Goodbye to all that
As a nation turns the page to a new presidency, a look back on what — and who — America leaves behind
Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ended 78 days ago. The inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the forty-sixth president of the United States, happened today.
days since President Biden was first sworn in as a U.S. senator
minutes remaining ahead of Biden’s swearing in when former President Trump left Washington for his last time in office
nautical miles between the White House and Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s new home
private restaurants in metropolitan Washington at which Trump dined as president
days since Trump descended an escalator at Trump Tower to declare his candidacy for president
days since Donald Trump began his term as president
judges appointed by Trump during his term in office
minutes lapsed after Biden took the oath of office when news emerged of a federal district judge announcing their retirement
days since insurrectionist rioters overran the Capitol
days since the House impeached Trump for inciting the aforementioned insurrectionist rioters
lives lost in Puerto Rico as a result of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (estimated)
deaths in the United States attributed to COVID-19 from the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic through Jan. 19, 2021 (approximate)
population of Tulsa, Okla., in 2019 (Census Bureau estimate)
flags planted in the National Mall to honor — and stand in for — Americans unable to attend the inauguration, due to the pandemic and tightened security
federal memorials led to honor Americans lost to COVID-19, before the Biden inaugural committee held one on Jan. 19
tweets by Trump on Jan. 20, 2017
tweets by Trump on Jan. 20, 2021
pardons and commutations issued by Trump on Jan. 19, his last full day in office
executive orders signed by Biden on Wednesday evening
National Guard personnel deployed to Washington, D.C., to protect the inauguration
deployed Guard members pulled off duty after background checks
tweets about ‘laid,’ a word that trended thanks to raves about Michelle Obama’s inauguration-day couture, as of 1:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday
Americans unemployed in December 2016 (*.pdf)
Americans unemployed in December 2020
billionaires in the United States at the end of 2016
billionaires in the United States at the end of 2020
impeachments incurred since 2017 by Trump — to whom MSNBC host Brian Williams referred on Wednesday as a “twice-impeached private citizen”
previous presidents of the United States to incur two impeachments
languages in which Trump’s White House web site was made available
languages in which Biden’s White House web site is now available
women who have held nationwide elected office in the United States before Jan. 20, 2021.
Can We Ask You Some Questions?
With the inauguration behind us, what comes next? Well, you tell us. We’ve created this very unscientific, just-for-fun final poll of newsletter readers to gauge your opinions about what the near future under the new administration may hold. Go there now to leave your thoughts — and look for a wrap-up of people’s input in our next issue:
In the Conversation
“One day, a couple years from now, he will hold a rally and a handful of people will show up wearing those all too familiar red hats and misspelled signs. He will trudge across the stage to the microphone and give a half-hearted smirk. He will look into the audience and know that no one but the assembled band of misfits cares what he has to say. The hollow applause will haunt him. Later, he will return to his country club, because he doesn’t really have a home anymore, and the only people still there will be people he pays. He’ll be unable to look himself in the mirror as he watches cable news and tries to get his former friends on the phone and sips a diet coke. And he will have to live with the knowledge that once, he was the most unpopular president in American history and still, he ended up with nothing. Still, he ended up as nothing.”
David Lat, at Original Jurisdiction: “The Federalist Society And The Capitol Attack: What Is To Be Done?”
“FedSoc members and leaders frequently stress the difference between law and politics — and they’re exactly right. The Society should focus on its core mission of ‘sponsor[ing] fair, serious, and open debate’ about important issues in the law — and stay away from all the politics. … Of course, the larger and longer-term issue, not just for the Federalist Society but for conservatives, libertarians, and Republicans, is how much of their principles they are willing to sacrifice for power. Allying themselves with Donald Trump for four years got them tax reform, three Supreme Court seats, more than 200 lower-court judgeships, and all sorts of other goodies. But was it worth it?”
Paul Musgrave, at Foreign Policy: “Political Scientists Turned a Blind Eye to America’s Democratic Failures.”
“American democracy did not penetrate to state level until the 1960s. Nearly a quarter of the states denied voting rights to Blacks—who made up a majority in some of those states before the Great Migration—from the late 19th until the mid-20th century. (As Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns demonstrates, Northern and Western states were only somewhat more welcoming than the American apartheid states.) The University of Michigan professor Robert Mickey defines those Jim Crow-era Southern states as ‘stable, one-party authoritarian enclaves’ that ‘curtailed electorates, harassed and repressed opposition parties, and created and regulated racially separate—and significantly unfree—civic spheres.’ … Revisiting the United States as a partial or flawed democracy means confronting much of the history that celebrants of the liberal world order claim as a series of triumphs for democracy.”
Adam Serwer, at The Atlantic: “An Incompetent Authoritarian Is Still a Catastrophe.”
“Believing that Trump’s departure proves his harmlessness is akin to arguing that getting shot in the leg is inconsequential because the wound will not kill you. Even nonfatal gunshot wounds do terrible things to the human body. … American democracy persevered because of those who rejected the arrogant counsel that the system would hold: The protesters who mobbed airports and filled the streets, the organizers who planned meetings and knocked on doors, and the voters who flooded the polls by the tens of millions. The wounds of Trumpism haven’t proved lethal to the democratic project, but they are very real.”
“Awesomeness matters. One lesson from the Obama years is that smart policy making isn’t just about doing brainy stuff; it’s about doing good and popular stuff in a way that keeps you in power so you can do more good stuff. The Democrats’ failure to properly stimulate the economy in 2010—or get credit for their very real contributions—led to catastrophic midterm losses in the House that made it impossible for them to accomplish much of anything in Obama’s last six years in office. For non-mysterious reasons, polls show extraordinary support for giving $2,000 to every American household as a kind of stimulus-qua-consolation gift for making it through the year from hell (one study indicated that seven in 10 Republicans support the direct payments). With stimulus checks, Biden could endear himself to the persuadable middle of the U.S. electorate, which might enjoy liking an American president, for once.”
Biden … Firings? Yes, Firings
For holders of federal roles whose occupants often carry over between presidencies, today brought news of a new sheriff’s arrival in town. Here’s who the 46th president has already sent packing:
Kathleen Kraninger, Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
From Mother Jones: “Moments after Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony concluded, the current head of the CFPB—Kathleen Kraninger—tweeted a resignation letter explaining she was departing at the new administration’s behest. … During the Trump administration, the CFPB—a watchdog established after the 2008 financial crisis—took many steps to deregulate the financial institutions it supervises. The agency eased restrictions on payday lenders and debt collectors, issued paltry enforcement fines as low as $1, and stripped enforcement powers from the division charged with protecting minority borrowers from discriminatory lending.”
Michael Pack, CEO, U.S. Agency for Global Media
From Vox: “In his first foreign policy act, President Joe Biden followed through on his promise to fire the head of the US Agency for Global Media, who abused his eight months in power trying to turn the US government-funded international media agency into a pro-Trump propaganda machine. … In a letter, Pack said Biden’s team asked him to step down from his post as the head of … a government department that oversees media organizations like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty — and is collectively one of the largest media networks in the world.”
Peter Robb, General Counsel, National Labor Relations Board.
From HuffPost: “Unions despise Robb and want to see him ousted quickly, even though presidents normally do not fire the NLRB’s general counsel, who acts as a quasi-prosecutor. Robb has more than nine months left in his four-year term at the board. … A labor source told HuffPost that the Biden team had planned to ask for the resignation shortly after the inaugural ceremonies, as part of a blitz of actions he would take on his first day in office. The Biden administration sent an email to Robb giving him until 5 p.m. Wednesday to resign or be fired.”
Your Moment of Calm
I know: it’s been a day. It’s been a week. It’s been quite a month, even, after a hell of a four years.
It’s okay. Cuddle your favorite pillow. Enjoy the soothing music.
That’s all for this issue — and as for the transition we created this newsletter to document, I’ll quote a world-famous stammering, animated pig: “That’s all, folks.” Thanks for taking this ride with us; we’ll see you on Friday.
American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through — hallelujah! — Jan. 22, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.
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