Executive Branch

Biden's Inauguration Was Small and Quiet. Good.

The cult of the imperial U.S. presidency has come to feel like a national religion.


Former President Donald Trump's tenure started off with a loud debate over his inauguration crowd size. After his swearing-in, Trump insisted for months that he had attracted a larger crowd than his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

The discussion seemed to never end. It ushered in a flurry of legitimate news reports seeking to debunk the president's obvious lie—as if those organizations truly had nothing better to report on for the American public. It also attracted the characteristically stubborn, whimsical response that came to define the Trump administration: They were just adhering to "alternative facts," according to then-Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway. One can't be sure what that means, but it was intended to acquit the president.

As Trump flew away from D.C. today via Joint Air Force Base Andrews, he could at least take comfort in the fact that his inaugural crowd size bested President Joe Biden's, thanks to restrictions put in place after the January 6 Capitol riot as well as to curb the spread of COVID-19. Point for Trump? No, point for Biden.

To be clear, I care a negative amount about the great crowd-size debate of 2017, and all the crowd-size debates that followed. I'd rather us compete over whose crowd was the smallest, not the largest. Biden wins that trophy by a mile. Though it's widely due to circumstances out of his control, perhaps we should work on making some parts of today the new normal for future inaugurations.

The cult of the imperial U.S. presidency has come to feel like a national religion in the last decade and change. Whoever assumes the executive title also inherits icon status: There were Obama "HOPE" t-shirts, Trump's "Make America Great Again" hats, along with bumper stickers, flags, and Catholicism-inspired prayer candles featuring pols in saintly postures. Cries of "My president!" have become commonplace among a certain subset of online political types, sending a queasy message that whoever holds the office is a paladin worthy of hero-worship.

That obsession is decidedly unhealthy. The Founders intended the president to be a political figurehead and a government manager, checked in both roles by the people. "[T]he first thing [the Constitutional Convention] had to discuss was if there would be one chief executive or more than one chief executive," said historian Ray Raphael in a 2017 interview. "People were very suspicious of anything that would resemble monarchical rule." Expecting a president to be something like a king is not only an improper elevation of the role, it is also, as Trump proved to countless industries and individuals, a very risky betting proposition.

How do we put the imperial presidency back in its box? We can start by dialing back the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration, which sees people come from far and wide to flood the national mall so that a new president can take office in front of a sea of loyalists.

That wasn't the case this year, thankfully. Even so, it appears that, as of this morning, the crowd-size discourse still wasn't over. CNN's Wolf Blitzer called the number of people at Trump's farewell sendoff "pathetic," and Jim Acosta noted seriously that it was "the smallest…of [his] presidency," which we can presume was supposed to be the perfect full-circle "gotcha" as the nation witnessed the end to Trump's time in the Oval Office.

I'll take it.

NEXT: More than 100 Civil Rights Groups Agree: We Don't Need New Domestic Terrorism Laws

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I guess this is one reason to be thankful for COVID.

      1. Not six more weeks of a dark winter?

        1. After the election, I saw a Washington Post story comparing Biden to Bill Murray’s character in ‘Groundhog Day’, reliving the same day over and over as Trump refused to concede.

          My immediate thought was, ‘So he pokes his head out of his hole and if a reporter asks him a question he ducks back inside for six weeks?”

          1. I get paid 95 $ each hour for work at home on my PC. I never thought I’d have the option to do it however my old buddy is gaining 65k$/month to month by carrying out this responsibility and she gave me how.

            Give it a shot on following website……..READ MORE

      2. President Limited Engagement.

    1. Real online home based work to make more than $14k. Last month i have made $15738 from this home job. Very simple and easy to do and earnings from this are just awesome for details. For more detail visit the given link………..INFORMATION USA HOME JOB.

    2. I earned $5000 ultimate month by using operating online only for 5 to 8 hours on my computer and this was so smooth that i personally couldn’t accept as true with before working on this website. if you too need to earn this sort of huge cash then come and be part of us. do this internet-website online……………MORE DETAIL FOR JOB.

  2. So anyone want to start posting the tweets from reports about Biden’s arm reaching out to embrace the country? If Reason insists on posting stupid easily disprovable things, its seems we have a duty to rub it in how ignorant they are.

    1. Watching the media fawn over him has just been embarrassing.

      1. Their self debasement has only just begun.

    2. Billy remains ignorant in most topics he decides to write about.

    3. @JohnBrennan: Biden intel community “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians” pic.twitter.com/SjVXWhPhR8
      — Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 20, 2021

      1. I’m sure the Reverend can’t wait to rat us out

    4. Fantastic work-from-home opportunity for everyone… Work for three to eight hours a day and start getting paid in FDEujk the range of 7,000-14,000 dollars a month…
      Weekly payments……..Visit……….Home Profit System

  3. Yeah, nothing says the idea of an Imperial Presidency is fading better than 25K hand-picked troops protecting him from the voters.

    1. See it worked. No sieges!

      1. When trebuchets are outlawed, only outlaws will have trebuchets.

        1. Only The Government should have trebuchets.

          (Be safe!)

          1. Keep trebuchets safe, legal, and rare.

  4. Hi. Billy Binion. Man on the street. I’d like to talk about the Biden inauguration. To begin. It was not the Trump inauguration of 2017. That 2017 inauguration was something to see, boy howdy. Trumpness everywhere. Trumpies Trumping and then it was all about Trump in the end. And the crowd that was there to see Trump. What unabashed Trumpery.
    Today, the crowd was small. Unlike Trump. And did you hear, Trump is no longer in the oval office.
    Praise Science!

  5. Wasn’t it a wingnut talking point that no one went to Biden events anyway?

    Since there is no such thing as a Biden cult the lack of cultists slobber is a good thing.

    1. Some folks wanted to show up in cars to honk their approval but there was no parking.

    2. You and others here have been very cultish lately. For example…. you continue to defend the Biden GND by pretending it isnt bad.

      1. I only remind you that the “Biden GND” (thank you for that. Proves you are more honest than Ken by distinguishing from AOC’s GND) cost less than what Trump spent in 2020 on the COVID virus.

        Biden also won’t ban fracking (nat gas is our bridge fuel) like AOC wants to do.

        We really don’t need Biden’s GND since the market is moving off coal and into gas fired plants anyway.

        1. “What Trump spent…”

          Hahahahahaha… Oh wow.

        2. It’s not the spending, it’s the cost that will matter.

        3. Go frack yourself, moron. I’d say go frack your mother, but she wouldn’t have you.

  6. Biden couldn’t attract an enthusiastic crowd. Simple as that.

    1. People should not wave flags bearing the president’s name all year long, or adorn their trucks with them and drive around in convoys. That is silly authority worship, and it is at odds with American values.

      1. Hey to be fair I still see plenty of HOPE signs and that blue and red obama picture in windows here.

        1. Occasionally; but the posters are as faded as the hope

          1. Poetry. 20/20

      2. That is silly authority worship, and it is at odds with American values.

        Oh, bullshit. Go back to the late 1800s-early 1900s, and you’ll see plenty of photos of political rallies and parades. People have put the President’s photo up in their homes for at least that long, specifically because they admired them.

        Saying that it’s “at odds with American values” doesn’t match reality. Not only does it reflect American values, people have been doing it for a long damn time, decades before Obama and Trump came along.

        1. I think he’s supposed to be on the team of “American values aren’t beholden to tradition” anyway so what’s he blathering about? if some people want new traditions and values isn’t that what liberalism is all about?

          Or is his the more modern type of liberalism where people who like things he does not are told what they should not do?

          1. His is the type of liberalism that all the oligarchs and Clergy of the Woke with their collective hand up his ass to make his arms wave and his lips move tells him it is.


          2. No, it’s that he has a middle-schooler’s understanding of history, combined with a Boomer’s devout belief in mainstream media, and his poasting career is the result.

      3. Democrats sang worship songs about Obama. They downloaded Playlist for biden today. SNL writer tweeted out pussies are finally wet today after 4 years. Yours included im guessing.

        1. Tears of joy!

      4. I mean fuck, just look at Hollywood today. Do you choose ignorance or is it a natural talent?

      5. Hey DOL, you piece of shit.

        De Oppresso Liber
        January.19.2021 at 8:07 pm

        R Mac, are you stupid? Or just disingenuous? Mother is on my do not reply list since she went full anti-Semite.

        When the hell have I ever said anything remotely antisemitic, you lying fuck.

        I want an apology and I want it fucking today.

        1. From that lying sack weasel?

          No chance.

      6. We wouldn’t feel the need to if you and yours would just leave us alone.

    2. That’s a good thing, dawg.

      1. So you prefwr terrible authoritarian policies instead of shit that doesn’t matter. Sounds right.

      2. uh oh you’re mad!

    3. He can’t even get them to follow him on Twitter.

      1. How embarrassing. New Caesar sucks.

        1. Ha! New Caesar is great.

          1. No he ain’t! My Caesar can whip your Caesar!

            1. I meant the name. New Caesar. Made me laugh out loud. It is perfect.
              Now we can look forward to the et tu’ Kamala moment.

      2. To be fair, Trump ran his own Twitter account. Who gives a damn what Joke Biden’s social media intern thinks about anything?

    4. The best thing about Biden is no one is enthusiastic about him per se.

      1. They’re enthusiastic about the collective using him as a prop though

    1. But of course, they had little to say about the leftists who participated. It seems both right and left participated.
      And if Washington post has video proof, why didn’t they link them?

      1. Oh, but Robby swore that the left wasn’t involved. Scouts honour.

        1. Wasn’t significantly involved.

          Other than being filmed encouraging it all, and then serving as an ‘eye witness’ on multiple cable news networks.

          That’s insignificant.

  7. QAnon believers grapple with doubt, spin new theories as Trump era ends: ‘We all got played’

    Followers of the extremist ideology QAnon saw their hopes once again dashed Wednesday as President Trump left Washington on the final day of his presidency, without any of the climactic scenes of violence and salvation that the sprawling set of conspiracy theories had preached for years would come.

    As Trump boarded Air Force One for his last presidential flight to Florida, many QAnon adherents — some of whose fellow believers had earlier this month stormed the Capitol in a siege that left at least two QAnon devotees dead and others in jail — began to wonder whether they’d been duped all along.

    When one QAnon channel on the chat app Telegram posted a new theory that suggested Biden himself was “part of the plan,” a number of followers shifted into open rebellion: “This will never happen.” “Just stfu already!” “It’s over. It is sadly, sadly over.” “What a fraud!”


    Hilarious! Some asshole sold these idiots “Q” merchandise and MAGA hats.

    1. If the past 4 years have taught me anything, it’s that if the Washington Post attributes something to an unnamed Trump supporter, it’s totally a real person and representative of general sentiment.

      That’s why Trump lost so many votes from 2016, and Republicans got slaughtered in all of the down ballot races.

  8. All it took was a loyalty oath for the democrats.

    Hey reason remember when kamala Harris had the founder of backpage.com arrested on falsified chargers, good times good times

    1. She’s done much worse than that. She tried to murder a guy by suppressing the DNA evidence that sprung him from death row.


      1. That’s what showed the oligarchs that she’s a valuable team player.

    2. “Hey now. If anyone’s going to suck cock for money (and power), it’s gonna be me, and me alone. I don’t like competition.”

      Empress-In-Waiting, Kamala I
      All Hail the Empire!

      1. ENB approves this message

  9. “I’d rather us compete over whose crowd was the smallest, not the largest. Biden wins that trophy by a mile.”

    Oh, yes. It was a complete fucking ghost town, plus 25,000 troops, military fencing, and an unmistakable “fuck with us and we’ll kill you” vibe.

    1. Elect fascists, get fascism.
      Damn, what a shock.

    2. And from the picture, it looks like everyone was wearing black.

      1. The wanted Darth Vader to blend into the background, so as not to overshadow the new Emperor

    3. Size matters

  10. And so it continues, Reason writers gush over the superficialities while ignoring the sinister substance.

    1. Give it a day or two for the Biden Derangement Syndrome to start rolling at Reason. I can’t remember them ever, in fifty years, actually being on the side of any sitting president. And that’s a good thing.

      1. Not likely.

        Reason knows they have to get with the program, because if they do not then the technocrat cancel crusaders will come after them too.

        Nothing but fawning bullshit from now on, sprinkled with some feigned surprise each time something truly awful and authoritarian happens.

        Wait until they discover the comments section.

        1. What do you mean?

          Preet Bharara will make a swell moderator.

  11. “The cult of the imperial U.S. presidency has come to feel like a national religion.”

    The size of Biden’s inauguration had nothing to do with underplaying the cult of the imperial presidency and everything to do with fear of the American people rising up in another “insurrection” against him.

    1. And Covid(!)

      Got to keep the fear going. At least for the next hundred days, when New Caesar’s policies will have miraculously defeated it.

      1. WHO has already come out and suggested that a + PCR test is no longer good enough for a “case.” Now you need a confirmation test AND symptoms.

  12. “To be clear, I care a negative amount about the…”

    So, Bunion, is “To be clear” the new “to be sure?”

    And about that small crowd you think is so good, I suppose you just forgot to count the 25,000 Imperial troops on hand to protect the new Caesar?

    And did you get a load of all the bunting cleverly disguised as razor wire?

  13. He’s devoid of charisma. The only people who could possibly be bothered to show up for this would be apparatchiki and the press.


    1. And 25,000 Imperial troops, who are “just following orders.”

      1. Minus the white supremacist infiltrators.

        1. Yeah. All two of them.

          Or are you counting black white supremacists, too?

          1. If they are in uniform bearing the American flag, they are white supremacists. Brown shirts will be more to their liking, adorned prominently with patches on each arm depicting a strong black hand firmly clutching a surgically reconstructed penis ejaculating a thick, clumpy rainbow on Trump’s shit-grinning face.

  14. Weird editorial, honestly.

    I’m against the cult of the Presidency, and imperial Presidency, as much as anyone ; but that goes to people’s expectations of what a President is supposed to do and what role he’s supposed to have in government compared to the legislative branches. People who support Biden still expect the President to have an oversized role.

    On the other hand, one of the genuine roles of the Presidency, since the founding has been to be the “head of state” and represent the country. Pomp and circumstance has always been part of the Presidency since the beginning.

    1. You need a preface like “To be sure.” Or “To be clear.” I forget which one.

      You might want to check Reason’s Style Guide for the proper format if you’re really serious about becoming an Assistant Editor like Bunion.

    2. Pomp and circumstance = military occupation of Washington, D.C.

      1. Could be Bread & Circus time too

        1. The circus is the shoot outs in Kenosha and Illinois. Seriously, if I had described this year (leading up to and ending in the inauguration day) to my daughter 4 years ago when she first read Hunger Games, she would have accused me of ripping off the story.

    3. It really hasn’t, just like the state of the union was a letter to congress before wouldro wilson

      1. Things have been done differently, but even Washington’s inaugural address drew a large crowd in the street

  15. Well, Reason…. what now?
    “Tom Elliott
    @tomselliott 53m
    : Biden intel community “are moving in laser-like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about” the pro-Trump “insurgency” that harbors “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians”

    1. Elections have consequences, mother fuckers!

  16. …Small except for the thousands of soldiers making DC look closer to North Korea than the United States.

  17. The federal government should be reduced in size by 3/4 with functions taken over by each individual state.

    80% of all taxes currently collected should be by the local government and very little by the federal government.

    This allows us to vote with our feet, but if the federal government taxes us the most, then voting with our feet requires leaving the country.

    Considering that the federal government requires us to pay taxes even if we don’t live in the USA and earn our living outside the USA, you would need to renounce your citizenship.

    This is the system that the Democrats and Republicans built which is disgusting. Both duopoly parties need to be fractured into smaller parties to restore our freedom and personal liberties.

    1. Good luck with that

    2. All government has but one function, defending liberty. That precludes it from coercively collecting taxes.

  18. ” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer called the number of people at Trump’s farewell sendoff ‘pathetic,’ and Jim Acosta noted seriously that it was ‘the smallest…of [his] presidency,’ which we can presume was supposed to be the perfect full-circle ‘gotcha’ as the nation witnessed the end to Trump’s time in the Oval Office.”

    I hear CNN’s viewership numbers aren’t really anything to write home about, either.

    1. Thank god for airport contracts… oh, wait…

    2. CNN was saying they needed to shut down certain YouTube channels because those channels got more viewers than daytime CNN.

    3. Wolf Blitzer has just been chosen as a new character for “The Village People”. They defunded their cop.

  19. Catholicism-inspired prayer candles featuring pols in saintly postures

    I’m pretty sure those prayer candles were not inspired by Catholicism, they were inspired by Santeria and Voodoo. They reflect a sort of cargo cult mentality, that if you burn certain materials connected to a thing, whether that thing is love or health or money, that thing will appear. No understanding of cause and effect, shit just magically appears. You might notice those prayer candles exclusively feature Democratic loas, nkisi, and paket kongo, nobody is burning candles featuring Adam Smith or Horatio Alger.

    1. The parable of render unto Caesar is entirely lost on Boehm.

      Nope, nothing imperial about any of that.

  20. Nothing imperial about twenty five thousand troops guarding your inauguration.

    Or having to vet them for ideology first.

    Nope, nothing imperial about any of that.

    1. They weren’t vetted for ideology, they were vetted for skin color, as a proxy for ideology, even though that same proxy test would have kept Biden out of his own inauguration.

      1. … they were vetted for skin color, ….
        Totally not racist.

      2. “proxy – a figure that can be used to represent the value of something”

        So, ideology. Racist no less.

        1. No, they literally did FBI background checks and found a hundred or so with problematic online histories.

          I know this because NBC gave it breathless coverage for three days. It was totally proof that there is a domestic terror network.

  21. Well, see what happens when Mr. T keeps quiet? Everyone plays nice. It never ceases to amaze me how much control Mr. T has over his base. It’s mind boggling.

  22. There were about 20 people in BLM Square. 81 million votes my ass.

    1. So maybe Biden got a few hundred votes nationwide? Bullshit, he got 81 mil.

  23. Uh ….. Billy Boy, if Trump’s claim of a bigger inauguration crowd than Obama was contentious, then it was contentious because the Obama acolytes were arguing the reverse. You don’t get to blame just one side in the argument. Both were comparing dick sizes. The fact that Obama’s crowd was probably bigger is besides the point. If some a-hole at work or on the bus or in a bar claims his dick is bigger than yours, and you claim the opposite, both of you think the size is worth arguing about.

  24. The title and subtitle have nothing to do with each other.

  25. I thought there was not supposed to be an inaugural parade. But there was. It started in Guatemala.

  26. “A REPUBLIC madam, if you can keep it.” Benjamin Franklin….. We couldn’t keep it. Today the Constitutional Republic of America died, replaced by the mob rule democracy of Amerika.

  27. Nothing about Biden’s lackeys lumping libertarians in with “domestic terrorists?” Tucker Carlson has been calling out Reason and the other professional libertarians nightly on his show. “Where are the libertarians?!”

  28. See Sleepy Joe stole the election. No one wanted him. No one showed. I had huge crowds hundreds of thousands of people showed up for me. Sleepy Joe had none.


    1. Nobody gives a shit about Biden, it’s KAMALA that’s getting their panties wet. I really hope he makes it through the full 4 years and runs for re-election. That will be sure to cause some prog rage.

  29. No mature rational person ever treated the presidency like a cult. If your name is Clinton or Obama or Biden, you’ll get as much incoming from the left as you do the right, except it will probably have fewer misspellings and stink less of varmint.

    Glad that you’re finally speaking to your audience where they live, however.

    1. Making Every month more than $13,000 by doing very simple Online job from home.i m doing this job in my part time i have earned and received $13629 last month .I am now a good Online earner and earns enough cash for my needs. Every person can get this Online job pop over here this site… ONLINE WORK

  30. Article is FULL of mistakes ( corrections below )

    For the last decade and change; President-Elects have promised voters ‘entitlements’ (to buy the vote) that violates the U.S. Constitution (and Individual Liberty and Justice) beyond belief.

    Greedy mobs support to violate “The People’s” Supreme Law over their government has led to the president being a political figurehead and a monarchy king that ‘PLANS’ peoples lives for them including massive theft to pay for those *entitlements*.

    Predictably this obsession of GREED is decidedly unhealthy. The Founders intended the president to be the CEO (for clarity) of a Union of States created for National Defense Only.

    “The People” were very suspicious of a national government dictating peoples lives for them (an improper role of national level government), it is also, as Democrats proved to countless industries and individuals, a very risky betting proposition.

    How do we put the Federal Government back in its box? We can start by dialing back ever growing Revolutionary ‘PLANS’ to “Fundamentally Change the Nation” or making “New Deals” for the nation.

    Ironically; Spinning the ‘real’ story with partisan-bias and massive projection of one’s own blame won’t be the cure as demonstrated very well over the last decade.

  31. I dunno about “imperial”, but a buddy made an astute observation.
    As Biden moved along empty streets, he waved to nobody. The dutiful cameraman maintained a tight shot, so you saw the President waving magnanimously, not the bizarre scenario of the President waving to nobody.

    He said it was very reminiscent of North Korea. I would not have noticed, but now I cannot unsee the comparison.

    1. Sorry. I don’t mean to flag it. My thumb accidentally hit the button as I was holding my phone.

  32. Small and quiet?

    Lady GaGa, the Boss, fireworks, performers across the country, a military wreath laying, a poet, street dancers, wall to wall coverage produced rather than covered by the news?

    Small? Quiet?

    I mean, sure…. There were no crowds. And the guest list was reduced. Because of an excess of Covid and a dearth of charisma.

    But can a nation spanning event with performances across the country really be sold as the “anti imperial presidency” inauguration?

    Particularly when a major chunk of the breathless coverage was devoted to Biden’s slew of executive orders unilaterally changing government policy in really significant ways?

  33. I made 10k dollar a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Here’s what I’ve been doing Please visit this site… CLICK HERE

  34. I am impressed by both the inauguration and the earlier political conventions which were small, dispersed and yet effective. In many cases more effective than simple large gatherings. I suspect that this will continue past the pandemic.

    1. I think the plain vanilla low key approach is one thing that has worked well for Biden.

  35. 35 million for the Bush Inauguration.
    70 million for Obama’s in 08, God knows how much in 2012.
    During Covid, was it actually necessary to fly troops from every state to a central point, then send them back home? Is this a method of keeping Covid going?
    Why are we paying for this nonsense? If these Pukes want a party, why don’t they pay for it?

    1. They’re not from every state. Local Guard units.

  36. An inauguration should be small and quiet because people don’t need to care about it.

    This one was small and quiet because the Army has occupied the capital and locked it down.

    You really can’t get much more Imperial than that.

    1. I guess you could say that Biden’s inauguration was attended by 25,000 state-vetted Praetorian Guard.

      1. Also, ‘small and quiet’ ignores the celebrities and entertainers brought out.

        That can only be viewed by a select few of the country’s elite and those who serve them.

        Totally not Imperial though.

        1. And we’ll ignore the, what? 15 Executive orders signed the first day?

  37. Yep, just a small gathering of 25,000 or so troops keeping the proles from witnessing the elites’ business.

    To me, that’s as loud as any Kim display.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.