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America Votes 2020

Young Poet Draws Attention During Biden Inauguration

American poet Amanda Gorman reads a poem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021.

Twenty-two-year-old poet Amanda Gorman made headlines and dominated inauguration talk on social media Wednesday after speaking at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Her poem, in part:

“We, the successors of a country and a time,

Where a skinny black girl,

Descended from slaves and raised by a single mother,

Can dream of becoming president,

Only to find herself reciting for one.”

Gorman, who was named the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at just 16, is by far the youngest to have read an inaugural poem in recent U.S. history.

In a nod to the late poet Maya Angelou, who read a poem at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Gorman wore a caged bird ring gifted to her by media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Winfrey wrote on Twitter.

Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” also included a nod to the popular musical “Hamilton,” prompting public praise from its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“You were perfect. Perfectly written, perfectly delivered,” the composer wrote on Twitter.

In an interview with The New York Times, Gorman said she had written just a few lines of the poem when a pro-Trump riot stormed the Capitol on January 6. Gorman said that after the violent event, she finished the poem in one night.

Earlier in the ceremony, pop icon Lady Gaga gave a theatrical performance of the national anthem. Country singer Garth Brooks sang “Amazing Grace,” and Jennifer Lopez performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” interjecting lines from the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.

Trump Flies to Florida as Biden Inaugurated

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump address guests at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Jan. 20, 2021.

In the fleeting minutes before the inauguration of his successor, Donald Trump was able to enjoy the perquisites of the presidency for a last time — an escorted motorcade moving slowly through the streets of Palm Beach, Florida, as he waved from behind the windows of an armored vehicle to hundreds of supporters waving banners, cheering his name and some urging him to run again in 2024.

Trump was accompanied home by the now former first lady Melania Trump, a small number of still-loyal aides and a dozen members of the White House press corps, which he had collectively during his tenure derided as "fake news" and "enemies of the people."

The motorcade pulled through the gates of the Mar-a-Lago estate less than 30 minutes before Trump lost the powers of the presidency.

After leaving the White House for a final time, Trump arrived early Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the Marine One helicopter. He was greeted by the tune of "Hail to the Chief" played by a military band, a 21-gun salute and an invited crowd of about 200 people.

There, for just under 10 minutes, he addressed supporters — a more subdued, casual and condensed version of the stump speech from his frequent Make America Great Again rallies that he had hoped would win him reelection last year.

"I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they'll have great success," said Trump without referring to President Joe Biden by name.

Trump, who had been criticized for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, made a rare mention of the "incredible people and families who suffered so gravely" from COVID-19, referring to it as "the China virus."

The 45th U.S. president promised to "be back in some form" and then concluded his remarks by telling the cheering crowd, "have a good life. We will see you soon."

The Trumps then climbed the steps to Air Force One and turned around to wave several times, before departing for Florida.

Trump, as was the norm for four years, broke with tradition until the very end, not only avoiding Biden's inauguration but still refusing to utter the name of the Democratic Party nominee who was victorious in November's election.

At the moment Biden took the oath of office as new president just before noon at the heavily fortified U.S. Capitol building, Trump was 1,400 kilometers to the south, already inside his Mar-a-Lago mansion, a frequent warm weather retreat during his presidency.

Before he touched down in Florida, Air Force One did a low altitude flyover of the Florida coast to give the Trump family onboard an aerial view of Mar-a-Lago.

Capitol mayhem

Trump's presidency ended in shambles. In its waning days, Trump was impeached a second time, the latter after the House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, charged him with insurrection. Trump, even out of office, will face trial in the Senate soon.

In a January 6th speech on the Ellipse, with the White House in the background, he exhorted supporters at a Stop the Steal rally to march on the Capitol where lawmakers, led by Vice President Mike Pence, were counting the electoral votes to finalize Biden's victory.

The mayhem caused deaths, injuries and damage resulting in federal charges against more than 100 people — an event many Democrats and others have characterized as an attempted coup.

That event has weakened Trump's grip on the Republican party as many of its key politicians ask themselves whether the former president will help or hurt them in Congressional elections now less than two years away.

Approval ratings

In a Gallup poll released this week, Trump departs with a 34% approval rating, the low point of a presidency that already had the weakest average favorability rating of any since the survey began in the 1940s.

Yet he remains popular among Republican voters, with an 82% approval rating. Despite condemnation from some of his party's lawmakers and even members of his Cabinet who resigned in protest over his post-election rhetoric, Trump is the current front-runner should he choose to run again for president in 2024.

Trump's business partners, from golf tournament partners to banks, are shunning him and he may struggle to remain a billionaire between now and the next presidential election. He has been silenced on social media and could face a slew of legal charges in New York and other states.

COVID-19

In his wake, he leaves behind a pandemic whose global spread he has blamed on China. The infectious disease has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States, far more than any other country has reported.

In the final year of his presidency, Trump himself was hospitalized after becoming infected by the coronavirus. Opinion polls indicate a majority of Americans believe his administration's response made the pandemic worse.

Trump's supporters point to positives achieved by the 45th president, including destruction of the Islamic State caliphate, normalization of the Middle East, criminal justice reform and speeding approval of generic drugs.

Trump Presidency Reaches End

An unused microphone stand sits outside the West Wing at the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. On President Donald Trump's last full day in office, there was an eerie quiet, with no public events scheduled, his last event being Jan…

Donald Trump’s four-year term as U.S. president comes to a close Wednesday with a morning departure from the White House and a final flight on Air Force One to the southern state of Florida.

He got a sendoff ceremony with a red carpet, military band, a 21-gun salute and an unknown number of guests in attendance.

Around the same time the flight lands, Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as the country’s new leader, with Trump breaking decades of tradition by not attending the inauguration ceremony.

Trump’s future, including any political aspirations, remains uncertain.

“I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” he said in a farewell video message released Tuesday. “There’s never been anything like it. The belief that a nation must serve its citizens will not dwindle but instead only grow stronger by the day.”

Trump leaves office under the shadow of becoming the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, and an unclear start date for a Senate trial on charges he incited a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago.

He briefly referenced the assault Tuesday, saying Americans “were horrified” and that political violence “can never be tolerated.”

Trump also listed a number of foreign policy initiatives his administration carried out, including withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the Paris Climate Accord, negotiating a new trade deal with neighboring Canada and Mexico, and applying tariffs on goods from China.

“We reclaimed our sovereignty by standing up for America at the United Nations and withdrawing from the one-sided global deals that never served our interests,” Trump said. “And NATO countries are now paying hundreds of billions of dollars more than when I arrived just a few years ago. It was very unfair.”

He called being president an “extraordinary privilege.”

In some of his final acts in office, Trump issued pardons and sentence commutations for more than 140 people, including his former campaign chief Steve Bannon.

Trump also rescinded an executive order from the early days of his term that banned officials in his administration from lobbying the government for five years after leaving those jobs, or from ever engaging in activities that would require the former official from registering as a foreign agent. The measure was part of his pledge to “drain the swamp,” or root out corruption in Washington.

Biden’s Rocky Road to Victory

FILE - Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is accompanied by his wife Dr. Jill Biden as he addresses supporters at a rally at the Drake University Olmsted Center in Des Moines, Iowa, Feb. 3, 2020.

Democrat Joe Biden will realize the ultimate ambition of his lengthy political career on Wednesday when he takes the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol to become the 46th U.S. president.

The theme of the inauguration will be “America United,” reflecting the beginning of a “new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together and creates a path to a brighter future,” according to the Biden-Harris inaugural committee.

But it took the former vice president and senator from Delaware three tries before he finally won the presidency in November. And his final road to the White House proved to be rocky and strewn with unprecedented obstacles.

Biden, 78, was faced with a coronavirus pandemic that sidelined much of his traditional campaigning and forced him to sequester in his Delaware home for much of the campaign.

While touted as the early Democratic frontrunner, Biden stumbled from the start, delivering less-than-stellar debate performances and losing badly in early primary election contests. Finally, as his party’s nominee, he was locked in a brutal general election campaign against Republican President Donald Trump, mocked by Trump as “sleepy Joe” and denounced for policies and his son’s business dealings.

Biden announced his candidacy on April 25, 2019 and he was considered the early front-runner in the Democratic nominating contest.

From the early days of the campaign, however, the former vice president struggled to garner enthusiasm from voters and was soon overshadowed by larger personalities on the campaign trail. There were calls from some Democrats for the party to nominate a candidate who was younger, more liberal and who better represented the growing diversity of America.

Biden was nearly counted out of the presidential race after losses in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, where he placed 4th, 5th, and a distant second, respectively. However, top Democratic officials rallied behind Biden after his win in the South Carolina primary where he received strong support from African American voters and emerged as the clear moderate alternative to progressive candidate Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator.

Just as it became clear in early March that Biden was again the strong front-runner for the Democratic nomination, his campaign was mostly grounded by the global coronavirus pandemic that unexpectedly and swiftly shut down much of the world.

While Biden eventually returned to a modified campaign trail, he chose to convert many planned rallies to virtual or drive-in events during the general election, in which he faced off against Trump. The president did not make the same decision and continued to hold large, in-person events.

The coronavirus also led to a large number of mail-in ballots for the November 3 election, which in conjunction with close races in several states, slowed down the vote tally and delayed the announcement of Biden as the winner for several days.

President Trump used the delay to bolster his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud and continued to press his claims through the end of his term, culminating in January, when a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to delay the certification of Biden’s win. The attack was an unprecedented assault on the seat of U.S. legislative power and led Biden to describe the mob as “domestic terrorists.”

Here’s a timeline of key events:

April 25, 2019: Biden declares he is running for president, one of more than two dozen Democratic candidates seeking to defeat President Trump.

February 22, 2020: Biden loses the Nevada Democratic primary, after primary losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, and is nearly counted out of the presidential race.

February 29: After winning the South Carolina primary, Biden consolidates the support of Democratic Party leaders and becomes the front-runner for the party’s nomination.

March 3: Biden wins the most number of states in the numerous Super Tuesday primaries, taking the lead in the delegate count and further solidifying his front-runner status.

Spring 2020: The coronavirus pandemic forces Biden to hunker down in his Delaware home for much of the spring, sidelining many of his campaign plans.

June 5: Biden wins enough delegates to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.

August 11: Biden picks California Senator Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate, making her the first African American woman on a presidential ticket.

August 20: Biden accepts the Democratic presidential nomination during the party’s convention, held virtually because of the pandemic.

Fall 2020: Biden engages in a pared-down campaign schedule because of the coronavirus, converting many of his rallies to virtual or drive-in events.

November 3: Election Day passes without a presidential winner called because of close races in several battleground states and delayed vote counting due to high numbers of mail-in ballots.

November 7: Major U.S. news outlets declare Biden the winner of the presidential race despite unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud by President Trump.

December 14: The Electoral College cements Biden’s win and the president-elect calls Trump’s attempts to overturn the election an “abuse of power.”

January 6, 2021: A mob of pro-Trump supporters storms the U.S. Capitol, delaying the congressional certification of Biden’s win. Biden describes the mob as “domestic terrorists.”

January 7: Congress certifies Biden’s presidential win.

January 20: Biden to be inaugurated president of the United States.

Harris’ Road to the Vice Presidency

FILE - Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at The Queen theater, in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 24, 2020.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is making history as the first African American woman and first South Asian American woman to attain the second-most-powerful job in the United States, yet the campaign that brought her there was bruising at times.

Harris parlayed a career as a California prosecutor, attorney general and U.S. senator to become a top-tier contender in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, standing out in a field of more than two dozen candidates.

She surged toward the top of the pack after a Democratic debate in June 2019 in which she confronted Joe Biden, one of the party’s long-standing leaders, about his views on race relations. Biden was stunned by the attack in which Harris criticized his opposition to federal busing policies during the 1970s and his working relationship with segregationist lawmakers. He called the attack “a mischaracterization of my position across the board.”

Harris was not able to sustain her climb to the top of the Democratic field, with her poll numbers dropping during the summer and fall of 2019, followed by a decline in donations. She dropped out of the race in December 2019 and endorsed Biden in March 2020 after it became clear he was likely to win the nomination.

Whatever animosity was generated between the two candidates on the campaign trail appeared to vanish as Biden secured the nomination and began a lengthy search for his vice presidential running mate. His selection of Harris brought new political energy to his presidential campaign and was praised by many in the Democratic Party.

Timeline of events

January 21, 2019: Harris announces she is running for president, one of more than two dozen Democratic candidates seeking the nomination to challenge President Donald Trump.

June 27: Harris directly challenges Biden in a Democratic debate about his views on race relations, taking command of the debate stage and propelling herself into the top presidential contenders.

December 3: Following a drop in the polls over the summer and fall and struggles to raise money, Harris drops out of the race.

March 8, 2020: Harris endorses Biden for president, saying she believes the former vice president can unify the country.

August 11: Harris is chosen as Biden’s vice presidential running mate, becoming the first African American woman and first South Asian American woman on a presidential ticket.

August 19: Harris accepts the Democratic vice presidential nomination during the party’s convention, pledging to make America more inclusive.

November 7: Biden and Harris are declared the winners of the presidential race despite unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud by President Donald Trump.

January 20, 2021: Harris is to be sworn in as vice president of the United States.

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