Dem boycotts of inauguration grow

Dem boycotts of inauguration grow
© Greg Nash

In a sharp break with tradition, a growing number of Democrats are announcing they will boycott President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' MORE's inauguration.

Ten House Democrats so far have issued public statements saying they won't attend the Jan. 20 ceremony following an extraordinarily divisive election. Still others say they're torn about going.

It’s a departure from lawmakers of both parties putting aside their personal feelings to watch the new president take the oath of office. While the majority of Democrats still plan to go, the fact that even a handful are making a point of boycotting shows the depth of antipathy toward Trump.

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“I’m wrestling with it,” Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse Dem: Barr and Trump administration 'gaming the system' on Mueller report House passes series of measures hitting Russia, Putin Exclusive: Biden to run for White House, says Dem lawmaker MORE (D-Va.) told The Hill in explaining why he’s still undecided about going.

“The way he was elected,” Connolly said somberly, “is going to pollute our politics for a long time.” 

To be sure, plenty of members of Congress have at times cited scheduling conflicts or other reasons for not attending an inauguration. But few American elections have been divisive as the one Trump won. 

Indeed, the last time lawmakers made a show of boycotting the quadrennial ceremony was Richard Nixon’s second inauguration in 1973. A Washington Post article from that year quoted a House Democrat claiming about 165 members of Congress would avoid the festivities. 

Tip O’Neill, then the House Democratic leader, said after the inauguration that the threat of boycotts seemed to increase lawmaker attendance, according to a UPI article at the time. Still, only one of the 15 members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the time ended up going.

This year’s boycotts began with Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezDHS to make migrants wait in Mexico while asylum claims processed Coffman loses GOP seat in Colorado Trump changes mean only wealthy immigrants may apply, says critic MORE (D-Ill.), who told CNN’s “New Day” in December that he wouldn’t go to the inauguration because Trump “continues to spew hatred, bigotry and prejudice.”

Instead, Gutierrez plans to attend the anti-Trump Women’s March on Washington protest on Jan. 21. 

Gutierrez, who’s served in the House since 1993, noted he attended both of former President George W. Bush’s inaugurations. But he couldn’t bring himself to sit through Trump’s.  

“I knew that George W. Bush and I would disagree on many issues from trade to health care to the war in Iraq, but I never thought George W. Bush was trying to make my own country hostile to me, my wife, my daughters and my grandson. I never felt he was a threat to the nation I love so deeply and have served now for almost a quarter century,” Gutierrez said in a House floor speech this week. 

Since then, Gutierrez has started a trend. 

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview taped Friday that he doesn’t consider Trump a “legitimate president.”

“It will be the first one that I miss since I've been in the Congress,” said Lewis, who first won election to the House in 1986. “You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.”

Trump responded Saturday morning by telling Lewis to worry about his own district instead.

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

Democrats rushed to condemn Trump’s attack on Lewis on social media.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) also took to the House floor a week before the inauguration to announce he’d be back in his Tucson-area district instead meeting with constituents.

“My absence is not motivated by disrespect for the office or motivated by disrespect for the government that we have in this great democracy. But as an individual act, yes, of defiance, at the disrespect shown to millions and millions of Americans by this incoming administration and by the actions we are taking in this Congress,” Grijalva said.

Democratic Reps. Jared Huffman (Calif.), Katherine Clark (Mass.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) Mark DeSaulnier (Calif.), Lacy Clay (Mo.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerTrump admin to lift gray wolf endangered species protections House Dem dismisses paying for infrastructure by rolling back Trump tax law Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters MORE (Ore.) also announced boycotts by issuing statements or speaking to media outlets.

To the vast majority of Democrats who do plan to go, it’s simply to uphold a tradition of respecting the peaceful transfer of power and try to help mend the divisions exacerbated by the campaign. 

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Here's why Biden, Bernie and Beto are peaking The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings MORE and her husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonPress: Should the media apologize to Donald Trump? Media takes serious hit from Mueller conclusions No Perry Mason verdict from Mueller, and no impeachment from Pelosi MORE, will be in the audience despite her crushing Electoral College defeat. Former President George W. Bush, who didn’t vote for Trump either, is going too.

“We’re living in a very, very contentious time,” Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) told The Hill. “I think we have a compelling need for civility in our communities, in our Congress, in our rhetoric, in our characterization of other people.”

To Trump supporters, the boycotting Democrats come off as sore losers.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, sighed when asked about his colleagues’ plans to skip the inauguration. 

“I think it’s a bad example to the country. We need to come together,” he said. “Some people want to keep us divided. And that’s why it’s so disappointing.”

- Updated at 10:45 a.m.