Exactly two weeks after rioters invaded the Capitol, our country will begin the long walk of recovery and a return to normalcy with the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris taking place on the very same steps. Jan. 20 is a constitutionally significant day, marking the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next while reinforcing the presidency as an institution. However, today is set to look different than the past 58 inaugurations. The imagery of the 46th president’s inauguration is marked by an unfamiliar military presence and an emptiness without a buzzing crowd at the National Mall.
How will the inauguration look after the events on Jan. 6?
President-elect Biden is not only being sworn in during perhaps the darkest days of the pandemic, but a trialing chapter in American politics. The threat of violence immanently lurks in the shadows of D.C. following the riots and civil unrest at the Capitol just two weeks ago. While travel was originally discouraged, the insurrection on Jan. 6 heightened the security and dramatized the underlying tone of the inauguration. Rather than arriving in a traditional parade, the Bidens will make their way to the White House with a presidential escort consisting of representatives from every branch of the military.
How has the pandemic affected the inauguration?
Accounting for health and safety precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at an event typically bringing in upwards of 200,000 people, this inauguration will be unique in our collective lifetimes. Rather, the Biden Administration chose to honor those who have lost their battle with COVID-19 through a virtual lighting ceremony. Continuing the emphasis on public safety, traditional events and new virtual events have been incorporated into the day to include as many Americans across the country as possible. The Biden Inauguration Team has worked to reach and include all Americans, organizing digital, interactive “events” for citizens to participate in from home. Ultimately, these deviations from inaugural tradition attempt to reconcile the mishandling of the pandemic while making way for a compassionate, competent presidency.
What will the inauguration actually look like?
The Oaths of Office will take place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for both Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and President-elect Biden. We can expect an inaugural address to follow, however this address will be heard in person only by members of Congress. While this will be private, the rest of the day’s celebrations will be broadcasted nationally. Replacing the inaugural ball, American treasure Tom Hanks will be hosting a televised program celebrating America. Additionally, there will be a virtual parade showcasing diverse communities.
Speaking of breaking tradition, where are the Trumps?
In keeping with the theme of this inauguration, President Trump and the First Lady are also making history as the first modern president to be absent for the swearing-in of his successor. While historically a symbolic moment of the peaceful transition of power, the end of President Trump’s term has already strayed from this ideal with his refusal to formally congratulate Biden and concede. Similarly, Melania Trump will forgo the ceremony of giving Jill Biden a tour of the White House.
What is next?
While many Americans have bought into the falsified claims that the election was fraudulent, a new era of uncertainty lingers behind a thin sheet of normalcy as President-elect Biden transitions into office. The inauguration, although different from what we know, is still set to be a historical, celebratory day for America.