In the span of about about 120 minutes, between the hours of 10.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, the rituals of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris inauguration and the smiles all around, even among Bidens opponents, marked a remarkable shift for American politics.
Hours earlier, Donald Trump left the White House, four years after his “American carnage” speech, and by noon, it was a return to traditions smashed by Trumpism. Taken together, Lady Gaga’s rendition of the national anthem, via a golden mic and Jennifer Lopez’s medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” spoke to a very un-Trumpian vision of America, barely two weeks after white supremacists stormed the US Capitol.
Trump critics and supporters milled around, exchanging fist bumps and smiles from behind their masks Mike Pence was seated next to Kamala Harris and seemed very much at home in a crowd that seemed relieved about putting the violent insurrection of January 6 behind.
Garth Brooks, who sang “Amazing Grace,” at the ceremony asked the small crowd in front of him to sing along. As faint voices lifted into the cold winter air, you could sense something was changing in Washington. We saw it too when leaders of the Congress escorted the new president and vice president around the halls of Congress, stopping at artefacts of interest or consequence, extending the small and big courtesies that transfer of power has come to symbolize.
Barack Obama gave Biden and Harris fistbumps before their big moments today, young poet Amanda Gorman stunned the audience with powerful imagery inspired by Hamilton, scripture, Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Obama’s Amen! at the end of Brooks’ rendition of “Amazing Grace,” was heard above the ambient noise, Pence shook hands with plenty of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.
The Black police officer who diverted the pro-Trump mob away to give Senators time to find safe spaces during the insurrection on January 6 escorted Harris as she walked into the Capitol Building.
At 12:36, came Biden’s first POTUS tweet, 12 days after Trump was banned from the same platform, and the split screen was complete: “There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face. That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.”