Editor’s be aware: That is the third of three articles in a sequence reviewing the historical past of presidential inaugurations in the US. Learn the second article right here.
With every switch of presidential energy, a brand new chapter within the American expertise begins. Though each earlier presidential inauguration has had its distinctive moments, occasions previous the 2021 inauguration have already assured that it’ll clearly have an unprecedented storyline.
Joe Biden is not going to solely be the oldest particular person to take the presidential oath however probably the most skilled. Since 1789, of the 44 males who’ve served as president, 26 had prior service in Congress, however none got here near Joe Biden’s 36-plus years on Capitol Hill. As well as, Biden on Jan. 20, will develop into solely the fourth president to have eight years of seasoning as a vp previous to profitable the presidency.
On the 2021 inauguration, America can even witness one thing that has by no means occurred earlier than: Kamala Harris, a lady — the mixed-race daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica — will increase her proper hand and be sworn in as vp of the US. Harris carries the hopes of girls and non-white Individuals thrilled by her ascension.
Collectively, Biden and Harris will start their historic nationwide journey to protect, defend and “defend the Constitution of the United States” going through a fragile set of challenges. They inherit a deeply divided nation experiencing financial insecurity, social unrest, a crippling pandemic, the worst assault on the U.S. Capitol because the Warfare of 1812 and a departing president reluctant to go away workplace.
Historian Robert Dallek, creator of “Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life,” says the parallels between when Roosevelt took workplace in the course of the Nice Despair and “now can be overdrawn, but there is a common thread — a president facing pressure to restore faith in democracy itself.” The challenges forward for Biden, Dallek feels, are “not to date faraway from what Franklin Roosevelt confronted. He understood, as he mentioned in his ’33 inaugural deal with, ‘(This nation is asking) for action and action now.’ And I feel the identical adage shall be within the forefront of Joe Biden’s thoughts.”
An anxious citizenry, in addition to a lot of the world, shall be watching and listening intently to see how President Biden and Vice President Harris transfer America ahead from the present unprecedented political chaos and start to revive the nation’s world management and democratic beliefs.
Though it’s in all probability unfair to count on Biden to ship a timeless inaugural deal with like Lincoln, FDR or Kennedy, his speech ought to change the tenor in Washington and set the tone for different leaders to start the tough technique of therapeutic.
A pandemic inaugural
Even earlier than these stunning photos emerged from the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, COVID-19 had dramatically altered plans for this 12 months’s inauguration. Occasions have been considerably curtailed, and Individuals are being urged to keep away from touring to Washington and limiting gatherings on the inauguration.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris nonetheless plan to take their oaths on the west entrance of the Capitol, overlooking the Mall (a practice that began with President Ronald Reagan in 1981), however solely about 1,000 as an alternative of 200,000 tickets shall be obtainable to attend the ceremony. Attendees should put on masks and preserve social distancing throughout the ticketed parameters, and COVID-19 testing may be required for anybody seated on the primary platform close to Biden and Harris. It’s possible the choir that’s often positioned on risers behind the president is not going to be possible, however the Marine Band, which has performed at each inauguration since 1801 continues to be scheduled to take part.
The viewing stands that had been constructed alongside the normal parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue have been taken down, and organizers say they are going to host a “virtual parade” that includes individuals from throughout the nation, very similar to the digital roll name on the Democratic Nationwide Conference in August.
The Biden inaugural committee can be planning a lighting ceremony on the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to honor these killed by the coronavirus on the night of Jan. 19. The committee has invited communities across the nation to affix Washington in lighting up buildings and ringing church bells at 5:30 p.m. in “a national moment of unity and remembrance.”
There was some dialogue of getting a extra festive celebration round July 4, given the restricted means to have a good time proper now.
Capitol siege raises safety considerations
The all-important query proper now, nevertheless, is whether or not there shall be a peaceable switch of energy on Jan. 20. President Trump’s announcement that he is not going to attend the inauguration actually doesn’t assure that his followers is not going to try and disrupt the ceremony. Safety measures have been sharply stepped up across the U.S. Capitol within the aftermath of the violent assault on the Citadel of Liberty, together with massive Nationwide Guard presence and 7-foot-tall, non-scalable, fencing.
The danger of Biden and Harris, three former presidents, the 9 members of the U.S. Supreme Court docket, and most members of Congress “being exposed to a repeat attack on the Capitol by an incited mob is beyond contemplation,” within the phrases of The Guardian.
On a number of earlier events Individuals have protested incoming presidents, however these demonstrations have been fairly tame in contrast to what’s occurring proper now. Three different presidents — John Adams, Adam’s son, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson — selected to not attend their successors’ inauguration as a consequence of animosity between the president and president-elect.
The primary “known time that protesters tried to countermarch at an inaugural,” in line with Jim Bendal, an inaugural historian, was when a small group of unemployed individuals tried to disrupt Franklin Pierce’s parade in 1853.
In keeping with the Library of Congress, greater than 5,000 marchers, together with girls from nations the place girls had the suitable to vote, marched alongside Pennsylvania Avenue in a large suffrage parade at Woodrow Wilson’s first inauguration. On the top of the Vietnam Warfare, 1000’s of anti-war activists massed in Washington for each Richard Nixon’s first and second inaugurations. CBS Information reported that 80 Congressmen joined the demonstrations in 1973 and boycotted the inaugural ceremonies.
The demonstrations at George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001 had been the primary main protests at a presidential inauguration because the anti-war protests, in line with the New York Instances. At the very least 20,000 individuals demonstrated in Washington and alongside the inaugural parade route in defiance of the Supreme Court docket ruling that decided Bush received a razor-thin presidential race towards Democrat Al Gore.9 4 years later, demonstrators once more headed to Washington for Bush’s second inauguration, this time largely to protest the Iraq Warfare.
In 2017, the Girls’s March diverted consideration from the inauguration of Donald Trump and made headlines.
“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger,” John F. Kennedy mentioned at his inaugural. “I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.”
Biden desires to deliver new mild to a darkish interval like Kennedy did throughout the Chilly Warfare (1947-1961). We must always fervently hope that with the change in our nation’s management on Jan. 20, the energy of American democracy will start to be restored.
Stephen W. Stathis was a specialist in American historical past for the Congressional Analysis Service of the Library of Congress for practically 4 a long time. He’s the creator of “Landmark Debates in Congress: From the Declaration of Independence to the War in Iraq,” and “Landmark Legislation: Major U.S. Acts and Treaties.”