Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on January 20. He can choose to observe this ritual in a bunker or in an airplane or in a box with a fox. Instead, however, it will do so on an open-air platform erected just outside the Capitol in Washington, DC.
I am sure of that. No matter how many threats Biden receives from Trump supporters and their facilitators in Congress and the current administration, he will be ushered in on this platform for everyone to see. It is a declaration, not only to white seditionists like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, but also to governments around the world that the United States is “strong” and cannot be intimidated by violence. As far as Biden is concerned, he must be ushered in on that stage – the same stage Trump supporters climbed to attack Capitol Hill – no matter how blatantly dangerous the terms of his inauguration may be.
Biden has to be there, but Kamala Harris doesn’t. Nancy Pelosi either. The principle of protecting the continuity of government suggests that Harris and Pelosi, who are the first and second in line respectively to assume the presidency if anything were to happen to Biden, must be protected at all costs during Biden’s big day.
It hurts me to say that. Harris, the first woman to be elected vice president and the first black person to hold the post, deserves to be on this stage just as much as Biden. It deserves all the pomp and circumstances of its own inauguration. The country, the part of it that isn’t at least an aggrieved white mob, deserves to see her and celebrate her power. His triumph is the triumph of so many. We deserve to enjoy it, to dance there. And if anyone wanted to organize a drumming line and some “Skee-Wee” calls to scare white people, we deserved it too.
The problem is, even more than a celebration, we deserve Harris Alive. And we deserve a government that can continue to function in the face of white supremacist attack. We don’t let the President and the Vice President fly on the same plane lest bad weather behead our government. So why would we risk having them both in the same place, at the same time, when the white supremacist forces promised to return to Capitol Hill, they just tried to sack, in greater numbers and with more weapons, to finish the job?
I don’t think the MAGA mob can defeat the American paramilitary apparatus that must be deployed to defend our government. I don’t think law enforcement can be restrained in a repeat of its failures of January 6, unless, that is, its members want to be restrained. We still haven’t come to grips with the fact that the people who stormed the Capitol clearly benefited from internal help – or at least the permissiveness of the Capitol Police members. Ayanna Pressley reports that the panic buttons had been ripped from his desk. Women of color like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush all share heartbreaking experiences. Jim Clyburn said the crowd found his private, unmarked office, not the one with his name on the door. No one knows if people of color in Congress are immune from their own law enforcement agencies.
Two officers have already been suspended for appearing in aid of the insurgents on the day of the riots. Other suspensions could happen. But whether the department suspends two or 200 more officers, there’s no way we rooted out all of Trump’s supporters from the Capitol Police at the time of the inauguration.
Nor will we have found all of the violent white supremacists currently embedded in the National Guard. Or work for the Secret Service.
As it stands, the Secret Service is investigating one of their own for posting a pro-Trump meme and congratulating the rioters who stormed the Capitol. The Washington Post reports that the meme shows Trump shaking hands under the caption “Here is the peaceful transition of power.” A Facebook post attributed to the agent reads: “Hello Patriots! Yesterday started off beautifully and as usual Antifa spoiled the mood and attacked the police and an Air Force veteran was murdered… It’s finally OFFENSIVE time !! ”
I don’t think this agent is the only one. As we learn more about the rioters and insurgents, we find that, for the most part, they were not the aggrieved white economic underclass that the mainstream media still describes them as. They were teachers, business leaders and firefighters. They were retired members of the military and elected Republican lawmakers. They were cops.
We know, at the very least, that many law enforcement officers sympathize with Trump because their unions almost universally approved of him. Most people reacted to Trump’s police union endorsement as mere policy, but black people have been trying to tell you for years that the police are aligned with the white supremacist forces in this country. These are the same forces that change their hat or hood as needed, but never change their underlying belief in white supremacy. There are people in law enforcement who post pro-Trump memes on social media and wear MAGA hats and make ‘jokes’ about the bad things they want to do to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harris (who will be at the opening) all this time.
If we had sent them back in the beginning, we might not be in this situation now. But most whites never treat white supremacy as the threat to national security that it is. Instead, they allow these officers to keep their jobs and their guns, even as they openly threaten elected officials – and, oh yes, black people. None of us are safe – not blacks and browns, not Muslims, Jews, immigrants, not even our most powerful politicians – because whites have allowed white supremacists to infect the forces. order at all levels.
Biden is taking every precaution possible. Reports indicate that he changes his secret service details to hire agents who served him while he was vice president. It’s a wise move, but how the hell does it help Harris?
Who’s watching Harris’ back? And what have they posted on the engravers’ social media accounts over the past five years? Right now, the only people I really trust to protect Harris are her husband, Doug Emhoff, and Karine Jean-Pierre, who has already put his body between Harris and a white man amplified on the privilege.
Some of the people who participated in and instigated the insurgency have already re-integrated into the rest of society. This is because they were allowed to move away, because the cops did not carry out mass arrests at the scene of the violence. (Compare that with the mass arrests they always make during Black Lives Matter protests, even though these have never approached an elected government official.) And so, we might never catch all the law enforcement members who violated the Capitol. We will certainly not catch all of the law enforcement personnel who stayed out but encouraged them.
The line is not “A bad apple may or may not participate in the violent overthrow of the government, and black people should just swallow it because #notallcops.” The line is “A bad apple spoils the band.”
The police are spoiled. It’s compromised. I do not question his ability to defend the government against armed attacks from a horde of whites — I question his commitment to do so.
And so, it is safer to separate the heads of our government from each other on inauguration day in the hope that the commitment of their protectors is never really tested.
If we protected black people from racist cops on the streets, we wouldn’t have to worry about protecting presidents from their own Secret Service details. Maybe now white people will understand this. But I am not prepared to bet the continuity of the American government on this.