WASHINGTON ― As soon as she found out Donald Trump had won the presidential election, Diane* began applying for a new job. As a federal employee, she just couldn’t imagine sticking around and working for a man she worried would mistreat government workers and pursue dangerous, unethical policies.
But she’s not quite done with the president-elect yet. Diane is also a member of the National Guard and has been assigned to work at inauguration.
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” she sighed.
“Hopefully we show our best for this inauguration, despite who is being inaugurated,” she added. “You’re no better than you are on your worst day, I guess I would say. We have a job to do, and I support our troops doing that job.”
Plenty of federal workers, service members and others who come to to participate in the festivities always have to take part in an inauguration for a president for whom they may not have voted. But this year seems a bit different.
The 2016 campaign was particularly acrimonious, and Trump has had trouble attracting entertainers to perform at his big day. At least one D.C.-area marching band has participated in the past five inaugural parades, but not a single one applied for this year’s.
Federal employees or service members who have no choice but to be there are trying to make the best out of the uncomfortable situation.
I don't think I'm going to have any patriotic emotions like the ones that I experienced during Obama's last inauguration. Member of a military band
George* voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, but because he plays in one of the military bands, he will also have to be at inauguration.
“It’s certainly going to be different,” he said, reflecting on the excitement and honor he felt performing in 2012 for President Barack Obama.
“My first thought when the election results came out,” he continued, “was, ‘Should I look for new work? Am I going to be able to stomach this?’”
He’s since decided that he’s not going to leave the band, but it’s just not going to be the same as it was over the past four years.
“It’s going to be a job,” George added. “I don’t think I’m going to have any patriotic emotions like the ones that I experienced during Obama’s last inauguration.”
For groups around the country who have decided to come to the nation’s capital to participate in the civic event ― which traditionally is an honor, remembered for a lifetime ― there’s considerable consternation for members about whether to join in.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable standing near a man like that in our costumes,” one dancer wrote in an email to her colleagues, according to Marie Claire magazine.
One Rockette told the magazine that participation appeared mandatory at first, but management made clear it was optional after some backlash from the performers. Nevertheless, many dancers worry that if they refuse to go, they’ll face repercussions.
“I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man,” wrote the member, Judy Chamberlin, in a Facebook post. “I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.”
The Marist College marching band applied to perform at inauguration before it was clear who would win the election. When its application was accepted, the band director asked the members to privately let him know whether they wanted to march. A few people have decided to sit it out. One student who spoke with The Huffington Post said that although he doesn’t like Trump, he’s still going to march.
“I don’t think it’s about him,” he said. “I think it’s a huge honor to be playing at the inauguration, no matter who it was.”
The issue has been a hot topic at Marist, with an online petition from an alumna of the college asking the band to decline the inauguration invitation.
“I just hope that people don’t end up turning on band members because of this,” the member, who will be marching, told HuffPost. “I just hope Marist doesn’t become more divided by this, and that people end up respecting our side of things and hopefully kind of respecting our decision to march and us respecting the people who obviously decided not to march.”
* Names have been changed at the request of the individuals over fears of retribution.
Want more updates from Amanda Terkel? Sign up for her newsletter, Piping Hot Truth, here.