Bearing witness at Donald Trump’s inauguration

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Newly elected U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal will not be joining some of his fellow Democrats in boycotting President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In a news release posted on Carbajal’s website, the Central Coast congressman said he plans to attend the inauguration — though not out of respect for the president-elect.

Rather, he wants to bear witness.

“I want him to see the face of a Mexican immigrant newly elected to serve as the first Latino representative for the Central Coast and to know that the many groups he has disparaged and attacked over the course of his campaign have a strong voice in our government,” he wrote.

We have no doubt that some Americans will find Carbajal’s words disrespectful.

Some already have weighed in. Here’s a sample of responses from our website:

“We just voted you in, and now this?”

“Voted for (you) this time, not next.”

“Maybe you should just stay home, Salud.”

There are equally unkind words for the more than 50 Democratic lawmakers who have chosen to stay away from the inauguration — a decision that’s been derided as petty, immature and disrespectful to the highest office of the United States.

Ordinarily, we would agree.

Inaugurations have traditionally been an opportunity for all Americans to celebrate our system of government, to set aside political differences and to acknowledge the peaceful transition of power.

To refuse to take part in the ceremony would be nothing more than petty political spite.

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal says he’ll attend the inauguration, though not to honor Trump. Naturally, he’s caught some flak.

But what to do when the president-elect insists on sowing division and taunting his “enemies” — a textbook example of petty political spite?

Consider Trump’s infamous New Year’s greeting sent via Twitter: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

And more recently, his rejection of polls showing his low approval rating: “The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before,” he tweeted.

Trump had the opportunity to reassure us that he will represent all Americans. He blew it by continuing to draw a line between his “friends” and his “enemies.”

If only he had shown a hint of humility.

Something like, “Low approval ratings show many of you are worried. I accept that, but I will work harder than ever to earn your respect!”

Wishful thinking?

Of course. After all, Trump will be Trump. He is brash, he is egotistical, he is vindictive.

Given the circumstances, we understand why some lawmakers have chosen to stay away from his inauguration, while others, like Carbajal, are attending with caveats.

Even so, we believe the high road that first lady Michelle Obama spoke of so eloquently during the campaign leads to Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day.

On that day, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th president.

Not everyone agrees with Carbajal’s reason for attending. Nonetheless, we’re proud to have him there to represent us.