Democratic lawmakers are boycotting Trump’s inauguration

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) accepts the Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Award at the AIDSWatch 2016 Positive Leadership Award Reception in February 2016 in Washington, DC. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers have announced they intend to skip Donald Trump’s inauguration this week to protest the president-elect’s plans for the country. The boycotters make up a small fraction of the 535 House and Senate members, but their decision to protest represents a break with tradition that they say is warranted by Trump’s agenda, which they see as extreme.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told Yahoo News she decided she couldn’t celebrate Trump’s inauguration because of his comments during the campaign about temporarily barring Muslims from entering the country and his vow to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I thought about it over and over again — it’s not a decision I came to lightly,” she said Thursday. “I thought about it very carefully because I do believe in democracy and this peaceful transfer of power.”

Lee was among a growing handful of Democratic lawmakers who objected last week to the certification of the Electoral College results on the House floor. She said she objected because of her concerns over Russian interference in the election.

“There are going to be moments where some of us are going to have to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Lee told Yahoo News. “It’s going to happen more — this is a very unusual and extraordinary time.”

Lee said there isn’t an organized effort to get Democrats to skip the inauguration, which is generally a bipartisan celebration of democracy and the transfer of power, but each lawmaker is making up his or her own mind. Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have all said they will attend the ceremony. Hillary Clinton, Trump’s vanquished rival, is also set to be there.

Lawmakers often skip the inauguration due to personal conflicts or a desire not to be there, according to Raymond Smock, director of the Byrd Center and a former historian of the House of Representatives. “It’s not a big deal if they’re missing it,” Smock said.

But what makes the decision of Lee and her colleagues unusual is their announcement that they are making a political statement by skipping the ceremony.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said on Monday that she would be attending the protests instead of the inauguration.

Last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., announced his intention to boycott the celebration on the House floor.

“I could not look my wife, my daughters or my grandson in the eye if I sat there and attended as if everything that candidate Donald Trump had said about ‘the women’ — about ‘the Latinos,’ or ‘the blacks,’ ‘the Muslims’ — … that any of that is OK or erased from my memory,” he said.

Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., also announced his decision on the House floor. “My absence is not motivated by disrespect for the office, or motivated by disrespect for the government that we have in this great democracy,” Grijalva said, according to Politico. “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 here in this Congress.”

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., announced he could not “politely applaud” the beginning of a “dark and dangerous chapter” in American history.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., wrote on Facebook that he would spend the day back home listening to his constituents, to “prepare for the coming assault on the values and programs we hold dear.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., concurred. “I’ll do my best to work with him when I think he’s doing the right thing for the country. But he hasn’t proved himself to me at all yet, so I respectfully decline to freeze my ass out there in the cold for this particular ceremony,” he said, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., told the Boston Globe that she didn’t want to “normalize” Trump’s promotion of “bigoted, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and racist claims” by attending his inauguration.

Rep. Jose Serrano tweeted his decision on Thursday:

Rep. John Lewis ignited a small firestorm on Friday when he told NBC that he didn’t view Trump as a legitimate president-elect, and he also said he would be skipping the inauguration. The swipe at Trump’s presidency caused Trump to denounce Lewis on Twitter, leading more Democrats to say they would not attend the event.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., tweeted his decision Friday:

A spokesman for Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the congressman would be “back home in St. Louis speaking to school kids” on Jan. 20.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., announced his decision after Trump attacked Lewis:

A spokesperson has confirmed to CNN and The Hill that Congress’ longest-serving member, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., will not attend Trump’s inauguration this week.

A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Conyers became the first member of Congress to propose legislation to create a federal holiday in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s honor, just days after his assassination in 1968.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) speaks at a town hall meeting for Congressman Keith Ellison at the Church of the New Covenant-Baptist on December 22, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo: Sarah Rice/Getty Images)
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., speaks at a town hall meeting for Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., at the Church of the New Covenant-Baptist on Dec. 22, 2016, in Detroit, Mich. (Photo: Sarah Rice/Getty Images)

Over the weekend, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., released a statement confirming that he, too, will boycott Trump’s inauguration.

“While I do not dispute that Trump won the Electoral College, I cannot normalize his behavior or the disparaging and un-American statements he has made,” Lieu, a Taiwanese-American immigrant and former U.S. Air Force colonel, stated Saturday.

Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard and Zoe Lofgren also joined the growing list of California Democrats who will be absent from Friday’s festivities.

“I acknowledge the fact that he is the incoming president, but I’m not in the mood to celebrate that fact,” Lofgren told the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.

Roybal-Allard, who became the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress in 1992, said in a statement that while she “thought long and hard about attending the Inauguration because I value our democracy and respect the office of the presidency, regardless of party,” she ultimately decided against it because “the disparaging remarks the President-elect has made about many groups, including women, Mexicans, and Muslims, are deeply contrary to my values.”

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., announced during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning that he, too, is joining the boycott.

In addition tothe president-elect’s inflammatory comments, his racist campaign, his conflicts of interest, refusal to disclose his taxes,” Nadler said, “the last straw was his ad hominem personal attacks on an icon of the civil rights movement, someone who suffered beatings and almost gave his life for this country, John Lewis.”

The congressman from New York said that he agrees with Lewis that “although legally elected, [Trump’s presidency] is not legitimate.” Still, Nadler added that he plans to work with the president-elect once he is in office.

Nadler elaborated on his decision to join the boycott in a statement posted on his website.

While the 45th president of the United States is sworn into office in Washington, D.C., this Friday, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., will be hosting an interfaith prayer vigil in Trenton, N.J.

Coleman announced her decision to skip Trump’s inauguration while speaking at a town hall hosted by the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey on Saturday.

“The peaceful transition of power is a defining characteristic of our democracy,” she said. “Inaugurations should serve as a celebration of the best of our nation — a symbol of unity and strength. Unfortunately, it is increasingly clear that President-elect Trump is not just unfit for office, but his actions and promises threaten the very democracy for which we are supposed to gather to celebrate. I simply cannot in good conscious participate.”

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., who this November became both the first Dominican-American — and the first formerly undocumented immigrant — elected to Congress, agreed.

“Many have given their lives and dedicated their lives to working to fulfill Dr. King’s dream and make it a reality, and it is up to us to preserve his legacy and the legacy of President Barack Obama to ensure that we do not go back in time!” Espaillat wrote in a post on his Facebook page Saturday. “That’s why I am not attending the presidential inauguration. Donald Trump and the hate-filled rhetoric that plagued his election simply will continue in his administration.”

Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan also took to Facebook to share his thoughts on the inauguration, writing Sunday that he’d originally planned to attend the ceremony “out of respect for the office of President,” however, “after long consideration based on reading the Classified document on Russian hacking and the Trump candidacy on Thursday, the handling of his conflicts of interest, and this weekend’s offensive tweets about a national hero Rep. John Lewis, I am no longer attending the event.”

Instead, Pocan will remain in Madison, where he had already been planning to attend the Women’s March on Saturday.

“At minimum, it’s time for Donald Trump to start acting like President Trump, not an immature, undignified reality star with questionable friends and a Twitter addiction,” Pocan wrote on Facebook. “I hope for better, but will not hold my breath.”

Taking a page from the president-elect’s own handbook, representatives Judy Chu, D-Calif.; Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.; Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Pramila Jayapal, (D-Wash., used Twitter to RSVP “no” to Trump’s inauguration.

Story updated 1:18 p.m. ET on Jan. 14, and again at 11:00 a.m. ET on Jan. 16, to include additional House Democrats boycotting the Trump inauguration. Additional contribution by Colin Campbell and Caitlin Dickson.

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