Connecticut Democrats seemed dizzy with relief Wednesday after former President Donald Trump caught a plane to Florida and Joseph Biden Jr. took the oath of office, closing out a chapter of American history that challenged the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Biden standing outside the U.S. Capitol Building, where earlier this month, a mob of Trump supporters ransacked the building, desperate to stop Congress from certifying the election results. Wednesday’s inauguration was closed to the public and heavily guarded. Gov. Ned Lamont sent more than 300 Connecticut National Guard troops to Washington to shore up security operations.
Breaking with long-standing tradition, Trump refused to attend the ceremony. He departed D.C. Wednesday on one last flight aboard Air Force One as president. His vice president, Mike Pence, attended the ceremony, as did all other living former presidents with the exception of Jimmy Carter, who stayed away for health reasons but apparently called Biden on Tuesday.
Biden never named his predecessor as he delivered a roughly half-hour speech aimed largely at sewing together a deeply fractured country.
“Today on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation and I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue,” he said later.
Connecticut’s state and federal elected officials reacted with relief Wednesday afternoon during an online press conference organized by the state Democratic Party. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said she felt a weight lifted from her shoulders when Trump departed and Biden took office. She said it brought her to tears.
“My God,” she said. “We are listening for the first time in four years to someone who gives us a vision of hope for the future rather than dragging us down in just chaos and lies.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was expected to preside over a now evenly-divided Senate later that afternoon, signed into the Zoom call from the seat of a car, parked in an “undisclosed location.”
Blumenthal was often a target for Trump’s online abuse before most social media platforms banned the former president in recent weeks. The senator and former Connecticut attorney general said he had an emotional reaction to seeing Biden, a former senator and former vice president, sworn in as president.
“There were tears in my eyes,” Blumenthal said. “My heart was in my throat.”
Connecticut’s current Attorney General William Tong reflected on the many firsts represented by the inauguration of former California Sen. Kamala Harris to the role of vice president. Harris is the first woman, the first African American, and first Asian American to serve as vice president.
Tong said the moment felt “urgent” for Asian Americans. Right up until the final moments of his presidency, Trump continued to lay blame on China for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which according to the Centers for Disease Control, had killed more that 400,000 Americans as of Wednesday.
“We can resume being and feeling like Americans. After all the hate that has been directed at Asian Americans since the outset of this pandemic, seeing Kamala Harris inaugurated … It’s hard to describe that feeling,” Tong said.
Although unity was the dominant theme of Wednesday’s rhetoric, a major challenge to that goal sits right over the horizon. Last week, the House of Representatives cast a bipartisan vote to impeach Trump, making him the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. The House claimed he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection. A divided Senate is expected to hold the historic trial early in Biden’s term.
Asked whether the impeachment trial would distract Congress from passing COVID relief legislation and approving Biden’s executive nominations, Blumenthal said the Senate could do both.
“This trial has evidence that’s open and shut. The evidence is Trump’s own words on the Ellipse before the assault on the Capitol, an armed, domestic terrorist attack and his tweets,” Blumenthal said.
The Connecticut Republican Party on Wednesday had no executive director following the sudden departure of former director J.R. Romano last week. However, Paul Formica, a deputy Republican leader in the state Senate, issued a statement congratulating Biden and Harris and urging mutual respect.
“I woke this morning to find a dusting of fresh snow and with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our great and beautiful country and our democracy. While there is much work to do to mend our society and government, today marks a new starting point,” Formica said.