It's a good idea to do the celebrating now, as the hill Obama must climb becomes steeper each day. The economy sinks further; the Clintonistas, who muffed so many of their own opportunities, cluster around him suffocatingly, like moths to the light.

Obama has already fulfilled one small piece of his campaign pledges by barring lobbyists and corporations from picking up the tab for the inevitable inauguration parties in January. But he needs to go further. The idea was first broached by Denis Hamill in his Daily News column and deserves a strong second: Obama should make this a true people's inauguration. He should renounce the usual round of obscenely costly insider balls as totally inappropriate, given an economy of hard times and two ongoing wars. He should insist that the tens of millions of dollars usually spent on these affairs is grossly improper, given the need to simply keep people in their homes.

He should go back to his army of small donors and ask them to ante up one more time. He should use those funds to turn Washington's National Mall, site of King's prophetic "I have a dream" speech, into one vast public celebration. One where Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and every other living member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be invited to play for a nation celebrating a new day, a party to summon the spirits of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Curtis Mayfield. If he needs help, he should call Nancy Reagan.

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