Even by the standards of the start of the century, there’s never been a presidential inauguration like this one.
We’ve had hotly contested elections this century. Two of them ended up in front of the Supreme Court. Protests took place near the 2016 inauguration.
Even when the country has been at war — from Lincoln’s second term to Franklin Roosevelt’s fourth term, in the transition from Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon — the victors didn’t face the kind of opposition presented against Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
With Biden’s inauguration, another transition of power has taken place. Some members of our society are disgruntled. The unhappy have always been around. Our relationships with our presidents are just more rabid and more apparent, and more likely to cause people to say the worst about one we dislike rather than offer any benefit of the doubt.
But that’s the first thing that’s apparent with a newly inaugurated president. We’ve already afforded someone the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who hopes in any way that Biden doesn’t do well — and the same goes for anyone who rooted for failure from Trump — needs to reconsider whether they really can consider themselves “American” in the patriotic fashion we’ve come to define the word.
Biden’s greatest challenge may be convincing people that democracy is present and still works. Perhaps we need to reinvest in civics education. We have a poorly informed populace. A decade ago, less than half of the nation’s eighth-graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights, and only 10% possessed “age-appropriate knowledge” about constitutional checks and balances established among three branches. Those citizens have voted in the last two presidential elections, during a time where citizens’ knowledge of and trust in the agreements and legalities of constitutional law has been troublesomely week.