The Associated Press
Joe Biden swears the oath of office on Wednesday lunchtime to become the 46th President of the United States. He takes the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherits a confluence of crises that is arguably greater than that of his predecessors.
The transferring power of the president, a sacred US democratic tradition, will be a harrowing reminder of the challenges Biden faces: the inauguration will take place in a US Capitol that was besieged by one two weeks ago Siege ravaged by security forces surrounded by those in a war zone and without the crowds due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stay home, Americans have been warned to prevent the further spread of a growing virus that killed more than 400,000 people in the United States. Biden will look to a capital city littered with empty storefronts that testify to the deep economic toll of the pandemic and where summer protests exposed the nation’s renewed reckoning with racial injustice.
Contrary to tradition, Donald Trump planned to leave Washington before the inauguration on Wednesday morning instead of accompanying his successor to the Capitol. Trump, waiting for his second impeachment trial, fueled his supporters’ complaint by lying that Biden’s victory was illegal.
In his third presidential campaign, Biden put his candidacy less on a strong political ideology than on winning a broad coalition of voters to the idea that Trump poses an existential threat to American democracy. On his first day, Biden will take a number of executive actions – pandemic, climate, immigration and more – to undo the heart of Trump’s agenda. The Democrat comes into office when the ties of the Republic are strained and the nation depends on the challenges Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt face.
« Biden will face a series of urgent, burning crises like we have never seen before, and they must all be resolved at once. It is very difficult to find a parallel in history, » said Presidential historian Michael Beschloss. « I think we had a near-death experience as a democracy. Americans who are going to watch the new president being sworn in now know exactly how fragile our democracy is and how much it needs to be protected. »
Biden will come into office with a good sense of empathy and determination born of personal tragedy and a depth of experience drawn from more than four decades in Washington. At the age of 78, he will be the oldest inaugurated President.
More history will be written by his side, as Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to become vice president. The former US Senator from California is also the first black person and the first person of South Asian descent to be elected to the vice presidency and will be the highest-ranking woman to ever serve in government.
Tens of thousands of troops are on the streets for exactly two weeks to provide safety after a violent crowd of Trump supporters instigated by the Republican President stormed the Capitol to prevent Biden’s victory from being confirmed.
The tense atmosphere recalled the inauguration of Lincoln in 1861, secretly brought to Washington to avoid assassins on the eve of the Civil War, or Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1945 when he was in for a small, safe ceremony in recent months The White House decided World War II.
Despite security warnings, Biden declined to move the ceremony indoors and will instead target a small, socially distant crowd on the Capitol’s western front. Some of the traditional features of the four-year ceremony are retained.
The day begins with a reach across the aisle after four years of bitter partisan fighting under Trump. Biden invited Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, to morning mass with Chuck Schumer and Democratic spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi.
In the Capitol, Biden is sworn oath by Chief Justice John Roberts. Harris is sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The subject of Biden’s approximately 30-minute speech will be « America United, » and aides said it was a call to put differences aside for a moment in the national process.
Biden will then oversee a « pass in review, » a military tradition that honors the peaceful transfer of power to a new commander in chief. Then Biden, Harris and their spouses are joined by a non-partisan trio of former presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Ceremony.
Later, Biden will attend the end of a stripped-down opening parade when he moves into the White House. Due to the pandemic, much of this year’s parade will be a virtual affair with appearances from across the nation.
That evening, in place of the traditional dazzling balls that welcome a new president to Washington, Biden will attend a television concert that also marks the return of A-list celebrities to White House orbit after largely avoiding Trump. Among those in the lineup: Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem in the Capitol earlier in the day.
Trump will be the first president in more than a century to skip his successor’s inauguration. He planned his own farewell party at nearby Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for the last time as president for the flight to his Florida mansion.
Trump’s second impeachment process could begin as early as this week. This could test the Senate’s ability to come under democratic control to reconcile the impeachment process with confirmation hearings and votes on Biden’s cabinet decisions.
Biden was keen to make it big early on, with an ambitious first 100 days, including a push, to expedite distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to anxious Americans, and to pass a $ 1.9 trillion virus relief package. On the first day, he will also send an immigration proposal to Capitol Hill that would create an eight year path to citizenship for illegally resident immigrants.
He also planned a 10-day flash of executive orders on non-congressional approval – a mix of substantive and symbolic moves to end the Trump years. The planned steps include lifting travel restrictions for people from several predominantly Muslim countries; Re-entry into the Paris climate agreement; Granting of a mask mandate for persons on federal property; and order the agencies to find out how children who are separated from their families after crossing the border can be reunited.
The difficulties he faces are immense, to mention the same breath as Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression or Obama, under which Biden served as Vice President for eight years, during the economic collapse. And the solution can be similar.
« As in 1933, there is an essential need for leadership, » said President historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, « so that every national resource can be harnessed to control the virus and aid the manufacture and distribution of vaccines. » Getting vaccines into people’s arms, stimulating the economy, recovering, and getting people back to work and school. «
A field of flags is spread across the National Mall with the Washington Monument in the background on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, on the Western Front of the US Capitol on the eve of the 59th President’s inauguration in Washington. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
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