Iowa political leaders react to Biden’s inauguration ceremony, pledge to unify the country

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in on Wednesday under heavy security measures. Iowa Democrats and Republicans commented on the inauguration and the absence of former President Trump from the speech which was centered around unity.


Joe Biden is sworn in as U.S. President during his inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. During today’s inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

Lauren White, Politics Reporter

President Joe Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday, and Iowa Democrats say it was refreshing to see Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris take the stage to start their presidency.

Biden said that his presidency is a “triumph for democracy” as he stood on the Capitol steps exactly two weeks after thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, an insurrection which left five people dead.

“This is democracy’s day. A day of history and hope of renewal and resolve through a crucible for the ages. America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded,” Biden said.

The crowd was limited this year because of COVID-19 precautions and security threats in the wake of an attempted siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The siege was perpetrated by people who, inspired by Trump, believe without evidence that the election was stolen and that Biden is not the legitimate winner.

Ed Cranston, chair of the Johnson County Democrats, told the The Daily Iowan in an interview after the inauguration that democracy prevailed today despite the insurrection that occurred two weeks ago. He said that a new administration feels like a new start.

“I view it as a new day. We’re still saddled with the issues we have, whether it’s health care, and racial justice, you go down the line. We are in a situation where there’s a very difficult time, but even with those challenges I feel so optimistic, with the fact that we can turn the page here,” Cranston said.

Cranston said he’s impressed by Biden’s agenda and dedication to finding common ground between the parties.

A major theme from Biden’s inaugural address, and a dominant force throughout his campaign, was unity and restoration of democracy.

“My whole soul was in it today. On this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause,” Biden said.

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Muscatine County Republican Chair Fred Grunder, said that he is reluctantly accepting Biden as the nation’s president but claimed — without citing any evidence — that Biden may not have won by such a big margin as the election results tallied.

Jan 20, 2021; Washington, DC, USA; Amanda Gorman, 22, reads her inaugural poem The Hill We Climb during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today)

Dozens of lawsuits were filed by the Trump campaign alleging fraud, and more than 80 judges — appointed by both Democrats and Republicans — found no evidence there was widespread fraud in the election. More than 50 cases have been tossed by the courts, including a dismissal from the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress approved the electoral college results in an unusually high-profile fashion because of the insurrection into the early hours of Jan. 7.

Grunder said he thinks that the inclusion of additional security measures was unnecessary and was used more as a visual to portray Trump in a bad light.

“Maybe a little tighter security with what happened a week ago was necessary but to turn it into a battleground where they were prepared for war,” he said. “I just think that was done solely for the camera.”

Story County Democrats Chair Madalyn Anderson said while there will always be people who refuse to see the other side’s argument, that Biden’s history as a moderate politician will help the two major parties see eye to eye.

Grunder said that the unification of the parties can start with dropping the rhetoric of punishing people for supporting Trump. He said that the pursuit of impeachment is a factor in further driving a wedge between the Democrats and Republicans.

“If he wants to unify the nation he needs to call Pelosi and tell her to forget impeachment,” Grunder said.

Ras Smith, a Democratic Iowa Representative from Waterloo, said that unity is a job for the people of a nation and can’t be shouldered alone by the administration that leads it. Americans need to put in the work if they truly want unity, he said.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is sworn in during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the U.S. Capitol. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today )

“He can lead by example but it’s not the job of any administration to change the hearts and minds of Americans if those Americans do not want to change,” Smith said.

On Wednesday, Harris became the first woman and the first Black and South Asian person to become vice president of the United States.

Harris was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is also historic in her field being the first Hispanic and Latina woman on the Supreme Court.

Smith, who was a key leader in summer legislative efforts to reform policing in Iowa, said that seeing Harris receive such high recognition gave him hope for the future of Black Americans.

“Kamala Harris spoke about challenges that we Black people face and I’m excited for women of color around the globe to see the example of what hard work can do and all of the strides that have been made,” Smith said.

As a person of color and the father of Black daughters, Smith said that Harris’ swearing in is a moment he will never forget. He said he can’t wait to go home and rewatch the entire event with his daughters.

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Traditionally, the sitting president attends the new president’s inauguration as a way to pass the torch, but President Trump was anything but traditional.

Trump did not attend Biden’s inauguration while other living former presidents, other than 96-year-old Jimmy Carter, did.

Grunder said that he would have liked to see the continuation of the tradition, but understands why Trump would not have wanted to attend.

“I don’t blame him for not showing up. I have no problem with Trump walking away after how he’s been treated,” Grunder said.

Democrats said that his absence was in pettiness and poor sportsmanship.

Anderson said that it was childish to fail to do a task that every other president has done simply because he didn’t want to go.

“I thought it was kind of petty. Every other president has shown respect for the office and for the good of our country and attended the inauguration so it’s very disappointing.”

Cranston said Trump looked like “a sore loser” for not attending the inauguration, but with several other living presidents and current political leaders attending, Cranston said he wasn’t missed.

“So it’s disappointing, a number of things have not been done by the former president and it’s an embarrassment that he didn’t attend, but again it goes along with him being a sore loser,” Cranston said.

Ultimately, the transfer of power that was shown today opened the door for a new administration Cranston said.

“There needs to be communication and it’s important,” Cranston said. “People can just hear the words that were spoken today, and the meaning of what was said today that we really can find commonality and common objects that we all care about and move forward on those.”

Brian Grace and Natalie Dunlap contributed to this report.