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Biden’s inaugural ‘theater of unity’ offers rebuke to violence

Cornell University
19-Jan-2021 12:45 PM EST, by Cornell University

On Wednesday, former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden will be inaugurated as President of the United States. His inauguration takes place amid continued challenges presented by COVID-19 and the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University and an expert on international populism and fascism, says that Biden’s inauguration ‘theater of unity’ will be more powerful than the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection.


Berezin says: 

“President-elect Biden’s inaugural team recognized the opportunity that COVID-19 offered to stage a public display of national cohesion to counter the polarization which has plagued American politics for the last four years. On the eve of the inauguration, buildings in D.C. will be lit to commemorate the lives lost to COVID-19. Biden will stand at the Washington Monument to participate in a moment of silence. At 5:30 pm, all Americans will have the opportunity to participate in a moment of silence across the United States and church bells will ring in ‘a national moment of unity and remembrance’ to commemorate the dead. 

“Political ritual unifies as well as repels. The Tuesday evening commemoration will be unifying, in contrast to the Jan. 6 insurrection that was repulsive.

“The Capitol and the Inauguration platform resemble a fortress—which makes violence less of the sure bet that it was on Jan. 6. Collective danger is unifying. Thankfully, Biden understands the political power of public ritual as well as governance. He understands that the politics and theater of unity is in the end more powerful than the spectacle of disruption.”

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