Some congressional Democrats did their best to honor that tradition.
Here's Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) marveling at the symbolism of the moment.
And some House Democrats and Republicans made a point to take a picture together.
After Trump's speech, Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) offered her congratulations to Trump and offered “to find areas of common ground.”
But a significant number of Democrats — mostly House Democrats — took no break from the partisan rancor before, during or after Trump's inauguration. In fact, they arguably elevated it.
Trump's speech, a wholesale repudiation of power in Washington, had barely finished echoing across the Mall when some Democrats started tweeting (irony, noted) about how much they hated it. No, despised it. No, absolutely loathed it.
A dark, dystopian, defiant inaugural speech that begins a new presidency without aspiration or reconciliation.— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) January 20, 2017
It failed to unify or reach out to the entire nation.— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) January 20, 2017
JFK & Reagan spoke of USA as a shining city on a hill. Trump spoke of USA as an inner city slum.— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) January 20, 2017
Okay. That happened. Let's get back to work.— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) January 20, 2017
Other Democrats immediately assumed their fight stance.
I vow to protect immigrants, fight for equal rights, ensure health care for all. Will resist any efforts by Trump to upend this.— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) January 20, 2017
As Coretta Scott King said, the fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation. It’s time for our generation to rise up.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 20, 2017
And those, we can assume, were somewhat filtered tweets. Here's former congressman Steve Israel, who retired last year, telling us how he really feels:
That speech had all the soaring sentiment of "Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III."— Steve Israel (@RepSteveIsrael) January 20, 2017
Trump's inauguration was already taking place under extraordinary partisan circumstances. Some 70 House Democrats boycotted it. What surprised historians and political scientists was not the volume of boycotts but the manner in which these Democrats were boycotting: By essentially telling their new president to go to hell.
“I respectfully decline to freeze my ass out there in the cold for his particular ceremony,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
As I pointed out earlier this week, there's a political reason for much of the colorful language Democrats are lobbing at Trump.
Trump is assuming the White House as one of the least-popular presidents in modern memory, and many of these Democrats represent deeply liberal districts, places where they're more concerned about a primary challenger to the left than a viable Republican opponent. Skipping Trump's inauguration after calling him “a child” and then immediately deriding his inauguration speech is one way to fly your liberal flag.
The question now is whether this behavior is unique to Trump's inauguration or if it will become the new normal in Washington, even beyond Trump. If it's the latter, we could be in for an acrimonious, Twitter-fueled new political dynamic.