Biden Inaugural 2021: What Pa. will be watching and listening for | Wednesday Morning Coffee

January 20, 2021 7:09 am

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 14: Members of the National Guard prepare to distribute weapons outside the U.S. Capitol on January 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security has been increased throughout Washington following the breach of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, and leading up to the Presidential Inauguration. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The list of ways in which the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be like no other in recent memory, and, like no other in American history, is lengthy and would take more time to catalogue than we have on this January morning.

When Biden takes the oath of office at noon today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, the nation will already have crossed the grim threshold of 400,000 COVID-19 deaths. As he delivers his inaugural speech, Biden will do so under the watchful eye of tens of thousands of National Guard soldiers who were dispatched to Washington from across the country last week to protect the capital against the potential threat of domestic terrorism.

Biden and Harris will assume the mantle of power with three of their four living predecessors looking on.

But the man Biden is replacing, President Donald Trump, already will be long gone. Trump is scheduled to leave Washington this morning before the inaugural observances begin, the first chief executive since President Andrew Johnson to engage in such an epic, historic, classless and utterly Trumpian snub.

But in some simple yet profound ways, one thing about this very unusual day will not change. Presidential inaugural speeches are always the prism through which we view ourselves as a people and a nation. And each of us will be listening to Biden’s words, and watching his mannerisms, for those things that stir our souls and reflect the nation at its best — even if we don’t necessarily agree with the incoming administration and its priorities.

So we threw it open to you, the Capital-Star’s readers, to have your say.  Here’s what you said you’ll be looking for today:

“I’m hoping his speech is less than 3 minutes long and ends with ‘let’s get to work today,'” a Twitter user named Slim wrote.

“Nods to progressives that he’s playing catch up but he’s working on it,” Pittsburgh journalist and blogger Bram Reichbaum said.

Reader Steve Niebler said he’s watching for “a safe day for everyone. I know everyone will say the right thing.

“Unity after accountability,” Harrisburg attorney Clarke Madden said.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – MARCH 09: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduces Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School on March 09, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Michigan will hold its primary election tomorrow. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

We also threw it open to some Pennsylvania politicians. As you might imagine, they had quite a bit to say.

“The first thing is that we as a country cannot get back to normal until we eradicate this virus in our midst … Everything flows from that,” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman told the Capital-Star. “It’s this idea of competence, that it’s not about me, it’s about what government was always intended to accomplish. Did 2020 have to be the worst year in the last 100 years? It’s all about leadership. People crave normalcy again. I can’t believe that after [Wednesday], we don’t have to care what the president is tweeting about.”

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, told us that “there is nothing written on a tablet somewhere that say America has to succeed. It has endured, in the face of great challenges because each of us take up the mantle to protect the idea of self governance and the promise of the nation.

“I hope the president talks about that and about how we continue to expand that promise to include folks who’ve for too long been on the margins,” Kenyatta said.

Mike Pries, a Republican county commissioner from Dauphin County, said he’s looking for three things from Biden: “A nationwide vaccine distribution plan; reassuring small businesses and restaurants they won’t be getting bowled over in favor of the Big box stores, [and] consistent messaging from Day 1.”

State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-Lehigh, said he’d “love a conversation about respecting truth; return[ing] norms to government while pushing an agenda that economic recovery is for all Americans, not just those at the very top.”

Schweyer’s fellow Lehigh County Democrat, Rep. Mike SchlossbergD-Lehigh, said he’s looking for “a combination of poetry and prose. America needs reunification and good government more than ever.”

State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, told the Capital-Star that she wants to hear about Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage; plans to continue an existing federal moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and how he intends to get aid to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

“And on healthcare: [His Affordable Care Act] defense, Medicaid expansion and lowering drug prices. It’s not Medicare4All, which we desperately need, but no doubt these steps will save lives,” she said.

State Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, offered a similar sentiment.

“I’m hoping to hear about some or promise to make historic, long overdue investments in public health, with COVID efforts of course, but also with health related to harms caused by fossil fuels contaminating air, land/soil and water; changing the tax code closing loopholes and ensuring mega wealthy entities pay their fair share; investments in education; pretty much a massive investment in all programs that help humans,” she said.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
White shoe Philly law firm Ballard Spahr, whose legions of attorneys once included U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, and where ex-Gov. Ed Rendell still has a desk, will be hosting an inaugural event for Joe Biden today. The problem for Scranton JoeThe firm is known for its union bustingStephen Caruso reports.

New state Auditor General Timothy DeFoor and state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, both Republicans, each made history when they took the oath of office on Tuesday. DeFoor is the first Black Pennsylvanian to serve as the state’s elected fiscal watchdog. Garrity is the first woman to serve in an elected row office in eight years. Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison, with an assist from Cassie Miller, have the details.

The incoming Biden administration has chosen state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary. While she’s beloved by progressives, Levine and her boss, Gov. Tom Wolfhave taken heat for their pandemic management policies.

People aged 65 and older and anyone over the age of 16 with certain medical conditions will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner, state health officials said Tuesday.

On our Commentary Page this morning, with President Donald Trump headed for the exits this morning, Americans have to start reckoning with his legacy, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan writes. And an expert from Biola University in California explains how self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ from a growing Christian movement provided religious motivation for the Capitol rioters.

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gather across the street from PA AFL-CIO headquarters on Monday, 9/7/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

The Inquirer
 has details on how Biden’s Pennsylvania supporters intend to celebrate his inauguration.
State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Alleghenysays he plans to challenge Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in the spring primary, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive explains how Penn State’s ‘Thon plans to continue raising money in the midst of the pandemic.
Cut-outs of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are big business for one Wilkes-Barre merchant, the Citizens-Voice reports.
A Harrisburg woman has been charged with stealing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop, the York Daily Record reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Unruly Diplomats (@unrulydiplomats)

Philadelphia is launching a new COVID-19 vaccine sign-up, raising questions about the one that already exists, WHYY-FM reports.
Gambling revenue tumbled by 20 percent in Pennsylvania in 2020, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).
The Uniontown Herald-Standard profiles a hometown native who’s leading National Guard forces during today’s inauguration.
Access to the COVID-19 vaccine is still limited in Erie, GoErie reports.
explains how new state Auditor General Tim DeFoor and Treasurer Stacy Garrity respectively won in 2020, taking seats that had been held by Democrats for years.
Roll Call explains how Joe Biden plans to wield executive orders during his first day in office to tackle four converging crises.

What Goes On.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take the keys to government today. Florida gains one more bitter retiree bragging about his glory days to his golf buddies.You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to reader Brad Garfinkel, inveterate beer runner and general nice guy, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
It’s a big day. So here’s something suitably anthemic. It’s Elvis Costello & the Attractions, with ‘Pump it Up.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Winnipeg pulled off a 4-3 win over Ottawa on Tuesday night, scoring a late goal the third period, and then sealing it with the game-winner in overtime.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.