2020 has been a year categorized by unprecedented events that are going to shape the future of the United States. From a global pandemic that shut down businesses across virtually every sector and lead to record unemployment numbers, to the watershed movement of social and racial justice that left the nation divided, to a presidential race unlike any other, 2020 was truly a year of firsts. As we now enter 2021, and with the transition of presidential power underway, it seems as though this trend may continue into the near future.
President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated and begin his 4-year term in the oval office on Wednesday, January 20th. However, this inauguration will look like no other before it in American history. Instead of a large public ceremony, Biden will recite the oath of office in front of a small crowd due to the Coronavirus pandemic. There will be only 1,000 members of Congress, past presidents, and dignitaries in attendance, as opposed to the usual 200,000 tickets that are sent out on a normal year.
There will also be an unprecedented military force in Washington D.C. aimed at securing the capital. The armed troops that are present in the capital city are a result of the attack on the Capitol building that left five dead, including one Capitol police officer. Rioters stormed the building on the same evening of the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes that eventually confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. There will be a total of 21,000 National Guard soldiers in the city on the day of the inauguration.
A third way this inauguration will be different than all those before is that President Donald Trump will not be in attendance. Not only is he the first president to be impeached twice, but he is also the first sitting president to not attend the inauguration since 1869.
Historians state that no inauguration in past history has taken place under as extreme of circumstances as the one on Wednesday will. According to Julian Zelizer, a political history professor at Princeton University, “It doesn’t get more unique than this. To have the combination of, before last week, just the inability to hold the number of traditions normally because you don’t want people together… and now added to that is a major national security threat. I think this is as unusual as we have seen, and I think it has left all of the officials … unsure about exactly what to do.”
No other president since Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt has ever taken the oath of office during such levels of uncertainty and dispute. Once in office, will President-elect Joe Biden be able to reunite the country and return us to a state of tranquility?