On the Trail: Biden’s inauguration will be like none before

  • Workers put up bunting on a press riser for the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House on Thursday. AP

  • President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during an event at The Queen theater, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

For the Monitor
Published: 1/16/2021 5:34:21 PM

In the wake of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by extremists and supporters of President Donald Trump, next week’s already scaled-down inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden will feature an unprecedented amount security.

Thousands of armed National Guard troops, including a small contingent from New Hampshire, are now in the nation’s capital as part of a massive security operation that includes federal, state, and local forces under the direction of the FBI and Secret Service. Due to security concerns over numerous threats, the National Mall was shut on Friday to the general public, and will remain closed off through Wednesday’s inauguration.

The inauguration was already going to be a mostly virtual event – amid the current surge in new infections and deaths from the coronavirus, the worst pandemic to strike the globe in a century. Now, with the heightened security, attendance will be sparse.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies traditionally would distribute hundreds of thousands of tickets to members of Congress to invite constituents to attend the swearing-in ceremony on the west front of the Capitol. But this year, tickets are not available to the public and inauguration planners have been urging people to stay home and take part in virtual inauguration events. Also missing will be the traditional inauguration parade in front of thousands of spectators along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The only top Democrats from the Granite State that will likely attend the inauguration are New Hampshire’s four-member congressional delegation. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas are expected to attend the swearing in ceremony. It’s expected that each member of Congress will be allowed to invite one guest.

For Biden supporters and other Democrats in New Hampshire who had hoped to attend the inauguration in person, virtual events will have to suffice.

The state Democratic Party – partnering with the NHDP African American Caucus, the NHDP Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus, and the NHDP Women’s Caucus, will host a virtual celebratory event hours before the inauguration.

The state party’s “Presidential Inauguration Celebration” will take place on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

“The historic nature of electing President-elect Joe Biden and America’s first black, first Indian American, and first woman Vice President-elect Kamala Harris cannot be overstated,” the NHDP stated in a release.

Democratic hopes and realities

For the first time in since 2010, the Democrats will control the White House as well as both houses of Congress.

But their majorities in both the House and the Senate are razor thin.

In the House, the Democrats have a 221-211 majority, with three vacant seats – their smallest majority in nine decades.

It’s even tighter in the Senate.

Thanks to the Democrats twin victories in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, the Senate will be split 50/50 between the two parties. But with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie breaking vote in the chamber, the Democrats will control the majority.

With extremely fragile margins and amid a bitterly partisan atmosphere only heightened by the coming Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, the Democrats hopes of passing a sweeping agenda are tempered.

First up is an expected congressional battle over Biden’s massive $1.9 trillion recovery package to combat the coronavirus and jump start an economy flattened by the pandemic.

New DNC chair and N.H.’s presidential primary

Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday closes the book on the 2020 presidential election.

But with every ending, there’s a new beginning, and soon enough potential 2024 GOP White House hopefuls will be visiting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.

As it happens every four years, New Hampshire will once again have to defend its century-old tradition of holding the kickoff primary in the White House nomination race.

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley welcomed incoming Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison as a likely ally to the Granite State’s cause in the coming battle.

Harrison, who is a current DNC associate chair and senior counselor, grabbed national attention last year as he demolished U.S. Senate fundraising records in his unsuccessful bid to oust GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a strong Trump ally.

But the 44-year-old Harrison previously made history as South Carolina’s first Black Democratic Party chair. The Palmetto State, which hold the first-in-the-South presidential primary, goes fourth in the nominating calendar after Iowa’s caucuses, New Hampshire’s primary, and Nevada’s caucuses.

Harrison “has been part of the team that has worked to protect the four early states now for nearly a decade,” Buckley said. “He immediately knows the arguments and the rationale on why it works for each specific state. He’s starting the conversation from a level of information and knowledge and experience.”

Buckley pointed out that Harrison “has traveled to New Hampshire multiple times and has seen how we do it up here. ”

Buckley also highlighted that Harrison’s experience as a state party chair, a DNC associate chair, and as a Senate candidate in a high profile race, are “going to be extremely important in the years ahead” as Democrats fight to keep their congressional majorities and try to make gains in state elections in the 2022 midterm contests.

“It’s been 20 years since the last time a former state party chair served as chair of the DNC,” Buckley noted. “We really think that it is so much better to have someone who’s had to function in operating and running a state party. That experience isn’t something that’s easily explained.”

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