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Our View: Critical to keep unpredictable Trump close

Because his first stint in Congress came way back in 1974, our U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, based on seniority, will "be third-closest to the president" at today's inauguration, as Nolan pointed out in the News Tribune this week.

The closer the better.

Our nation moves into a great unknown today when President-elect Donald Trump raises his right hand and becomes President Trump. He takes office with little to no record of public service to consider and without having revealed much of what he might do or details about how he may choose to go about accomplishing goals and priorities that remain unclear.

With so much uncertainty, Northlanders will be looking to Nolan and will need to be able to count on him — as well as U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, who also represent our corner of Minnesota and the rest of our state in Washington, D.C. — to be there, to be watching, to be vigilant, and to be fighting for and advocating for us and our interests. Now more than ever.

And on day one, what could be a more symbolic signal of that urgency and necessity than being third-closest to the president at his inauguration?

Being there is being responsible and doing the job voters expected when casting their ballots. It's in welcome and stark contrast to the far-too-many elected congressional Democrats choosing to boycott today's ceremony, just as some Republicans stayed away from President Barack Obama's inaugurations. Staying away only reinforces divisiveness that benefits no one. And it de-legitimizes and disrespects our public electoral process, a pillar of our democracy for more than 200 years, a process that has served us well.

Anger over an election result, and even peaceful protest, is as much a part of that process as the election itself — but not when it's allowed to threaten another proud tradition: the peaceful transition of power.

Yes, some Republicans vowed to obstruct anything and everything President Barack Obama did. Democrats have the chance now to rise above that, to resist stooping to a low they so correctly condemned.

And yes, Trump was bombastic, profane, outrageous and worse during the election. For the good of our nation and our future, the bullying, Twitter-abusing candidate Trump cannot be President Trump. It's on him to earn the respect his office deserves and to set a tone of leadership our nation needs for prosperity, for success, and for the maintaining of our standing in the world. He has to know that.

All the more reason our states' elected leaders in D.C. need to be there and be present: they can remind Trump of his responsibilities, hold him accountable with the rest of us, and pull for his success, understanding that his failure is our failure and can't be allowed.

"Trump is going to be our president, everyone's president, including Rep. John Lewis and everyone on Twitter who keeps using the hashtag #notmypresident," Dallas Morning News columnist Michael A. Lindenberger wrote this week, a welcome reminder. "The worst thing his opponents can do is pretend his presidency is unreal. For Democrats and the fast-dwindling number of Never-Trump Republicans and others, the best way to stand against the Trump administration is to fight against it. That means hanging tough as a principled minority in Congress. ... But failing to acknowledge the Trump presidency's legitimacy right from the start is a faulty first step."

Only by being visible and engaged from the beginning, and only by insisting on being an influential part of D.C. decisionmaking under Trump, can our elected representatives effectively watch out for our interests back home.

They're not insignificant here in the Northland, including mining (especially the need to continue cracking down on the illegal dumping of foreign steel into U.S. markets); shipping and international trade via our Lake Superior, the Soo Locks and the St. Lawrence Seaway (particularly the need for federal funding to make sure our port is well-maintained and can continue to be vibrant and economically viable); the Great Lakes restoration efforts launched first by President George W. Bush and then continued by President Barack Obama; and ongoing transportation and infrastructure improvements.

Our U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan doesn't need to be third-closest to the president to understand the importance of being visible and present, even if that's where we want him, working hard for us. Now more than ever.

"I'm ready to work with the new Congress and president-elect," Nolan wrote in a commentary for the News Tribune published Jan. 1. "I'm hopeful (Trump) will embrace our agenda ... and work with us."

We all can be as hopeful, recognizing that good can't be accomplished from a distance or while denying reality.