Karen Blue-Temple attended Barack Obama’s first inauguration from the pool deck on a Caribbean cruise. Basking in the sun on a 100 degree day, she said to herself, “Someday I’ll go to one of these.”
This year, the coronavirus pandemic may have prevented Blue-Temple from going on a cruise, but he’s sure hell won’t stop him from making it to the inauguration.
“I’m not selfish. I’m not one of those people who thinks I’m better than anyone,” she told The Daily Beast. “I really want to go.”
Due to the growing number of coronavirus infections across the country, President-elect Joe Biden has encouraged his supporters not to attend his inauguration – an event that could easily have drawn hundreds of thousands to Capitol Hill. Tickets for the event will be severely limited and the surrounding events will be significantly mitigated. It appears to be the rational choice for a man who has made fun of Donald Trump for organizing massive rallies in hot spots across the country and mass-market events at the White House. But some Biden supporters say they still plan to attend – the warnings and hypocrisy are damned.
Best friends Summer Williams and Deria Frazier decided they were attending the grand opening in August, when Kamala Harris was added to the post. Both women are black and Frazier is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Harris’ sorority. Neither went to the Obama inauguration and always regretted it. This time around, the chance to see the first black woman sworn in as vice president was too good to pass up. “Once she was added and they won, there was absolutely no way to miss it,” said Williams.
The two women experience a long flight from Washington; Williams is from Texas and Frazier is from California. Frazier said she is shopping for hazmat suits online and stocking up on Lysol for the flight, but Williams is a bit more relaxed. She has traveled several times during the pandemic, including vacations to Mexico, and says she lives by the philosophy that you can catch the virus anywhere, even at your local Walmart.
“It is a risk that I am prepared to take.“
– Williams Summer
“I am not a MAGA. COVID is real and you have to do things to try to prevent it, ”she insisted. “I understand that it is a risk to go to the inauguration, but at the same time I feel that I am at the same risk of going to the grocery store or going out to eat.”
She added: “I guess the statement is, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
All of the Biden supporters who spoke to The Daily Beast were also aware of COVID, Dr.Anthony Fauci, and were talking about the benefits of masks and vaccinations. (Temple-Blue, without a hint of irony, described how she yelled at people who walked into her workplace without a mask, telling them, “Your civil liberties are not so important that I don’t get sick.” ) But the chance to see Biden being sworn in – or, if they spoke frankly, Trump ushered in – just seemed worth it.
“As low as I had the bar set for the four years [of Trump’s presidency]I never could have expected it to be that bad, ”said Ricky Groetsch, a New Orleans medical worker. “I have to be there to see it end in person.”
Williams, asked if she thought attending the grand opening would lead to more cases of COVID, admitted: “You can just hope it won’t, but the reality is it probably will.
“It may sound absolutely ridiculous, but celebrating Trump is worth it,” she said.
Statistically speaking, attending an inauguration is not the most dangerous thing you can do during a pandemic. The debates take place outside and most of the participants will probably wear masks (either because they believe in their effectiveness or because, as Blue-Temple says, “I don’t want people to think that I I’m a Trump supporter. ”) The event itself is comparable to the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, which did not lead to epidemics despite the high numbers in attendance.
But the risk increases when you factor in travel: people will take buses, cars, and trains to town, only to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants and generally do the kinds of things we know. all spread the virus. Some will stay with friends; some may be tempted to organize post-inauguration parties. “It’s almost like a college town that gets an influx of people when school is going,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It’s not usually the university itself that’s the problem; that’s what they do outside of college.
This is probably the reason why the Biden campaign released its statement two weeks ago, urging supporters to “refrain from all travel and participate in inaugural activities from home.” According to the statement, the ceremony itself will be “extremely limited” and the parade that usually follows will be “redesigned” – a word which, in 2020, generally means “staged on Zoom”. No public tickets are available for the event itself; each member of Congress receives a ticket and can bring a guest. An inaugural ball is extremely unlikely.
Elliott Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Destination DC tourism organization, said a number of hotels in the city were sold out in early December. (This is not uncommon for a first-term inauguration: Obama sold 97.2% of city rooms, Trump reserved 95.2% after the announcement of the Women’s March.) But the decision of the last week of limiting inaugural activities – coupled with news that DC’s closing museums, libraries and restaurants inside – resulted in a series of cancellations and an unusually high number of open rooms.
“I think people are still on the fence, as they should be, in terms of what makes the most sense, and want to see exactly what will happen in Washington at the grand opening,” Ferguson said. .
But supporters who spoke to the Daily Beast were not deterred by the lack of inaugural activities. Williams said she was “disappointed” in Biden’s squad for discouraging participation, but understood why they had to. (“It would be hypocritical if they didn’t,” she said.) Goestch, who will have received the first of two doses of the vaccine before inauguration day, said he was to agrees with the decision: “Maybe this can bring me closer to myself.” row seat, ”he half-joked.
“I’ve wanted to go to a grand opening all my life basically and this might be one of my last chances because I’m getting older.“
– Karen Blue-Temple
It was another theme among potential attendees: that the restrictions on Team Biden were reasonable, even proof of his moral superiority over Trump. (A common joke on Biden / Harris’s Facebook pages after the announcement was to ask, “You mean he doesn’t care about the size of his crowd?”) But for a multitude of reasons – they were from ‘being vaccinated, they were extremely careful, they really wanted to go – the rules just didn’t apply to them, personally.
“I’m not trying to be a big rebel or anything, but I’ve wanted to go to an inauguration all my life, basically, and this might be one of my last chances,” said Blue-Temple, who recently turned 64. .
“I’m not trying to be disrespectful to anyone, I just really, really want to go,” she added. “This year has sucked, so I just want to have something nice to remember.”
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