As the days of President Trump’s time in office wind down, tension and fear are becoming nearly every American’s constant companions. From the riots in the Capitol on January 6, 2021 to the exponential growth in COVID-19 cases, the country remains in a state of chaos and division that hasn’t been seen in decades. The uncertainty of these difficult times has made planning countless significant events difficult, including the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The usual elaborate and crowded ceremony for the President-elect is sadly facing downsizing in grandeur and upgrades in security in an effort to protect Joe Biden and minimize the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Presidential Inauguration Committee, Biden will forgo a ceremonial review of military troops after taking the oath of office. Afterwards, a group composed of a representative from each military branch will escort the President to the White House.
The inaugural committee also announced that they are organizing a “virtual parade” in place of the traditional Presidential drive-by that usually takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue. This event will include musical acts, local bands, poets and even dance troupes, along with “the iconic images of a new president, a new vice president and their families making their way to the White House,” according to the committee.
While the Capitol is usually packed with people trying to catch a glimpse of the President on inauguration day, “the team planning President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day festivities is urging Americans to stay at home and celebrate the tradition where it is safe, given the risks of traveling and gathering during the coronavirus pandemic,” according to NPR.
Airbnb has also cancelled all booked reservations in Washington D.C. during the week of the inauguration, according to USA Today. “The decision comes as the company has been made aware of emerging reports that armed militias and hate groups are attempting to travel to disrupt the inauguration,” said USA Today writer Morgan Hines.
During an interview, Harvard-Westlake Alumni Cole Heine– who attended the 2016 presidential inauguration on a HW trip– said that he didn’t think that the essence of the inauguration could be translated to a virtual environment.
“I would say that the inauguration in it of itself isn’t such a big deal,” Heine said. “What makes it a big deal is the situation of it happening in front of the Capitol, and the President-elect putting their hand on the bible, and the crowd of people. That’s kind of what makes it important and what we’re reacting to, it’s not the actual constitutionally mandated transfer of power.”
Heine went on to say that while the effect of the virtual inauguration cannot be fully transferred to a virtual platform, an in-person inauguration simply isn’t possible this year and it’s important to make the best of the situation at hand.
In addition to COVID-19 concerns, the recent security breach at the Capitol last Wednesday has cast doubt on the security of the upcoming inauguration.
“The 2021 inauguration has been classified as a National Special Security Event for over a year, which means a higher level of planning and coordination is needed to see it through,” ABC journalist Donald J. Mihalek wrote. “An NSSE is a planning process that can take over a year and is run by various committees of relevant stakeholders. This not only includes law enforcement agencies, but the military, Federal Emergency Management Agency, local and state as well as transit and transportation agencies. For classified events, the committees will examine, review and re-review every facet of the overarching NSSE security plan.”
Mihalek also stated that another full review of the security plan is done after a major incident (such as the riots on the Capitol) and that the mistakes made during that incident are taken into account during that review and fixed.
While President Trump declared on Twitter (before his account was suspended) that he will not be attending the inauguration of Joe Biden, CNN reported that Vice President Mike Pence plans on attending the event and is simply waiting on an invitation.
“[Pence] is welcome,” Biden said Jan. 8 “I think it’s important that as much as we can stick to what have been the historical precedents of how an administration changes should be maintained,” according to CNN. “And so Mike, the vice president, is welcome to come. We’d be honored to have him there, and to move forward in the transition.”