Why I’m Not Attending the Inauguration: An Open Letter to My Constituents

To my Constituents,

Tomorrow I will not be attending the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. Many of you expressed support for that decision, others less so. Either way, you deserve an explanation.

My absence is a statement — to the President-elect, to the country, but most of all to you — that Donald Trump’s victory does not vindicate his past. Throughout his professional life, during the campaign, and now in his transition, Donald Trump’s words and actions are inconsistent with fundamental American values and beneath the grand office he will assume. They threaten the democratic cultural norms that are essential to our republic.

His electoral legitimacy is not in question. Tomorrow Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th president in a peaceful transition of power. His moral and ethical legitimacy are another story.

The next President of the United States cannot effectively lead this country with only a legal and technical victory in the Electoral College. He needs moral and ethical assets as well. These are not purchased through the art of the deal, but earned through words and deeds that subordinate personal gain for the advancement of freedom and equality.

His attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, which came on the weekend dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., reflects a dangerous pattern of behavior. Mr. Trump is within his rights to dispute Congressman Lewis’s assertion of electoral illegitimacy, but as President-elect and as President he has the obligation to show basic respect towards dissenters. By resorting to vengeful ridicule — “all talk, no action” — Mr. Trump demonstrated no appreciation for a man who possesses moral and ethical capital in spades, capital earned through his brave words and deeds. Donald Trump’s conduct raised more doubts about his moral legitimacy to lead a diverse nation.

While campaigning for the presidency, he defined large communities of people through a single, prejudiced frame: Muslims as terrorists, Latinos as rapists and drug lords, African-Americans as poor and living in urban ghettos, women as weak. This past weekend, he laid to rest any hope that he would leave such divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail.

As the descendent of parents and grandparents who were imprisoned in Japanese-American internment camps, I know the pain of being unjustly labeled as not deserving respect or equal protection under the law. Could Executive Order 9066 happen again in America? I hope not, but I’m in no mood to stand and applaud when the risk is so evident. And I certainly won’t celebrate a man who empowers and employs people who preach hate.

America is at her best when she leads by example, when she exemplifies fairness, and when she exhibits a moral authority earned through upholding the principles of freedom and equality.

Donald Trump’s ethical shortcomings are equally disturbing. He will be sworn in to office despite serious questions about his business ties, his conflicts of interest, and the influence of a malevolent foreign leader on his Administration. These are not typical partisan objections. Every American should be concerned by Donald Trump’s unprecedented lack of transparency, exemplified by his refusal to produce tax documents that would reveal the size and location of his investments and debts.

When President Trump takes military action in a foreign country, we will not know if it’s in America’s best interest or his own. This fact alone is enough to justify staying home from the inaugural events. The Presidential Inauguration is traditionally a time for the two parties to come together and affirm another milestone in our democracy.

But given my moral and ethical concerns with the incoming Administration, I cannot pretend this transition is normal. I cannot gloss over or whitewash conduct that is unbecoming for a president by going through the motions of ceremony. I owe you more than my vote; I owe you my conscience and my well considered judgment.

As your representative, I took an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution. I will do so by abstaining from the pageantry of the inauguration and preparing to do everything I can to ensure our community and our country lives up to its magnificent promise.

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