Biden Inaugurated as 46th President

Written By Nardos Haile, Co-News Editor

On Wednesday, Jan. 20, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were inaugurated as the 46th President and 49th Vice President of the United States, making the pair the oldest president and the first woman of color of Black and South Asian descent inducted as vice president. 

The inauguration featured a heavy military and police presence of more than 20,000 National Guard troops, enforcing strict security measures and blocking off the city following the Capitol attack on Jan. 6. Due to public safety concerns related to the pandemic and the insurrection at the Capitol, D.C. officials urged the public to watch the inauguration from home. 

“I want to reiterate my request to Americans: enjoy this 59th inauguration of the President of the United States and the Vice President of the United States at home. Enjoy it virtually on Jan. 20,” Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “We know this is the right request for our public safety and our public health.”

According to Nielson figures, approximately 39.87 million people watched the inauguration at home this year, which increased from the previous inauguration’s 38.35 million viewers four years ago in 2017.

“[The inauguration] is extraordinary, quite unusual for a couple of reasons. The first one is, of course, the pandemic, which meant the crowds were not allowed to be there,” Professor Nathan Firestone, a political science professor at Point Park, said.

Firestone continued, “then the fact that Trump and his allies in the Congress refused to recognize the legitimacy of this election was a lingering problem. With all of that came the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, which created a sense of threat about the whole thing, and then you had a Washington that was armed with 25,000 National Guard troops.”

The difference in this year’s inauguration was not just because of the recent public health crisis plaguing the country, but also because of a change in the presidency’s tone after the departure of former President Trump. 

“I won’t refer to Trump as a predecessor. Trump is of his own type. But Biden is a very experienced politician who has certain human qualities of empathy which will make him perhaps a good fit for this time,” said Firestone.

Firestone said that each president from Kennedy to Carter brought something different to the job, but that “Biden fits in the scheme of a normal politician which Trump wasn’t.”

President Biden’s inaugural speech emphasized the resiliency of American democracy and its ability to prevail even despite the darkest of times. It has survived through the American people’s sense of unity and collective American identity.

“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things. Important things,” said President Biden.

Firestone said that Republicans might not respond to the message of unity and normalcy that Biden and his administration have stressed as their campaign and administration’s prerogatives.

“There was a sense that Biden was speaking as an ordinary elected president would. First, his inaugural address stressed unity,” Firestone said. “Every inaugural address has done that except for Trump’s, which was a confrontational one, which got his administration off on a bad foot. Biden is no different than others in terms of reaching out to his opponents.” 

Another speaker, Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate (the youngest inaugural poet in history), repeated the same message of unity. 

“We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all,” Gorman recited. 

Firestone reiterated that for those prepared to listen to Gorman’s message of unity, it was really “moving.”

Following the inauguration, the Biden administration and Congress have a plethora of issues to address, most urgently, pandemic relief and increasing widespread vaccination efforts across the nation.

“The first thing [Biden] has to do is control the pandemic and get the vaccines out. Don’t misunderstand me, the pandemic is a horrible disaster for our country, in a sense, it gives Biden an opportunity to do something, much of which could be done through executive action and not with the cooperation with Congress, to show he is able to govern,” Firestone said.

Additionally, Firestone stated that lawmakers in Congress still need time to mend from the Capitol attack. Some congressional members still believe and perpetuate the myth that the election was fraudulent.

“Trump has left an impression on our political system, on our political processes. It will take a while to recover. On one hand, the system is resilient. After all, Trump-appointed judges ruled against him constantly. His Republican state officials, such as in Georgia, worked against him,” Firestone said. “On the other hand, the system is fragile. 147 members of Congress who voted last minute, even after the insurrection, still voted to question the electoral college. That suggests we have a problem.”