President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, amid a deadly pandemic and political violence, will be markedly different from those of his predecessors, including several elements that were not present in years past. Indeed, the event could very well signal the beginning of an unconventional era in American politics.
No Trump Attendance
President Donald Trump announced that he would not be present at the inauguration. Instead, he will depart from the White House early in the morning before the event begins. Trump will arrive at Joint Base Andrews at 8:15 for a final good-bye to his staff then is expected to leave for Mar-a-Lago — his home in Palm Beach, Florida, at 8:30, a.m. His decision to skip the proceedings has a measure of historical significance because few other presidents have declined to attend their successor’s inauguration. NBC News notes: “In snubbing the event, Trump would join Richard Nixon, who resigned and left the White House moments before Gerald Ford took the oath, and Andrew Johnson, who was furious over his impeachment and refused to attend the swearing in of Ulysses S. Grant after the Civil War.”
Biden stated in an interview with CNN that he hoped Trump would be part of the event. “It’s totally his decision, and it’s of no personal consequence to me, but it is to the country,” he said. “I really worry about the image we’re presenting to the rest of the world.” Trump might not be the only Republican politician that will not be present at the inauguration. Several GOP lawmakers have indicated that they might skip it as well.
Fewer Crowds Amid Pandemic
Biden’s inauguration will also look different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is expected to uptick around the day of the event, which many believe necessitated certain safeguards and precautions. Tony Allen, head of Biden’s Presidential Inaugural Committee, said, “This year’s inauguration will look different amid the pandemic, but we will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe.”
The committee decided not to have an audience present at the ceremony over fears that it could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. Under normal circumstances, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies would offer 200,000 tickets, however NPR noted that “no tickets are being offered to the public and members of Congress to share with constituents.”
Biden’s team has encouraged supporters to stay home and watch the live stream of the event. But there will be some people present to witness the proceedings: National Guard troops.
Boots on the Ground in DC
Instead of Biden supporters and onlookers cheering the new president, armed troops clad in military fatigues are there to protect him. Because of the riots at the U.S. Capitol building nearly two weeks ago, extra precautions are being taken to ensure the event’s safety.
About 25,000 troops have been deployed in the District of Columbia in preparation for potential political violence. The National Mall is closed to the public, and the authorities have blocked off the area surrounding the Capitol. The heightened security isn’t occurring only in D.C. The FBI warned that violent protests could happen in all 50 states in the lead-up to Biden’s inauguration. This has prompted states to beef up security at their capitol buildings.
The Beginning of a Virtual Presidency?
Biden’s inaugural ceremony is a symbol of the coronavirus age in which the world is still living. It will lack the pomp and circumstance of prior events and noticeably will not have the human element expected at occasions such as these. Could it herald what might be described as a virtual presidency?
Read more from Jeff Charles.