More than 50 Democratic members of Congress have decided to follow the lead of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and boycott the Friday inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. Some are doing so out of respect for longtime congressman and civil rights icon Lewis. Others are protesting Trump’s policies and divisiveness, and still others believe that his campaign’s possible ties to Russian election tampering make his presidency illegitimate.
This page has criticized Trump for some of the same things. Still, members of Congress — regardless of political affiliation — should be full participants in the peaceful transfer of power that is critical for a functioning democracy.
This isn’t the first time individual members of Congress whose party has lost the White House have skipped an inauguration. In the past, Republicans also have opted to take vacations or return to their districts rather than attend. But the anti-Trump boycott is believed to be the largest, and it is growing.
As elected officials, members of Congress should represent their constituents in the same spirit in which they attend the State of the Union or other presidential speeches. There are more productive ways to express displeasure or opposing views than boycotting. Republicans and Democrats make that clear with their reactions during the State of the Union.
During his recent farewell address, President Obama tried to quiet the boos that came from the audience when he mentioned Trump. He also acknowledged the value of a peaceful transfer of power.
In announcing that she will attend the inauguration, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., was critical of Trump’s behavior and policies. But, she added, “I have faith in our constitutional democracy and in the power of citizen action to stop Mr. Trump’s dangerous agenda in the coming months and years. On Friday, I will join President Obama and Secretary [Hillary] Clinton for the inauguration of our 45th president, a ritual that is a hallmark of our democratic government. I will also be present so Mr. Trump fully understands that … Americans are already working to stop him from further hurting our country.”
It’s regrettable that Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, expected to be the only member of the Minnesota delegation to skip the event, didn’t take a similar approach.