And now, as candidate Biden shifts to President Biden, he’s planning an inauguration ceremony that, like his campaign, will not look like anyone else in recent American history.
Discussions are ongoing about requiring everyone to wear masks and stand at a social distance, according to interviews with half a dozen people involved in the planning. Those allowed near Biden for the inauguration ceremony are likely to undergo coronavirus testing. The traditional post-graduation lunch held in the Statuary Hall with members of Congress could be scrapped altogether. There may be no introductory balls. Crowds are likely to be severely limited in all cases.
Those close to Biden insist that the ceremony should still have that August feel of past inaugurations – a wish that is all the more important for establishing his legitimacy as president, which Trump continues to deny. But this quest is complicated by another pressing requirement: to adhere to the public health guidelines that Biden embraced throughout his presidency and wants to demonstrate at the start of his administration.
“It’s like everything connected with the Biden campaign: we have had to think about how we can run our campaign differently, how we can lead our convention differently,” said Rufus Gifford, deputy campaign manager who was finance chairman. for the president’s founding committee in 2013 and is expected to be involved in the City’s inauguration planning. “And we’ll probably have to run our inauguration differently.”
But if the inauguration is important as a magisterial sign of the peaceful transfer of power, it is also the first great opportunity for Biden to set the tone for his presidency. Biden aides also see it as a cathartic release for those who wanted Trump out of office, and perhaps paradoxically, as a moment to try to unite the country.
“It’s important to every president, but because of President Trump, it’s even more so now,” said Steve Kerrigan, a well-connected Democrat who helped lead both of President Barack Obama’s inaugurations. “The value of being at the Capitol, of being delivered by a Republican supreme justice and with Republican members of Congress to see is really, really important, signaling to all Americans that we have a system of government and a transition of power.”
Joan Hoff, professor of history at Montana State University and former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, said there are few parallels to the inauguration, which takes place on January 20, with a nation in crisis and a pandemic likely still rages .
“It just doesn’t look like previous inaugurations. And I do not think Biden will cover it, ”she said. “I do not think he will try to sugarcoat what is happening in the country when he was inaugurated. It would simply hide or try to reassure public opinion in a false way. ”
But one of the most abnormal aspects may be Trump’s lack of participation. He would be the first defeated president not to attend the inauguration of his successor in centuries, Hoff said.
“It’s like everything else with Trump: there is no way he adheres to or respects traditions or norms that are not written down as law, but that past presidents have followed,” she said. “I do not think he is temperamentally capable of attending a ceremony that clearly indicates that he has lost the election.”
The White House declined to comment on whether Trump will attend.
As a template for the inauguration, Biden’s advisers have pointed to the Democratic convention, which they transformed from a normally crowded public event to an almost entirely virtual one. But while the theme of the convention was of a political nature, it would initially represent a more inclusive effort to speak not only to his supporters, but to those who supported Trump.
Although the induction ceremony is performed in person, some of the festivities surrounding it may be primarily virtual. Although firm plans have not been nailed down and advisors are still brainstorming ideas, a pre-introductory concert at the mall can turn into an event that streams online and highlights Americans from across the country.
Even subject to change, the Biden team will also harness the energy many in the country expressed after Biden was declared the winner when dance parties broke out on the streets and supporters celebrated in Wilmington during a celebratory light show.
They also assume that the crowds will come to Washington no matter what they plan. This could mean deterring a large gathering at the mall and instead allowing spectators to gather at a distance along a parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.
“There are ways to do it. But the most important thing is to keep it safe and set the tone for the nation and do nothing less than be fully responsible, ”Kerrigan said. Otherwise, he added, “It’s like you’re on the 2 yard line 98 yards down the field and then fumble the ball with an unnecessary event.”
“I’ve been Joe Biden’s friend and follower since the mid – 90s,” he added. “There is nothing I want more than a huge convention and a great inauguration that he deserves. But that’s not what he’s interested in. He’s in this to show leadership and model to the American public. ”
Although construction for a platform has begun on the west side of the Capitol, where inaugurations have been held in recent years, it is possible that the laying could take place elsewhere, according to people involved in the planning.
Of the 55 times the office has been administered, 34 have happened at East Portico, the other side of the building, which does not provide space for large gatherings down in the Mall. You have also been held on the West Side (eight times), in the House of Representatives (six times) and in the Senate (three times). In 1985, after a dinner temperature of 7 degrees to the coldest inauguration in history, President Ronald Reagan took the oath inside the Capitol Rotunda.
Biden has not yet appointed a presidential accession committee that will help plan the events surrounding the inauguration, but a decision is expected soon. Congressmen controlling the admission at the Capitol have met for several months to plan the event without Biden’s input.
Some have started advertising on their websites for voters who want to apply for tickets, but most have a warning: “We do not know how many tickets, if any, congressional offices will be given for distribution.”
It is unclear whether previous presidents will attend or see the event as potentially risky to their health. Spokesmen for Presidents George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Obama did not respond to requests for comment.
Traditionally, the Supreme Court’s chief justice performs the induction ceremony at the inauguration, but even this year it is unclear. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been wary of health protocols in which the Supreme Court moves early in the pandemic to hold virtual meetings. He did not attend a White House public gathering to swear in the new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, but attended a private ceremony.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment on Robert’s plans.
Biden was asked months ago if he could imagine wearing a mask while taking the oath.
When it was pointed out that the Capitol platform is usually crowded with people, Biden replied, “Yes, but you do not have to have it crowded.”
With the Biden creation committee unformed, the financial details of the event remain unclear. Some ethics experts call for an end to the traditional way of funding inaugurations, which will be a boon for special interests and lobbyists who raise large sums of money to gain access to the future president and his cabinet.
“This is a great opportunity to call for a virtual party and cut costs and put a lid on the president’s founding committee,” said Richard Painter, who served as the top White House attorney under Bush. “This idea, if you want to swear by a president, you need a big party paid for by a bunch of companies and special interests – we just don’t need it.”
Despite the realities of the pandemic, Biden advisers are hoping for some kind of party, perhaps much less. How to handle such a party has been a topic of discussion and quarrel for several months.
“See you at the inaugural party,” said Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) To conclude a virtual event conducted by the campaign over the summer. “It’s going to be a good party!”
Karine Jean-Pierre, one of the campaign’s best advisers, agreed that there might not actually be a party. “I think we might need to have social distance,” she said.
“Socially distant or together – no matter what, it’s going to be a big party,” Inslee replied. “Mask up, wash hands.”
Michael Scherer contributed to this report.