The Atlantic

An Inaugural Celebration That Rings Hollow

Commentators love to praise the peaceful handover of power—but this year, it stands as a reminder of the system’s fragility and shortcomings.
Source: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Every presidency is different, but inaugural coverage is always the same. Commentators congratulate Americans on the peaceful transition of power and intone solemn sentences about democratic renewal.

There is something unnerving about these reassurances, something overstated, even hysterical. When a British prime minister loses the confidence of the House of Commons and must suddenly trundle out of 10 Downing Street (as some six dozen of them have done since the job was invented in the 1740s; a few more than once), nobody marvels on television how

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
The Risk of Elizabeth Warren’s Dodging
She’s presented herself as the truth-teller, the straight-talker, the one who can break down complex economic ideas and bring nonprogressives along.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
What America Didn’t Anticipate About China
For too long, policy makers ignored the possibility that China could transform the U.S., rather than the other way around.
The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics Daily: What Warren Won’t Say
Elizabeth Warren emerges as a front-runner with one particular hangup: admitting how to pay for Medicare for All.