Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on Wednesday (20) was marked by exceptionality, urgency, emptiness and also a certain euphoria. Therefore, adapted to the historic moment when he became the 46th President of the United States.
Biden was elected in the notorious year of 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic – which has already killed more than 400,000 Americans and degraded the economy. And he came to the presidency under the growing threat of domestic right-wing terrorism.
His election, moreover, is considered by the population as the salvation of the country after dramatic moments under the administration of Donald Trump. The most serious of these was the invasion of Capitol Hill on the last day 6. Five people died in the insurgency, which Trump has been accused of inciting.
The combination of the pandemic and terrorism gave the event a poignant atmosphere. In their speeches, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Roy Blunt reminded the audience that the transition of power is both banal and miraculous. Regular because it happens every four years. Miraculous because, as we have seen in recent weeks, he has to overcome enormous obstacles.
Also due to the mix of Covid-19 and insecurity, the streets of the capital, Washington, have been emptied these days – turning what is usually a party into something darker, quieter, grayer. There were no receptions, balls, food carts, street vendors, vegetable garden parties and anything Americans got used to in this version of their carnival of democracy. Even the inaugural parade did not take place.
In the past, people came from all over the country to sit in the grounds of the National Mall, which overlooks the Capitol. This year, they even came to Washington, but to attend the inauguration in their hotel rooms or to walk around the barricades, trying to catch a glimpse of the smallest detail of the event. Nearly 200,000 flags have been planted in the park to mark these absences.
Police and soldiers had been walking around the city since yesterday, even in residential areas far from the center. They blocked access to the vicinity of government buildings. It was even possible to reach Pennsylvania Avenue, the one that connects the Capitol to the White House, but only after being searched and passed through a metal detector, which is unprecedented there.
One of the only traditions followed during the day was the Oath on the West Side of the Capitol, where Biden said democracy prevails in the face of so many challenges. A nudge to Trump.
The post-oath speech is considered one of the most important in a US president’s career – including, perhaps the most, but this year crowd applause was lacking.
There were doubts whether the event would actually take place on Capitol Hill. This is precisely the building that Trump supporters stormed earlier this month. For this reason, there was a recommendation to take possession in an internal space, which was not respected. Covid-19 was another concern, in a city that prohibits people from eating in restaurants, for example, and where people wear masks on the streets.
Due to these caveats, the audience was very restricted at the event. Only those close to the president and his deputy, lawmakers and other important political figures were present. Masks and Covid-19 tests were part of the ceremony to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Besides those who spoke, few took off the mask, among them Lady Gaga – who sang the hymn. Between one speech and another, an employee cleaned the pulpit with what appeared to be an alcohol wipe.
Several former presidents attended the event, including Democrat Barack Obama and Republican George Bush. Trump was missing, who does not admit the victory of his successor. Other presidents had done so before, such as John Adams (1801), John Quincy Adams (1829) and Andrew Johnson (1869). But the gesture is rare – and goes badly in this country, given the traditions.
Trump also did not receive Biden in the White House, as is customary. The former president left in the morning in a helicopter, gave a brief speech at an air base, and flew to Florida, where he became an ex. He left a letter with Biden, but the content is not yet known.
After the inauguration and speech, Biden conducted the military search – another of the few practices held this year – and visited Arlington Cemetery, where American soldiers were buried. Finally, the president was escorted to the White House. Your new home.
The Biden government is now expected not to be exceptional or urgent, unlike his inauguration. Let it be trivial. Boring, even, after four years of Trump’s presidency.