Trump inauguration speech stirred strong feelings among Californians in Congress

President-elect Donald Trump greets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, and other congressional leaders as he arrives for his inauguration ceremony Friday.
President-elect Donald Trump greets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, and other congressional leaders as he arrives for his inauguration ceremony Friday. AP

Democratic members of California’s congressional delegation reacted with a mix of defiance and resignation to Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, as the nation’s largest state prepares to deal with a president that it overwhelmingly rejected in the election.

Californians in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus charged that Trump’s inauguration speech was a continuation of anti-immigrant rhetoric from the campaign trail.

“The president of the United States has made it abundantly clear, including in his speech today, that he is openly hostile to immigrants, particularly immigrants of Mexican ancestry,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez, a Democrat from Whittier.

Trump declared in his inaugural address that “from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first – America first.”

Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Los Angeles, said the rhetoric in the inaugural speech shows “complete malice and ignorance” of the value of immigrants to the country.

Newly elected California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris marked inauguration day with a tweetstorm, declaring the need to “get louder about civil rights, women’s rights and immigration.”

“Our ideals are at stake right now and we will have to fight for who we are,” Harris tweeted.

But Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said Democrats need to work with Trump and not focus on “harmful partisan rhetoric”.

“Let me be clear, I do not condone, nor am I downplaying the unacceptable and inflammatory statements made by President Donald Trump,” Costa said. “But the fact is if we are going to be successful in moving our country forward, then Congress must find a way to work with President Trump, and that's what I will do.”

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, said he’s concerned that Trump’s “America First” inaugural theme might signal a withdrawal of the U.S. from engaging in the world. Trump also talked about building infrastructure and creating opportunity, though, and those are things Democrats could work with him on, Bera said.

“We’re in uncharted territory, I mean Donald Trump’s been a Democrat and he’s been a Republican. You hope for the best here, that he will leave the divisive rhetoric in the campaign and start focusing on the work of governing,” Bera said.

Some Democrats in California’s Congressional delegation wore pink to the inauguration in what they called a protest of Trump’s treatment of women. Reps. Jackie Speier of Hillsborough and Nanette Barragán of Los Angeles wore the pink “pussyhats” that symbolize Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. Bera said he wore a pink scarf in solidarity with Planned Parenthood.

There are just 14 Republicans in California’s 55-member delegation. But one of them is the powerful House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who was celebrating Trump’s inauguration.

“American voters have entrusted immense authority to our new president, and we look to the future with confidence that President Trump will lead America to greatness again,” McCarthy said.

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford said that to “witness this momentous occasion in our nation’s history is a privilege like no other.”

But more than one in four members of the California delegation boycotted the inauguration, including Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.

“I just felt that the election lacked legitimacy,” McNerney said, citing Russian hacking and what he called FBI bias. “When he raised his right hand I think he’s likely to be in violation of the Constitution. I just couldn’t sanction the ceremony by attending it.”

McNerney watched the inaugural address on television and said “it started out real nice, he was very gracious to Obama, but it turned dark pretty quickly.”

“He sounded protectionist and isolationist. It had a little feel of authoritarianism too, honestly” McNerney said.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein also skipped the inauguration. The 83-year-old Feinstein had a pacemaker installed earlier this month in “an abundance of caution” but was quickly back at work in the Senate. She’s been critical of Trump but her office said her decision not to attend wasn’t a boycott.

“Not a protest, just decided to watch on television,” said her spokesman, Tom Mentzer.

Sean Cockerham: 202-383-6016, @seancockerham