WASHINGTON – In the end, the inauguration triumphed over the insurgency.
President Biden’s plea for national unity in his inaugural address on Wednesday was rooted in the belief – born out of decades of working within shattered government institutions – that America can return to an era where “we have come together enough to move us all forward. . “
It was a call for the restoration of the ordinary discord of democracy, with a reminder that “politics must not be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path”. The words were made all the more powerful as they were delivered from the same steps at the entrance to the Capitol where a violent attack two weeks ago shocked the nation upon realizing how far some Americans would go to reverse the results. democratic election. .
Mr. Biden’s inauguration was notable for its normalcy, and the sense of relief that permeated the capital as an era of constant turmoil and lies came to an end. Yet he takes office amid so much interwoven national trauma that it is still not clear whether he can sufficiently persuade the nation to walk together into a new era. To do so, he must lead the country beyond the partisan divisions that have made mask-wearing a political act, and gain the acceptance of tens of millions of Americans who believed it was a lie that the presidency was stolen.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is not the first president to take office in a time of desperation and national division. Lincoln, whose inauguration amid fear of violence loomed over this moment, faced a country in the midst of civil war. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was in his third term when Mr. Biden was born, faced a nation mired in depression, with “Hoovervilles” in the shadow of Capitol Hill.
While Mr Biden doesn’t face a single crisis of the same magnitude, he made it clear – without really making the comparison – that none of his predecessors faced such a frightening array of concurrent trials.
He listed them: a devastating pandemic that in one year killed more Americans than the country lost in WWII (he could have added Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan) , an economic downturn that has resulted in “unemployment and despair,” a crisis of racial justice and another of climate, and, for tens of millions of Americans, a collapse of their faith in democracy itself.
And finally, he argued, the American cure would require an end to partisan self-delusion and the era of alternative facts.
He never referred to President Donald J. Trump, but he was clearly talking about him – and the more than 140 congressional Republicans who voted not to certify election results, despite the absence of any evidence of fraud. generalized – when he said that “we must reject the culture in which the facts themselves are manipulated and even fabricated.
Mr. Biden’s presidency rests on the bet that it is not too late to “end this ungodly war”. Even some of his most ardent supporters and appointees, a generation or younger than him, wonder if his calls to listen to Americans, “not as adversaries but as neighbors,” come too late.
“Like Lincoln, Biden comes to power at a time when the country is torn between conflicting visions of reality and identity,” said Jon Meacham, the presidential historian who occasionally advises Mr. Biden and has been instrumental in his inaugural speech.
“Too many Americans have been shaped by the lie that the 2020 election was somehow stolen,” he said. “The challenge – and the opportunity – of the new president is to insist that facts and truth should guide us. That you can disagree with your opponent without delegitimizing that opponent’s place in the Republic.
Mr. Biden’s speech was about restoring this world, the one that existed in the America he grew up in. This is the argument of a 78-year-old man who endured tragedy after tragedy in public and, in the opposite sense of the usual order, took the manner of a statesman before returning to the election campaign as a politician.
But what millions of Americans hear as a sincere call for restoring order, millions more think it masks deep partisanship, or naivety about what has happened to America in the past four. years, or the last 20 years.
In fact, beyond the call for unity, Mr. Biden’s speech was littered with phrases meant to rekindle those arguments.
Its references to “the sting of systemic racism”, “white supremacy” and “domestic terrorism”, and its insistence that the climate crisis is among the country’s main threats, were intended to signal the progressive side. of his party, which considered him too conservative and cautious, that new priorities had arrived.
But they are also triggers for those who oppose him: Just on Tuesday, his last full day in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a message on Twitter, where the president was silenced, against “Revival, multiculturalism, all – isms – they’re not what America is.”
Mr. Biden planned his inauguration to declare the opposite, that they are modern America.
And his anticipated actions during his early days in power – joining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, promising to find a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants and re-enter the country. Iran nuclear deal – are supposed to strengthen this point.
He associated this with a warning to American adversaries, who have spent the past four years, but especially 2020, filling electrical voids around the world as America counted its dead and took to the streets.
Mr Biden warned them not to confuse the din of the past four years with weakness.
“America has been tested, and we have come out of it stronger,” he insisted, promising to “mend our alliances and re-engage with the world.”
But he never mentioned the country that poses the longest challenge to American preeminence – China – or one of the smaller challengers seeking to disrupt, to build nuclear weapons, to undermine the United States by manipulating. their computer networks or exploit social media.
And in parts of the speech that sounded more like fireside chat than burgeoning rhetoric, he acknowledged that America’s diminished status could only be restored by ending the damage to the home. and replacing an “America First” swagger with a dose of post-Covid humility.
The extent of this damage could be seen from the western front of the Capitol. Gone are the crowds of hundreds of thousands who typically witness and applaud a ritual of American democracy that Mr. Biden was determined to watch as he still watches the millions listening.
As long as the shots were tight, it was: the new president and vice president, the big Bible family, the chief justice, the old presidents. But the absence of Mr. Trump, central and disruptive figure in the country’s four-year drama, the first president in more than 150 years to refuse to attend the inauguration of his successor, could not be erased. The prospect of Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial, an event in absentia that could begin in a few days, would perhaps rekindle the divisions Mr. Biden had come to heal.
When the camera shot widened, the “American carnage” that Mr. Trump vowed to end in his own inaugural address four years ago was on full screen, unimaginably on January 20, 2017.
The armed camp he left behind testified to the divisions Mr. Trump left in his wake as he flew over the city one last time Wednesday morning at Marine One, as close as possible to a president’s internal exile American since Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974. (Mr. Trump’s last words to his supporters at Joint Base Andrews, “Have a nice life,” seemed to underscore his own inability to find a way to deal with the damage done.)
It wasn’t the empty National Mall that struck participants as much as the miles of iron fences, topped with barbed wire and surrounded by thousands of National Guard soldiers. There was no more vivid illustration of the nation state Mr. Biden inherited.
Over the next few days and weeks, that fence will have to be pulled down. Mr. Trump’s Senate trial, most likely short, will have to end.
Then will come the test of Mr. Biden’s statement that “without unity there is no peace.”
And while an array of leaders from both sides flocked to the inauguration and applauded the sentiment, it’s far from clear that the country is really ready to move on.
In a nation that can’t seem to share a set of common facts, agree on the usefulness of simple masks, the safety of vaccines, or the fact that the presidential vote was not rigged, fulfill the dream of Mr. Biden’s re-establishing an orderly debate on politics may appear to be the triumph of hope over lived experience.
“I am desperately grateful that the institutions of democracy have held up, despite the damage President Trump and his facilitators have inflicted over the past four years,” said Kori Schake, a Republican who has held positions in the Pentagon and on the Council of National Security and is now at the American Enterprise Institute.
“But for President Biden, the challenge will not only be to govern, but also to restore the strength of the battered institutions of our democracy,” said Ms. Schake. “We Republicans have a responsibility to restore public confidence in the integrity of our elections because we are the ones who called them into question.”
“My fellow Americans …… it’s America Day.” Sing: “And the house of the brave.” “Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.” “I, Kamala Devi Harris, solemnly swear. “That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” “So help me God.” “I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., I solemnly swear. “Which I will faithfully perform.” “Which I will faithfully perform.” “The Office of the President of the United States.” “The Office of the President of the United States.” “So help yourself God.” “So help me God.” “Congratulations, Mr. President.” “We have learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile, and at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed. We will move forward with speed and urgency, because we have a lot to do in this perilous winter and great possibilities. Much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain. And here we are, just days after an emotional crowd thought it could use violence to silence the will of the people. This does not happen. That will never happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never. Never. To all those who have not supported us, let me say this. Listen to me as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still don’t agree, so be it. This is democracy. This is America. Yet here me clearly. Disagreement should not lead to disunity. And I promise you. I will be the president of all Americans – of all Americans. I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer. Remember all those we lost last year to the pandemic, those 400,000 fellow Americans …… amen. Together, we’ll write an American story of hope, not fear. Oneness, not division. Of light, not of darkness. A story of decency and dignity, love and healing, greatness and goodness. Let it be history that guides us. May God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you, America. “I wish the new administration good luck and every success.”
Minutes after President Biden got out of his limousine to walk the rest of the parade route to the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff followed suit, deciding to walk the parade. itinerary with members of their family.
“What is your first job?” yelled a reporter.
“Walk to work,” she says.
Harris, who was sworn in by fellow pioneer Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, became the first woman, first black woman and first Native American to serve as vice president.
It was a bit of a surprise that Mr Biden and Ms Harris left their vehicles due to heightened security concerns after the attack on the Capitol earlier this month.
The Howard University Marching Band, Ms. Harris’ alma mater, led the way by waving and smiling, ending their procession as they walked through the doors of the White House.
The ride has been habitual since 1977, when Jimmy Carter unexpectedly got out of his limo.
WASHINGTON – In one of his first acts as president, supported by several of his predecessors, President Biden moved part of his inauguration ceremony to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Wednesday, paying homage to the grave strangers.
Reflecting on the memorial on the first sunny inauguration day in 28 years, former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton stood next to him as Mr. Biden arrived with Vice President Kamala Harris to lay down a wreath in front of the grave, standing in silence a long time in a solemn show of solidarity.
Approaching the crown, Mr. Biden made the sign of the cross before saluting as the trumpeter of a military orchestra played tap dancing.
Mr Biden, who ended his inaugural address on Wednesday with an oft-repeated refrain – “God save our troops” – delivered a message of unity which he underscored with this tribute to the US military alongside the three elders. presidents.
Mr. Biden never served in the military, having received deferrals of conscription during the Vietnam War. But his display honored not only current and former members of the military, but also his son Joseph R. Biden III, known as Beau, who served as a major in the military and died of cancer of the breast. brain in 2015.
The choice to visit the tomb immediately after the inauguration was a first for a newly elected president, offering a bipartisan display of support for the country’s armed forces.
Established in honor of anonymous soldiers lost in World War I, the memorial has become a place to honor the sacrifices of the American military. Remains have been added over time, with burials made in 1958 and 1984 of those lost in subsequent wars.
The memorial was a favorite destination for Mr. Biden, who also visited the site as vice president under Mr. Obama. Former President Trump, who did not attend Mr. Biden’s inauguration or ceremony, laid a wreath there in 2017 but drew backlash for skipping events in honor of the soldiers fallen in action on Veterans Day the following year.
Former First Ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton also remained silent during the ceremony.
Former President Jimmy Carter, the only other living former president, was unable to attend the inauguration or ceremony but spoke out in favor of Mr Biden after the violence on Capitol Hill on January 6.
“Having observed elections in troubled democracies around the world, I know that we the people can unite to come out of this precipice to peacefully uphold the laws of our nation, and we must do so,” Mr. Carter after rioters swept through the building this month. “We join our fellow citizens in praying for a peaceful resolution so that our nation can heal and complete the transfer of power, as we have done for over two centuries.
After Amanda Gorman read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration – making her, at 22, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history – social media flared up. enlightened with praise both for her healing poem and for the way she delivered it.
Theatergoers were soon applauding for another reason: she had skillfully included two references to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Ms Gorman highlighted the tribute herself in a tweet she sent to Mr Miranda shortly after he praised her poem on Twitter.
“Did you catch the 2 @HamiltonMusical references in the inaugural poem?” she asked Mr. Miranda on Twitter. “I couldn’t help myself!”
“You were perfect”, Mr. Miranda replied. “Perfectly written, perfectly delivered. Every bit of it. Brava! “
The first reference came in the line: “For as long as we have our eyes on the future / history has our eyes on us,” which echoes “History Has Its Eyes on You,” a song by “Hamilton »Sung by George Washington.
And when Mrs. Gorman recited, “Each will sit under his own vine and under his fig tree, and no one will scare them,” she was referring to a passage from the Bible that Washington loved, and that Washington’s character sings about in musical comedy.
Ms Gorman told the Los Angeles Times ahead of the ceremony that, in preparation for writing her poem, she listened to “Hamilton,” as well as the soundtracks for “Darkest Hour,” “The Crown,” and “Lincoln,” to herself. put in “a historical and epic state of mind”.
Daring fans of the musical have entered a Twitter frenzy.
“Amanda Gorman just did poetry for what ‘Hamilton’ did for people who pretended to hate musicals,” Kelly Luce, author tweeted.
In an inauguration curtailed first by the pandemic and then by security concerns related to the attack on the Capitol earlier this month, President Biden continued on Wednesday with an inaugural tradition of getting out of the presidential limousine and walking around on Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House.
Prior to the inauguration, it was not clear whether Mr. Biden would take the usual walk, which began in 1977 when Jimmy Carter unexpectedly got out of his limo. After a crowd stormed the Capitol last week, security experts warned of threats of attacks, which raised concerns over Mr Biden walking through open blocks in Washington.
Mr. Biden was surrounded by his family, including his wife, Jill, and his children and grandchildren. He punched a spectator, stopped for an interview with a reporter, and ran and greeted Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington.
The president then entered the precincts of the White House for the first time since winning the November election. His predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, did not invite him to a regular visit leading up to the inauguration.
About 15 minutes later, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, got out of their limousine and walked along the parade route with their family.