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Mass. lawmakers find silver lining in 2016 election outcome

Representative Katherine Clark was one of the first lawmakers in the country to say she would boycott Donald Trump’s inauguration.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2016/Globe Staff

WASHINGTON — For those who see Donald Trump as a hostile force invading American politics, the Massachusetts congressional delegation began assuming a role as vanguard of the resistance well before the weekend women’s march.​

It amounts to a silver lining in the 2016 election for the all-Democrat Bay State representatives and senators. They have a fresh platform to raise their profiles — and campaign money — with brickbats and protests aimed at the incoming White House.

Representative Katherine Clark was one of the first lawmakers in the country to announce she would boycott Trump’s inauguration, flouting years of precedent. Representative Michael Capuano followed suit.


In a symbolic act, Representative Jim McGovern of Worcester raised the first Democratic objection to the House certifying the presidential election results, charging that the outcome was compromised by Russian hacking. Representative Seth Moulton, an Iraq war veteran, called the president-elect “a draft dodger” in various forums.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is using her high profile to antagonize the president-elect on everything from his business entanglements to his “Cabinet of billionaires” to the “disarray” in his transition. She has brought her fiery, prosecutorial questioning to bear at Senate nominating hearings.

And of course several delegation members were front and center for the historic women’s marches over the weekend — with Warren and Senator Ed Markey delivering blistering speeches on Boston Common and others participating in the march in Washington.

For this strident band of liberals, being the face of the Trump resistance makes good back-home politics.

Massachusetts voters are hungry to turn the anger, the frustration, and the despair of the election result into action, state Democrats say. There are risks to strenuous defiance, including individual Democrats and the party being painted as uncompromising. That could further alienate voters who turned away from Democrats this election cycle and view them as out-of-touch with their interests.


“It’s disappointing that Massachusetts Democrats are stooping to these cheap partisan stunts just because the election didn’t go their way,’’ said Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. “At a time when Americans have sent a clear message that they’re sick of business as usual in Washington, these Democrats should get on board with leaders from both parties who say they want to work together to get things done.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke Saturday during Boston’s Women’s March.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

But the reality is Massachusetts leaders are stoking a backlash — evident in the women’s march’s unexpectedly big numbers — against a president-elect who assumes office with record-low approval ratings and whose inauguration speech signaled little inclination to mend fences with critics.

Constituents say they are energized.

“We’re ashamed that some people in this country are thinking that it’s OK to be so politically incorrect and make minority groups feel unwelcome,” said Tara Hopper Zeltner, a lawyer and chair of the Natick Democratic Town Committee. The actions taken by Clark, who represents Natick, and others make “me proud to live where I live.’’

Clark held an event at a Wayland mosque that gained attention when leaders had received a hate-filled, threatening letter that proclaimed Trump will “do to you . . . what Hitler did to the Jews.”

The concerns she’s heard from Massachusetts voters at that and other events affirmed her view that Trump is not pivoting from divisive campaigner to the “president for all Americans” he promised in his election night victory speech, she said in an interview.


“There is an overwhelming feeling ... that we are at a crossroads in our history, and we can choose a path of prosperity and equality or we can take a path that has the hallmarks that we saw in Donald Trump’s campaign — those of division, those of bias and misogyny,” said Clark, whose district includes many of Boston’s northern and western suburbs.

Clark was one of the earliest Democratic lawmakers to announce she was skipping Trump’s inauguration, a list that ballooned to more than 50 after Trump’s Twitter attack on civil rights icon John Lewis, a Georgia congressman. Lewis drew Trump’s ire for saying said he wasn’t attending because Trump was “illegitimate.”

Early points of attack are Trump’s business dealings and conflicts of interests.

Clark and Warren have worked on House and Senate legislation to force the president and vice president to divest all their business interests and put those assets in “a true blind trust,” managed by an independent trustee.

Trump has sought to prune back his business-related conflicts by signing over control —but not ownership — of the Trump Organization to his two oldest sons. That and other measures Trump announced have not gone nearly far enough for ethics experts, not to mention Democrats.

It’s become a delegation-wide cause: All of the Bay State’s House members, and Senator Ed Markey have signed on to the legislation.

Warren has played lead antagonist on a number of Trump’s Cabinet picks. She partnered with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in writing the Office of Government Ethics to raise concerns about the vetting of Trump’s nominees. The alarmed response from the head of that office, warning that some nominees had not yet completed the ethics review process, grabbed front-page headlines and helped pressure GOP leaders to delay some hearings.


McGovern took part in the effort to make Democrats’s most magical thinking come true, raising objections as Congress tallied the official electoral ballot count Jan. 6. Despite the futile nature of the move, McGovern said, he felt it was important for elected officials to speak up for those concerned that Russian hacking and voter suppression helped Trump win.

“I never in all my life remember a time after an election where more people have come up to me and said to me that they’re frightened . . . genuinely concerned and nervous about what’s going to happen,’’ he said. “And I understand that concern. I share it.”

Moulton, a Salem Democrat who served four tours in Iraq, has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s lack of expertise on military issues and his seemingly cozy relationship with Russia.

He has also called the president-elect a “draft dodger” for his five deferments during the Vietnam War. Moulton enshrined this opinion of Trump in a press release, blasting him for waiting so long to pick a nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Representative Seth Moulton blasted Trump for waiting so long to pick a nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. Kieran Kesner for The Boston Globe/File 2016

Victoria McGrane can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.