Victory is sweet, as the Chicago Cubs reminded us during their joyful White House meet-up with President Obama.
Yet baseball is also famous for the lessons it can teach about failure and defeat. Consider the Cleveland Indians, the losers of last fall’s epic World Series. In their moment of despair, teammates slumped glumly in the dugout. Surely there were wet eyes, no matter what Tom Hanks says about baseball and crying. But the vanquished didn’t flee the field. Grimly, they watched their rivals exult.
Hillary Clinton understands the need to be there after the last out is called. That’s why she plans to attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. Democrats who are choosing to boycott the event just don’t get how important it is for a team to stand together, especially in loss.
Since Nov. 8, Trump has exposed himself as the sorest winner ever to strut around the presidential playing field. His recent attacks on John Lewis — the legendary civil rights activist and congressman from Georgia who is refusing to attend Trump’s inaugural — showcase a gracelessness and immaturity that’s still shocking to witness.
But sinking to Trump’s level doesn’t help the country or the party Democrats are trying to revive. Neither does moaning about Russian hacking. Losing athletes often feel cheated of victory by bad calls. Sometimes, they’re right. A bum call did cost them a win. But only the sorest losers say something about it once the game is over. Let investigators investigate the hacking charges and report their findings to the public. That puts the legitimacy issue beyond partisan politics.
Unlike members of Congress, Clinton is no longer on the public payroll. On Jan. 20, she could be mainlining margaritas on a sunny beach. Instead, she’s planning to attend Trump’s swearing-in — feeling the hurt, just like the Indians did as they watched the Cubs make history in Cleveland.
Clinton is taking the high road espoused by first lady Michelle Obama in the powerful speech she delivered to delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. That high road doesn’t mean giving in to Trump or to the Republicans who control Congress. It can be a path of resistance that rises above the meanness and ugliness of what the new order represents. It can also be a bridge that unites the country instead of dividing it.
Those who plan to boycott the inaugural say they are standing on principle and don’t want to legitimize or normalize Trump. According to The Washington Post, nearly 60 House Democrats say they won’t attend. Representative Katherine Clark was the first member of the Massachusetts delegation to say she would boycott the Trump inauguration. On Wednesday, Representative Michael Capuano said he would instead hold an open house for constituents. Other delegation members said they planned to attend out of respect for the office. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren — the latter an especially fierce Trump critic — say they will attend. Massachusetts House members who are going cite respect for the office.
Representative Seth Moulton pledges to “fight like hell” once Trump is sworn in. Representative Joe Kennedy said he isn’t skipping Trump’s inauguration, because it’s “an opportunity to recognize that an awful lot of people around the world are still fighting for a political system where there is a peaceful transfer of power.” Kennedy also told a group of Democrats they need to figure out how and why they lost the trust of Middle America to Trump. According to press reports, his audience was not thrilled with that message. But it’s one they need to hear.
Bringing it back to baseball: When you lose, you don’t take your ball and stalk away. You watch the winner celebrate, and let the pain bind you together as a team. Then you show up for spring training, committed to working on the fundamentals of the game. That’s what Democrats need to do if they want to be the next winners celebrating in the White House.