crowd scientists have said that there were roughly three times as many people attending the Women’s March on the 21st as attended the inauguration.
A tighter photo of the crowd on inauguration day has been passed around the internet as ‘proof’ that the media have lied, but it in no way proves that there were more than 250,000 people at the inauguration. Quarter of a million is a HUGE number, particularly for such a divisive figure. Trump should just accept that he didn’t set records and move on. Instead, he used a speech at the CIA’s memorial wall to congratulate himself on being popular, sent his press secretary to call a press conference specifically to lie about crowd sizes, and pressured the Parks Service into finding ‘evidence’ that soothes his ego.
The claim, essentially is that the CIA, the news media and the Washington Metro twitter-feed are engaged in a massive conspiracy to oppose and undermine the most powerful person in the world. But this isn’t how conspiracies happen – people are more likely to lie to support the powerful than the opposite, in the hope of gaining favours in return.
It might seem unimportant, but the discussions over crowd size are important for two reasons. Firstly, imagine how Trump will react under real pressure. Secondly, it’s important that the powerful have a counter-balancing force to hold them to account. If Trump succeeds into turning a large portion of the American people into an irrational mob, just think what he could get away with.