INDIANAPOLIS — Despite fears to the contrary, Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president of the United States passed without incident in an event centered on COVID-19 safety and security concerns.
Since insurgents supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, top law enforcement officials have warned about possible unrest in Washington, D.C. and in capital cities around the country.
Several dozen National Guardsmen and Indiana State Police patrolled the Statehouse on Wednesday, which was closed to the public out of an “abundance of caution.” No protestors rallied in Indianapolis in the days leading up to the inauguration.
Last week, Republican caucus leaders indicated that they wouldn’t suspend the third week of the legislative session unless there was a “direct threat” but backtracked Friday in a joint release with Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Legislative sessions and committee meetings should continue next week.
One of Biden’s biggest obstacles will be overcoming lingering doubts related to the election in a deeply divided country as the COVID-19 pandemic rages throughout the United States, having claimed over 400,000 lives.
Despite evidence to the contrary, an Indiana University survey found that significant numbers of Americans still believe in “false narratives about (the) validity of the election.”
Released the same day as the inauguration, the Observatory on Social Media at IU tested “verifiably false statements” about Biden’s lacking mental capacity, an increase mail-in ballot fraud and the exaggeration of COVID-19 deaths – none of which were true.
According to the results from six separate surveys of more than 4,000 respondents, 43% believed vote-counting machines over-counted Biden votes and 22% thought face masks increased the risk of contracting COVID-19, despite evidence to the contrary.
The most recent survey found that Trump supporters were more likely to believe the narratives tested than Biden supporters.
Betsi Grabe, the co-author of the study and an IU Media School professor, said that the combined uncertainty, anxiety, social isolation, economic hardship and spare time during the pandemic created “near-perfect circumstances” for false narratives and political divisions to grow.
“In a post-election era, disinformation narratives, like the ones we are tracking, have the potential to undermine the collective resilience of our nation to rebound on medical, economic and political levels,” Grabe said. “This finding from our study makes me join the growing choir of calls for media literacy efforts to help citizens recognize disinformation.”
Indiana Republicans in Congress, including some who voted against certifying Biden’s victory on Jan. 7, released statements welcoming Biden as the incoming President.
Rep. Jackie Walorski voted against certifying Biden’s votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania but said she would work with the incoming Biden administration.
“Our country faces unprecedented challenges and the president has an opportunity to unite the American people by following the path of bipartisan cooperation and rejecting a radical agenda,” Walorski said in a statement.
Rep. Greg Pence, brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, said he would be in Columbus, Indiana, on Wednesday to welcome his brother back to their hometown.
Greg Pence, whose southeastern district overlaps with parts of Mike Pence’s former district, voted against certifying the votes from Pennsylvania but voted to certify the votes from Arizona.
“Today Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn into office… and I wish them well. We may disagree about policy going forward, but we all believe in America and the opportunity of our great nation,” Pence said in a released statement.
Rep. Larry Buschon didn’t object to certifying Biden’s votes from Pennsylvania or Arizona and tweeted about his inaugural attendance.
“While my party may be in the minority, I will nonetheless continue to champion conservative values while working to find common ground with Congressional Democrats and the Biden Administration,” Buschon said in a statement.
All seven of Indiana’s Republican delegations in the House voted against impeachment. Reps. Jim Banks and Jim Baird also voted against certifying the Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. Indiana’s two Democrats both voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection and certified Biden’s votes.
A majority of House Republicans voted against certifying the Electoral College vote even after a day of pro-Trump mob violence in the Capitol Building.