The congressional boycott of Donald Trump’s inauguration has gone viral, as dozens of Democratic House members (the count hit 50 Tuesday afternoon) have now announced that will skip Friday’s swearing-in ceremony. Most of the dissenters have offered variations on the message that Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva delivered on the floor of the House early last week:
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.
“The majority of voters rejected Trump—they deserve respect,” said Grijalva in the January 13 announcement that he would skip Trump’s inauguration to march in Tucson with the purpose of “reaffirming and renewing this democracy.”
Trump’s goals are far less lofty.The president-elect just wants an Inauguration Day crowd that fosters fantasies of unity and popular support. Trump needs official acceptance to sustain the dubious claim that he has a mandate to govern.
With more than ten percent of House members declaring that they will not participate in the inaugural ceremonies, Trump is being denied the image of mass approval that he so desperately desires. House Democrats are steering energy and attention away from the inauguration and toward protests, which many of them will join, against a president who lost the popular vote but continues to promote extreme policies and nominees.
In addition to highlighting popular resistance to Trump, the dissenting Democrats are drawing attention to the issues that make resistance a necessity. That’s what Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez did almost two months ago when he first appeared on CNN to announce that “I can’t go to this inauguration because [Trump] continues to spew hatred, bigotry and prejudice—even after he said he was going to bring us all together, he was going to unify us, but he’s not.”
In the weeks that followed, a few more House members joined the boycott. Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark explained that “I do not feel that I can contribute to the normalization of the President-elect’s divisive rhetoric by participating in the Inauguration,” while California Congressman Jared Huffman said that “with Donald Trump as our President, the United States is entering a dark and very dangerous political chapter. I will do everything I can to limit the damage and the duration of this chapter, and I believe we can get through it. But I will not sit passively and politely applaud as it begins.” Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a leading environmental advocate, added his name to the not-going-there list, as did former Congressional Hispanic Caucus chair Nydia Velazquez, D-New York.