Early morning rain did little to dampen the deep tension between the hundreds of thousands of supporters and protesters of President Donald Trump, who had flocked to the nation’s capital for the 58th presidential inauguration Friday.
Sidewalks were crammed with supporters of the incoming president and many sported iconic red “Make America Great Again” hats. Vendors stood at nearly every intersection hawking t-shirts, hats, scarves, buttons, and bumper stickers in support of the president.
Union Square, near the Capitol, was filled with protesters holding signs calling the freshly inaugurated president a “neo-fascist,” “criminal” and “liar.” Some protesters reported they had been out in the streets rallying against the president through the night.
William & Mary student Erica West traveled to Washington D.C. with a group of students to protest the inauguration. Williamsburg voted overwhelmingly for Trump’s opposition, with 68.27 percent of voters casting ballots for Hillary Clinton.
James City County voted for Trump with margins of more than five percent, and York County voted for him with margins of more than 17 percent.
West said she’s not as concerned about Trump’s governance as she is about those who admire him.
“I am concerned about what his actions and words do to mobilize people who have hatred in their heart toward people who are considered ‘other,'” West said.
On a personal level, West said she’s concerned about a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has allowed her to stay on her parent’s health insurance while she’s in school.
“The thought that I won’t have this massive safety net that is the Affordable Care Act is pretty terrifying,” West said.
While West was among a large bloc of voters throughout the United States who were discouraged by the losses Democrats took on Election Day, a core group of local lawmakers are preparing to get down to brass tacks after Trump’s inauguration.
Jack Salm, IV is the Northampton County Republicans Unit Chair, the youngest unit chair in the Commonwealth at 17 years old. He said he was disappointed with the elections in Virginia — in that the state did not swing more to the right.
“Once Northern Virginia reported, [Virginia] swung the other way, and we’ve been seeing that in past elections,” Salm said. “But hopefully in 2017, we’ll select candidates that will help us flip Northern Virginia as well as strengthen our Republican caucus.”
Salm called the inauguration a celebration of America’s greatest tradition: the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.
“Personally, I’ve put in so much hard work and dedication for Mr. Trump during the primary season as well as the general election,” Salm said. “So being here being able to celebrate it really shows how hard work pays off. I mean, in America, we’re so blessed to have the strong democracy that we do, and this is just another celebration of what that stands for.”
A freshman Republican congressman has said he’s also ready to put his nose to the grindstone and work with the incoming presidential administration.
Congressman Scott Taylor of the 2nd District of Virginia said he was excited to get to work after he was placed on the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, a rare event for a first-term congressman. Specifically, Taylor is on the subcommittee that oversees all the funding for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
“We’re going to use this office and we’re going to be very busy,” Taylor said.
He said he intended to use his position on the appropriations committee to put “riders,” or additional provisions on legislation, to benefit the military and the economy from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach.
While Republicans hold majorities in Congress and the executive branch, Taylor has his sights set on limiting the powers of the executive.
“I believe our balance of powers is out of balance,” Taylor said. “Regardless of the politics, or what side you’re on…Congress has abdicated a lot of the responsibility to the executive branch. We have to take that back. We have got to get those powers. We’re an equal branch. We have to get that oversight.”
As for the nation’s new executive, Trump said during his inauguration speech he plans to give power back to “the citizens of our country.”
“What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people,” Trump said. “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”
Adrienne Mayfield contributed reporting.