One of the ways I had planned to celebrate next week’s presidential inauguration was by heading to the campus of Howard University, where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and I both graduated.
I thought it would be fun to sip champagne out on the Yard and socialize with other alums similarly psyched that the first female and the first Black and Asian elected to the nation’s second-highest office is one of us.
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But that was before last week’s violent failed insurrection at the Capitol that left a police officer dead and reports that pro-Trump extremists are planning even more violence for the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Right-wing extremists have made clear their desire to overtake the government.
Certain government officials and members of law enforcement likely sympathize with their baseless claims that the election was stolen from President Donald Trump and may even try to assist them. It could get really dicey.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants out-of-towners to stay away. I plan to do just that. You should too. Stay home. Events, like the parade, have been canceled or scaled back anyway. Members of Congress won’t have access to all of the free tickets they usually get to give away to constituents for the swearing-in ceremony. Virtual proceedings are the way to go this year.
The future of our democracy is at stake. For the sake of the nation, the security of both Biden and Harris needs to be the first consideration. That’s why I say, let them be sworn in as scheduled on Jan. 20, but keep the ceremony really small and brief. Skip the long speeches and pomp. This isn’t the year to have all of those members of government in attendance. Maybe even move the whole thing indoors.
Yes, the symbolism of having the 46th president take the oath of office on the same steps that rioters climbed to desecrate the Capitol would be a stunning show of strength as well as a reminder to the nation and world that our democracy is still strong. Biden is planning for that. But the same message can be sent by moving the ceremony inside the Capitol Rotunda and livestreaming it.
Besides, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Biden and members of Congress may have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but have most members of the National Guard and other law enforcement? I don’t know that they have. It’s unfair to expose them to unnecessary risk. How will they be able to socially distance if something happens? And it might. Every living former president except the sore loser in the White House is expected to attend the inauguration. Some nut job may think this is his moment to do something crazy.
Biden likes to tell us, “This is not who we are.” I love me some Uncle Joe, but he’s wrong about that. Last week’s insurrection that had hordes of rioters attempting to stop Congress from formally counting the election results is the latest proof of that.
Look, I love a good party.
I’ve attended inaugural balls for Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and enjoyed myself at both. I had been looking forward to going to Biden’s as well. I have a new gown hanging in my closet that I would have loved to wear.
But I’m going to stay home.
Instead of celebrating, though, and toasting one of our schoolmates for making it this far, I’ll be on edge the entire day.