The invitations have been scaled back by the pandemic and the security has been heightened by the insurrection, but Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States next week will still have plenty of pomp.
The National Mall will be shut down to keep people away, so we will all be spared another comparison of crowd sizes, especially since Donald Trump’s Twitter handle has been turned off. The threat of violent protests from election-denying Trump supporters and the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops will keep anyone from forgetting Trump’s turbulent leadership, or lack thereof. The FBI has warned of armed protests in all 50 state capitals and the TSA is moving to restrict guns in checked baggage.
Instead of inaugural balls, there will be a TV special hosted by Tom Hanks.
It will be unusual, but it will still be an inauguration.
All you need to swear in a new president, now that the electoral votes have been counted, is for Biden to say these words, which are written in the Constitution, at noon on January 20:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Biden had planned to make a statement by arriving in Washington by Amtrak from Wilmington, Delaware, where the train station bears his name – a testament to the days when he was a senator and used to make the round-trip home to be with his kids. That’s off. He’ll stay the night before in Blair House, across from the White House, instead of a hotel.
Normally, members of Congress get a raft of tickets to distribute at will. This year they each get a +1. The public is being encouraged to stay away and the National Mall will be shut down. There will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House, but instead a virtual parade bringing in people from around the country.
The inaugural balls – usually there are multiple and the new president makes a short appearance at several – will be replaced by a produced TV show featuring stars like Hanks along with Justin Timberlake. This will feel very much like the Covid inauguration.