The 2021 Inauguration Shows the Strength and Resilience of Democracy

The U.S. Capitol building seen through fencing
The United States Capitol viewed through the new fence erected after the January 6 insurrection. Photo by Allison C Bailey/Alamy Live News.

Inauguration Day 2021 has arrived, and the candidate chosen by the voters—Joe Biden—is being sworn in. Whether individuals supported Biden or Trump, the main thing is that it was the voters—expressing their will through our Electoral College process—who selected the next president.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

That happened. Despite it all, that happened, and the inauguration is proceeding. Today, we celebrate this victory for our democratic system.

Getting to today was not an easy road for democracy. Much of 2020 saw organized efforts to stop people from voting during a global pandemic. Campaign Legal Center (CLC) fought against these efforts and worked to defend access to voting.

Voters and election officials were then confronted with intimidation, some long lines and deliberate attempts to stop people’s voices from being heard. As NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Sherrilyn Ifill wrote, this election did not go smoothly, especially for people of color.

Facing down these obstacles, voters turned out in historically large numbers to make their will known. In a democracy, voters choose our leaders, not politicians.

We then saw two months of unprecedented attempts to spread lies and overturn the results of this election.

Despite threats and dozens of meritless lawsuits, our election officials counted our votes and certified the will of the people. State and local election officials from both parties deserve commendation for their commitment to democracy and in many cases for withstanding partisan pressure to engage in improper conduct.

When the final counting of Electoral College votes occurred, 147 members of Congress shamefully objected to certified, legitimate results from several states. A mob violently attacked the Capitol to disrupt the electoral vote count, fueled by lies about the election, causing the two sitting Houses of Congress to flee the building.  

Nevertheless, good sense and constitutional duty prevailed later that awful day, and Congress returned and did its job.

Our institutions were tested like never in our lifetimes.  Democracy defeated various attacks against it.

However, we should not expect that our institutions will always hold. 

The inauguration today was not guaranteed. It took American’s commitment to democracy to ensure the outcome was fair and just.

We have work to do to prevent election crises from happening again in the future. We cannot expect 2022, 2024, or future election cycles to “take care of themselves” as Senator Mitch McConnell originally said this one would.

CLC will work to champion reforms like those included in the latest National Task Force on Election Crises report. We must protect and expand accessible voting for everyone—we must resist efforts to make it harder for people to vote. This is an historic moment to enact solutions, and we must act now.

Today, we should celebrate. Moving forward, CLC will continue to work to safeguard democracy so we will have it in the future. We owe it to ourselves and our future prosperity to do so.

Trevor is CLC's founder and one of the country's top election lawyers.
How Can We Strengthen Our Democracy Going Forward?