A pandemic that has killed more than two million people worldwide and the threat of insurrectionist violence will make today’s presidential inauguration of Democrat Joe Biden unlike any inauguration in American history.
There will be no massive crowds, and likely no debates over crowd size. The National Mall will be closed to the public. And to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the traditional inaugural parade will be replaced by a celebrity-filled virtual event.
There are 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington D.C., which has become a maze of fencing, concrete barriers and check points. They are there to discourage and prevent violence on the heels of the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump, who has refused to accept defeat and has continued to repeat baseless allegations that the November election was stolen from him through fraud.
The FBI is doing additional screening of all of the National Guard troops in D.C. in an attempt to root out any members who could pose a threat, the Associated Press reported. Thousands of troops are also guarding statehouses across the country.
Another difference with this year’s inauguration: the outgoing president will not be there. Trump, who is expected to depart D.C. for Florida at 8 a.m., will be the first president in more than 150 years to skip his successor’s inauguration. The last was Andrew Johnson, another impeached president, who didn’t attend the inauguration of Ulysses Grant, according to the White House Historical Association. Biden has said it is “a good thing” Trump isn’t attending.
The inauguration events are expected to kick off at 10 a.m. with a virtual “Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans.” Biden is expected to arrive at the U.S. Capitol at 11 a.m., and will be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president at noon.
Biden will be sworn in on the west front of the U.S. Capitol building, which is surrounded by a seven-foot-tall fence. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton are expected to attend with their wives, as is Vice President Mike Pence.
Pop star Lady Gaga is slated to perform the National Anthem, and Jennifer Lopez is scheduled for a musical performance, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Country music star Garth Brooks also is expected to perform. The star power at Biden’s inauguration is in stark contrast to Trump, who struggled to recruit top-tier performers for his inauguration.
“This is a great day in our household. This is not a political statement, this is a statement of unity,” Brooks said during a press conference Monday, according to several media reports. “This is history, and it is an honor to get to serve.”
After he is sworn in, Biden is expected to participate in a Pass in Review ceremony, a military tradition that reflects the peaceful transfer of power to a new president. Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their spouses will then head to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Biden will then receive a military escort to the White House.
The virtual “Parade Across America” at 3:15 p.m. will be hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn, a Biden supporter who played the president on the television show “Scandal.” The virtual parade will feature planned appearances by comedian Jon Stewart, Olympic athletes, marching bands and dance groups. Curiously, it also will feature a performance by the reunited alt-rock band New Radicals, a one-hit wonder from the late 1990s, and an appearance by Nathan Apodaca, who gained Tik Tok fame last year after he recorded himself skateboarding to work with a bottle of cranberry juice while listening to Fleetwood Mac. The Idaho Falls native was living in a Walmart parking lot at the time, but has since bought a house after receiving a flood of donations.
The inaugural events will conclude with a primetime television special hosted by Tom Hanks, and featuring performances by Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake and others. The special will be carried by most of the largest TV networks. There was no similar event four years ago celebrating Trump’s inauguration.
In addition to the pomp and circumstance, Biden also is expected to implement a series of day one executive actions, including ending Trump’s restriction on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, rejoining the Paris climate accords, extending a pause on student-loan payments, and mandating masks on federal property and during interstate travel. He also has promised to “cancel” the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office.