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I No Longer Trust Law Enforcement to Keep Biden and Harris Safe on Inauguration Day

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Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on January 20. He could choose to observe this ritual in a bunker or on a plane or in a box with a fox. Instead, however, he will do it on an open-air platform erected just outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Of that, I’m sure. No matter how many threats Biden receives from Trump supporters and their enablers in Congress and the current administration, he will be inaugurated on that platform for everybody to see. It’s a statement, not just 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 has to be inaugurated on that stage—the same stage Trump supporters clambered over on their way to assault the Capitol—no matter how manifestly unsafe the conditions of his inauguration may be.

Biden has to be there, but Kamala Harris does not. Nor does Nancy Pelosi. The principle of protecting the continuity of the government suggests that Harris and Pelosi, who are respectively the first and second in line to assume the presidency should something happen to Biden, must be shielded at all costs during Biden’s big day.

It pains me to say that. Harris, the first woman elected as vice president and the first Black person to hold the post, deserves to be up on that stage every bit as much as Biden. She deserves all the pomp and circumstance of her own inauguration. The country, the part of it that isn’t an aggrieved white mob at least, deserves to see her and celebrate her power. Her triumph is the triumph of so many. We deserve to enjoy it, to dance in it. And if somebody wanted to organize an ass-kicking drum line and a few “Skee-Wee” calls to spook the white folks, we’d deserve that 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 a white-supremacist attack. We don’t let the president and the vice president fly on the same plane lest bad weather decapitate our government. So why would we risk having both of them in the same place, at the same time, when the forces of white supremacy have promised to return to the Capitol they just tried to sack in more numbers and with more guns to finish the job?

I don’t think the MAGA crowd can overcome the United States paramilitary apparatus that is set to be deployed to defend our government. I don’t think law enforcement can be overpowered in a repeat of its January 6 failures—unless, that is, its members want to be overpowered. We still haven’t wrestled with the fact that the people who stormed the Capitol clearly benefited from inside help—or at least from permissiveness from members of the Capitol Police. Ayanna Pressley reports that the panic buttons had been ripped out of her office. Women of color like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush all recount harrowing experiences. Jim Clyburn says the mob found his private, unmarked office—not the one with his name on the door. Nobody knows if people of color in Congress are safe from their own law enforcement.

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