While most South Whidbey Republicans spent Inauguration Day in quiet celebration, one Langley family got the chance to watch history unfold up close and in person.
Rich Bacigalupi, his wife Carol Griswold, and their daughter, 13-year-old Kelsey Griswold-Bacigalupi, travelled to Washington D.C. to watch President Donald Trump take his oath of office and later attend two private balls, both of which included the commander-in-chief and Vice President Mike Pence.
In text messages to The Record Friday morning, Rich Bacigalupi described the inauguration as “timeless, nonpartisan and peaceful.” The family arrived at the National Mall at 6:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and that the crowd was already huge. Feeling a bit like “sardines,” they were in the “South Standing” area next to a VIP walkway, and watched as celebrities such as Willie Robertson of the TV series Duck Dynasty arrived. Standing nearby was Fox News journalist Ed Henry, who eventually interviewed the family, though the clip never aired.
Though lively and some destructive protests at the inauguration made national headlines, Bacigalupi described a much different atmosphere.
“Crowd is peaceful and just a bunch of everyday people. Polite,” Bacigalupi wrote. “Many wearing Trump hats. All ages. As we walked here, the only negative people were the small groups of protesters with signs. But they seemed lost and weren’t saying anything. Kind of like they are here but not in spirit.”
In a Thursday evening telephone interview with The Record prior to Friday’s ceremonies, Bacigalupi said this would be an important moment. Not only was he the volunteer manager of the Island County Trump campaign, making it a special honor to see his chosen candidate sworn in as the 45th president, but he believes it will be remembered as an important moment in history.
“For me this is more than just attending an inauguration,” Bacigalupi said. “… I think we truly are on a direction of change, and one that will benefit the entire country.”
Back on South Whidbey, however, not everyone was so optimistic. As the Bacigalupis celebrated in the nation’s capitol, Democrats and other Trump critics took to the streets in Freeland to protest. More than 60 assembled at the corner of Fish Road and Highway 525, most of whom were dressed in black and waving signs of opposition.
Organized by the Whidbey Island Progressives, the protest was to “affirm to the community that many living on South Whidbey do not support the installation of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of America,” according to a news release.
“We don’t find him an acceptable president,” said Clinton resident Alice Goss, protest organizer. “Everything is in jeopardy. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the environment.”
“Then, of course, there’s the women’s issues.”
Environmental warrior and activist Gary Piazzon, a Coupeville resident, said he’s worried about what tomorrow will bring.
“I feel a deep distress for our future,” Piazzon said. “We’ve taken a radical turn in the wrong direction.”
“We’re not going back to the 50s,” he added.
A similar protest held in Oak Harbor was attended by only two people.
Some South Whidbey residents felt so strongly that they decided to shutter their businesses for the day.
“I’m blacking out my windows, and have written a five-page essay that will be going on my front door,” said John Auburn on Thursday, owner of Whidbey Island Bagel Factory at Ken’s Korner.
Auburn said everyone who comes into his shop is treated with respect, no matter their race, beliefs or lifestyle. He doesn’t see the same values reflected in Trump. In fact, he sees the president as a threat to his very way of life.
“I’m gay, and there’s a chance I could lose my rights to marry who I want to,” he said. “That’s upsetting because we’ve come so far in terms of equality”
“I just don’t think that’s right, and I had to make my stand,” he said.
Auburn hopes that this election will drive people to become more active and participate in government.
“Maybe this is what we needed, was a wake up call…. That, maybe, is the good thing coming out of this.”
In Langley, the arts and theater community participated in the Ghostlight Project, an event intended to make a statement about intolerance by shining a spotlight into the sky. Similarly, a women’s march is set to take place in Langley today at noon, beginning in the parking lot at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. At least four bus loads of Whidbey women will travel to Seattle today to participate in the Women’s March there.
Whidbey Republicans and Trump supporters were quiet by comparison. Teresa Hobbs, chairwoman of the Island County Republican Party, said Thursday she wasn’t aware of any planned public celebrations or parties on the island. Those not at work would likely spend the morning watching the event on TV. Hobbs, an Oak Harbor resident, also expressed hesitancy about referring the newspaper to other party members for comment.
“Particularly on the South End, I see no reason to make Republicans a target,” she said.
Hobbs referenced the defacing of about a dozen political signs across the island during the election last year. She couldn’t say whether the vandalism was concentrated on the South End.
She said the sentiment among Whidbey Republicans is largely “one of relief,” primarily that Hillary Clinton did not win and “that we can undo some of the damage done by the Obama administration.” Support for the president was not unanimous in the party, but everyone is happy Clinton lost, she said.
“Whether we supported Trump or not, we all have that in common,” Hobbs said.
She added that she’s spent the past few weeks glued to C-SPAN, paying particularly attention to Trump’s cabinet choices.
“We’re very, very impressed with Donald Trump’s nominees. I think the president-elect is surrounding himself with huge talent… I’m very optimistic.”
Bill Carruthers, a Clinton resident and secretary of the county Republicans, confirmed Thursday that he would spend Inauguration Day in quiet at home. That’s typical of party members, he said.
“Republicans on a whole don’t go out and demonstrate,” he said. “… We’re just busy doing more important things.”
“What’s it going to accomplish?” he said.
“This election, it’s more a relief. It’s not a desire to celebrate.”
When asked about the demonstrations on Whidbey, he said that’s their right. But, he believes it must be on their own time, not that of their employers or taxpayers; he specifically referenced student protests, such as the one that occurred shortly after the November general election at South Whidbey High School.
“During the school day, taxpayers expect kids to be in school learning,” Carruthers said.
“They can demonstrate all they want, just not on taxpayer time.”
Longtime South Whidbey Republican Rufus Rose was more critical. He believes “our civic duty is to be as cooperative as possible” and that he doesn’t understand why people would choose not to watch something as important as Inauguration Day.
“It’s a big deal and a critically important event,” he said.
“Stomping your feet and whining about it just because your team didn’t win is nuts.”
“That’s crazy to me,” he said.
He called the protests “childish” and “emotional” and said they would detract from the Democrats’ potential to work with the new administration.
He added that, “He (Trump) was not my first selection but I did vote for him because to me the alternative was unthinkable,” he said.
“A combination of quiet pride and let’s get down to business is how I think about it,” he said.
As for Bacigalupi, he also is looking forward to the future, particularly the chance for a more united America.
“I’ve thought a lot about today and hope we are entering a time of healing and reconciliation for our country — all people,” he wrote in an email to The Record. “Emotions are high, and each side has plenty of evidence to justify their beliefs, fears and hopes. My hope is that we judge the next four years as they happen, and start fresh as of today.”