The country saw its third remarkable Wednesday in a row this week with the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Now that the ceremonies and celebrations are over, it’s time to take a look at what’s ahead for the country under this new administration.
The overarching theme of the inaugural was national unity, which WCIU reporter and anchor Brandon Pope says can be a slippery concept.
“When it comes to unity it’s a word that sounds great … but unity doesn’t happen without accountability and justice,” said Pope. “There’s a large sector of this country, many of them Black and Brown people, who do not want unity with what we saw on Jan. 6. We need to make it clear that that is not America, we do not want to unite with that.”
Chicago Reporter interim editor Glenn Reedus says Biden’s success in inspiring a sense of unity largely depends on whether he can keep his campaign promises.
“I don’t think it’s going to be terribly tough,” said Reedus. “It’ll be slow because he has to undo a lot of what has been done over the last four years.”
Reedus also draws a contrast between Harris and outgoing Vice President Mike Pence.
“I think she’ll be very involved because of her background … and her time in the Senate,” said Reedus. “She still knows the players, and they know her. Very different than when Mike Pence went into that job.”
The new administration also brings daily press briefings back to the White House, with press secretary Jen Psakis at the lectern. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Rachel Hinton says she’s optimistic for a less contentious relationship between the press and the administration this time around.
“I don’t think that we’ll see this press secretary call the press the enemy of the people,” said Hinton. “We have to hold these people accountable, it’s nothing personal. Let us do our jobs.”
Rather than inaugural balls and parties — not possible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic — the televised program “Celebrating America” featured musical performances and check-ins from all over the country after Biden and Harris were sworn in. Pope was a big fan.
“What worked so well about it was it brought different parts of the country together and made them part of the experience. Beautiful, colorful and multicultural … That’s hopefully the tone they continue to strike going forward,” he said.
Once the celebration was over, there was another pivot as Biden set about signing a flurry of executive orders and issued his plan to fight COVID-19, including mask mandates.
“I think it’s also a show that we’re taking the pandemic seriously, we’re going to really try to ramp up our vaccine distribution, we’re going to try to begin mitigating the effect of this public health crisis,” said Hinton. “I think he’s trying to do as much as he can in measured ways immediately, but I think we’ll need to see Congress step in. I think there will need to be some legislation to begin to help people that have been really hurt by this pandemic.”
Hinton expects the vibrant purple coat Harris wore on Wednesday to become a symbol of the history her election made.
“I believe seeing her being inaugurated, seeing her in her purple coat, will be something that the kids look back on, I think that will be taught, that will be a focus in our history books to come,” she said.