January 20, 2021 will be a day to remember in the United States. As is tradition, the iconic steps on the west front of the Capitol will be in his best clothes to welcome Joe Biden as president number 46. But this time, unlike what we are used to, there will be no crowds bathing or the great festivities that accompany the arrival of a new tenant to the White House. The pandemic of the century and the brutal attack on the Congress of January 6 will give the inauguration an unprecedented appearance, with exceptional security and health protocols and the notable absence of Donald Trump.
The outgoing president will become the fourth president in the history of the country not to attend the inauguration of his successor. Something like this was only experienced with John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829 and Andrew Johnson in 1869. Biden, who at 78 years old will become the longest-lived head of state of the United States of all time, will have the The presence of Vice President Mike Pence at the event, which will be much more soulless than any other after asking citizens not to travel to Washington DC and follow the event from their homes due to the coronavirus.
The theme of the ceremony will be “United States United.” A slogan that becomes more necessary now than ever after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol two weeks before the change of Administration. The brutal attack that killed five people – two of them policemen – has put the entire country on alert and it has pushed the National Guard to send up to 15,000 soldiers to the capital to ensure that the inauguration goes smoothly. The measures include the closure of roads and a 2.1 meter fence that will shield the Congress building from the threat of new incidents.
In a normal inauguration, there would be about 1,600 people on the platform where the president-elect is sworn in and about 200,000 guests on a perimeter that spans the esplanade of the National Mall, adjacent to the Capitol. This time, however, the presidential inaugural committee has designed an “extremely limited” ceremony, that it will have nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of people who tend to come to give color at the beginning of the new political era (in 2009, 1.8 million gathered in Washington to celebrate the arrival of Barack Obama to the White House).
The space intended for the crowds will be covered by some 191,500 flags of different sizes. The organizers have also indicated that the traditional parade “will be reinvented”, as well as the expected night dance of the new president with the first lady at the Convention Center, to which numerous witnesses normally attend. The solution to find the balance between the lavishness of the investiture and the sanitary restrictions passes through the choice of an essentially virtual format, which will take as a reference the Democratic Convention in which Biden was appointed as a candidate last August.
At the head of the team of professionals hired by the Democratic leader to prepare for his inauguration is Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, whose ‘number two’ is Maju Varghese, advisor to the campaign of the now president-elect. Both have already revealed that they seek to offer “an innovative program that will give Americans the possibility of participating in complete safety” and without the need to be present. At the same time, They work with different groups to prepare events throughout the country.
What will not differ from the previous ceremonies is the protocol of not inviting foreign leaders. Although on some occasions ambassadors and diplomatic personnel are encouraged to go, the absence of these is presumed due to the health crisis. Of course, Biden, who usually always wears a mask in public, has expressed his desire not to wear it on the day of his inauguration. In any case, those who will be near him must undergo Covid-19 tests.
After being sworn in, the new president will take the floor to detail, before the watchful eyes of the whole world, his strategy to “Defeat the virus, rebuild the country and unite citizens”. Minutes later, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, their spouses, and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and their wives, he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. It will be the first stone that Democrats and Republicans lay together to mend the soul of a nation torn by polarization and seal with this mandate that begins the wounds of the Trump era.