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 read
Vince Carter and the Slam Dunk’s Day of Reckoning
After 20 years in the NBA, the most influential dunker of all time is winding down his career—and the game prepares for a new era of high-flyers.
The Atlantic6 min read
What DNA Says About the Extinction of America’s Most Common Bird
The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
Why It's Difficult for Former Inmates to Become Lawyers
State bar associations often have ambiguous character requirements that preclude their admission.