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Inauguration Traditions

Written by: Esha Bagora

Date: January 2021

The election of a new president and the transition of power in the United States is a trademark of the democracy that has been built and improved over generations, and typically follows all traditions and precedents set by past presidents and election candidates. Following a wild election, where former President Donald J. Trump claimed unproven voter fraud and the popular vote count took four days, due to the ongoing pandemic, causing a flurry of fake news, controversies, and hypothetical “facts” to surround every aspect of this integral process. In the end, President Joseph R. Biden emerged as the victor. As Congress continued to count and verify the electoral votes, a coup upon the Capital, instigated by the former president, halted that process and essentially put the entire US democracy at risk.

With all these unprecedented and untraditional events and actions taken, it was fairly clear that the 2020 election’s transition of power was not going to repeat customs. Typically, the loser of the election publicly concedes and admits defeat. Former president Trump failed to do this, and continued to taut fake information about voter/election fraud until January 6th (the election was called on November 7, 2020), after the siege on the Capital. The first concession speech was in 1896, and this was the first time that a leaving president refused to do so in 124 years.

After that, foreign leaders tend to offer their congratulations to the new president-elect, which multiple countries did after the GSA’s selection of the winner towards the end of 2020. Leaders from Ireland, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, and South Korea officially chatted with Biden on November 10th and 11th. From that point forward, the Biden - Harris team began to attend official meetings, talk with important agency leaders, and started to receive briefings on the state of the country. The briefings, primarily focused on national security, military operations, are traditionally open to the president-elect within a few days of the decision of the election, but Biden and Harris started attending them on November 30th. At the same time, the incoming presidential team walked through quick overviews of disaster simulations prepared by the previous presidential team. Then, two presidential teams slowly stopped working in conjunction with each other. The previous president’s teams began to hand in their letters of resignation as the president-elect started to select his team and hold press meetings to keep the public informed of his priorities and progress.

The final event in this transition of power, the fruition of the entire US democracy, comes Inauguration Day. It always occurs on the January 20th closest to the election, and it is often attended by scores of people. This year, it did happen on January 20th, but the crowd was replaced by American flags that represented the 50 states and 5 territories that make up the United States of America. Traditionally, the president leaving office and the incoming president do a “Unity” ride to the capital, but that was forgoed as ex-president Trump tweeted that he wasn't going to attend the inauguration. He has been the first president since 1869 to not attend his successor’s inauguration which breaks a very timely trend. Another custom ex-president Trump broke was the leaving of a note to the president-elect (of then). This custom was first implemented by Ronald Reagen when George H.W. Bush was taking office, and is the first time a president is bypassing it. Lastly, at noon was when the president-elect turned into the President of the United States of America, essentially the most powerful country in the world. Funnily enough, (now) President Biden was sworn in at 11.54 AM, six minutes before the Constitution allows a president to come into office. The famed and esteemed presidential speech was then made, and then the event began to wind down. The transition of power between parties is a part of a sacred process that has upheld United States democracy over two hundred years. After the 2020 presidential election, there were a few traditional changes due to the ex-president and the ongoing pandemic, but it was still an excellent event.