Under circumstances that were unimaginable until recently, including the protection of the ceremony by thousands of National Guards, Joseph Robinette Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States in front of the Capitol in Washington DC shortly before 12 noon local time on Wednesday. This ended one of the most chaotic phases in recent American history. The current incumbent Donald Trump, who was the first president in a century and a half to refrain from swearing in his successor, leaves behind a society deeply divided into irreconcilable camps and an internationally isolated country on the outside.
In his speech following the swearing-in, Biden said, referring to the failed assault by Trump supporters on the Capitol on January 6th: “Democracy has triumphed.” This day of the peaceful change of power in Washington is the “triumph not of a candidate, but of democracy”. In what is probably the first official demonstration of national mourning in the USA, the new president interrupted his address for a minute’s silence for the 400,000 deaths of the corona pandemic in the United States.
Joe Biden, at 78 years of age the oldest US president to date when he took office, made reconciliation and the unity of the nation the central themes of his 24-minute speech. “Unity is the way forward,” he declared, promising to be president of all Americans; he will also promote the trust of those “who did not support me”. 74 million Americans voted for Trump in November. In the brief foreign affairs section of his speech, Biden pledged to revive Trump’s broken ties with America’s allies. The US would be a “strong and reliable partner”.
The democrat Biden staged the assumption of office as a turning point. A few hours after his inauguration, he signed the first decrees, with the help of which he reversed or corrected the controversial decisions of his Republican predecessor. In the first tweet as the new president, Biden wrote: “When it comes to addressing the crises we are facing, there is no time to lose.” The first regulation signed by the new president includes measures to combat pandemic. A “100 Days Masking Challenge” aims to encourage Americans to wear protective masks. Biden imposed a mask requirement in all places within the jurisdiction of the federal government.
As expected, Biden reversed the United States’ exit from the World Health Organization, which was ordered by Trump. An American delegation headed by immunologist Anthony Fauci was supposed to attend the WHO Council this Thursday.
Biden also signed the re-accession to the Paris Climate Agreement. It should come into force in 30 days. In addition, a revocation of controversial environmental policy decrees Trump was announced. Federal authorities should be instructed to enforce stricter emission standards again. National parks are to be better protected, and the building permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Nebraska is to be revoked.
Biden announced measures against the “structural racism” of US authorities and the police. He reversed the entry ban imposed by Trump on people from Muslim countries. The expulsion of non-criminal illegal immigrants should also be stopped. As one of his first official acts, the new president also initiated immigration reform. Shortly after he was sworn in, Biden had a bill forwarded to members of Congress on Wednesday. The reform could pave the way to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the US without a permit. He also wanted to stop the expansion of the border fortifications with Mexico.
Shortly before Biden took office, the former Democratic Senator Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President – the first woman in this office and the first African-American. Vice President Mike Pence attended the inauguration ceremony as the representative of the previous government.
A few hours earlier, Donald Trump had left the White House and, after a farewell with military honors, was at Andrews Air Force Base with the presidential plane Air Force One flown to Florida. He had previously pardoned convicted offenders. Graciously, the last day of a president’s office is common, but the number and choice of people is unusual. Among the pardons are personal acquaintances of Trump, his former advisor Stephen Bannon, the rapper Lil Wayne and Elliott Broidy, one of the most avid fundraisers for his 2016 presidential campaign.
President Biden – where is the US headed? Stefan Kornelius, SZ Head of Politics, starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 21st, discusses Donald Trump’s legacy and the opportunities for a new era with Constanze Stelzenmüller, The Brookings Institution, and Hubert Wetzel, SZ correspondent in Washington. You can register for the live stream here: sz-erleben.sueddeutsche.de/sz-veranstaltungen