And then it was over. The Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris didn’t just come and go at noon on January 20. The world came to a screeching halt and shifted into a lower gear of slow and steady governance. And we relaxed.
Before the big day, I complained about all the pomp. I wanted them to hide in the safety of a back room in the Capitol, put their hands on a bible, then get to work. Thank god I wasn’t in charge. In front of the television with my son and his family, I ogled Lady Gaga’s poofy red skirt, Amanda Gorman’s ballet hands, and Bernie Sanders’ wool mittens. Were it not for the pandemic, I would have celebrated on the National Mall wrapped in goose down with my thirteen year-old grandson. Just as I celebrated with his older brother and sister in the 2009 Barack Obama Inauguration. Just as I celebrated with their father in the 1977 Jimmy Carter Inauguration.
Each of these Inauguration Days marked the “most important election” of our time: Gerald Ford to Jimmy Carter, Geroge H. W. Bush to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush to Barack Obama. And in the days after each previous Inauguration, the earth didn’t instantly shift under our feet. Indeed, for all the hype and hyperbole, Adminstration staffs admit in their memoirs, “We didn’t know what we were doing. We got off to a slow start.”
The mother of all power transfers washed across the universe with the Biden-Harris swearing-in. Joe Biden, wearing his mask, walked off his inaugural stage and signed seventeen executive actions inclduing a pivot in the Covid-19 pandemic policies. As if on cue, people on Zoom calls reported one after another their first shots for the two-shot coronavirus vaccine. And as the covid death toll passed 400,000 souls, Biden announced his Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Mr. Rogers of the Pandemic. And we relaxed.
Madam Vice-President Kamala Harris, walked off her inaugural stage to perform the swearing-in of Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Osoff. The two new Democrats mark a power transfer in Congress. And we relaxed.
The Biden and Harris familes treated millions of TV viewers to their short walk to the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead of the traditional inaugural parade, in the evening we watched one of those pandemic-era technological extravaganzas with Bruce Springsteen and Katie Perry, interspersed with greetings from American workers. And we relaxed.
When President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived at the front door of the White House around 4:00 pm, they waved to us and turned to walk inside. For a few brief seconds, they stared at a closed door. The White House Chief Usher who opens the door and offically greets the First Family was nowhere to be seen. From his Palm Beach golf course, at 11:30 am, thirty minutes before the official end of his chaotic presidency, Donald Trump, getting in one last cheap trick, had given the order to fire the Chief Usher.
And still, we relaxed.