Less than three weeks into the new year, it is still a hectic time in the US. Political tensions continue to rise as President Joe Biden transitions into leadership in a divided nation facing recession and experiencing the effects of a global pandemic.
As COVID-19 cases rise and an insurrection threatens democracy, students and faculty at Seattle University are keeping up with current events and sharing their opinions following the recent attacks at the Capitol and what the nation will become as the new presidency unveils.
Following weeks of former President Donald Trump disputing election results and claiming unproven election fraud, a rally was held to encourage Republicans in Congress to overturn the election results. Following a speech made by President Trump, a group of rioters broke off from the rally and marched their way up the stairs of the Capitol building. Riotters pushed past the capitol police and occupied the Capitol for the better part of an afternoon, vandalizing offices and stealing historical artifacts.
Many prominent Republicans condemned the attack, including Rep. Josh Hawley of Missouri––the first Republican who originally said he would object to the vote count. To Patrick Schoettmer, a political science professor at Seattle U, this marks a major turning point in the political history of America.
“I think that a lot of the future of this country depends on the GOP’s reaction to this. Whether the establishment wing of the party decides to close ranks and say that this incident at the capitol is not what they stand for,” Schoettmer said. “Or we might see the GOP fall apart as people consolidate around the Populist Nationalist wing that Donald Trump has brought to the forefront.”
Third-year political science and strategic communication major Graham Wielgos also shared his thoughts on politics and the Capitol insurrection, emphasizing the privilege at play.
“I think that it was disappointing and I don’t think I would have expected that people could just get into the Capitol and start breaking things easily,” Wielgos said. “But at the same time, I think that it’s really indicative of the privilege that we see with white people and with Republicans too.”
In response to the events at Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers drafted new articles of impeachment against the president, citing the incitement of the riot that led to the storming of the Capitol. Even as the Biden presidency starts, the impeachment of Donald Trump is still in play.
Virginia Jacobs, a fourth-year psychology major, also shared her thoughts on the inauguration of the president and vice president
“I’m not anticipating a very smooth transition, even though Trump conceded, I am still nervous, especially after the attack on the Capitol,” Jacobs said. “It made me feel much more nervous about this coming week. I think white nationalist Trump supporters will go protest the Inauguration Day, so I am not feeling very optimistic.”
Although Jacobs is concerned about the transition, she is excited for the Biden-Harris Administration to make swift changes.
“I am looking forward to getting back into the Paris Climate Accord,” Jacobs said. “And I am hopeful that I will not have to be so concerned on a daily basis on the uncertainty that happened with the current president.”
With record unemployment rates across the country and nearly 400,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration has a lot to get underwraps in his first 100 days in office, Schoettmer said.
“We don’t know what this year will hold for this administration…the challenges that Biden will face will shape his presidency, and if there is anything the beginning of 2021 has shown us, it’s that it can always get worse,” Schoettmer said. “But America can always get better as well. Biden will have a lot of work to do to get things back on track, but I think that hard times and crises are when we make decisions to start to turn things around.”
Wielgos expressed his disappointment with the Trump administration, but is hopeful that the Biden presidency will be a promising turning point for American history.
“We’re so far away from the place where I think we should be, where there is equity and where peoples’ rights aren’t attacked on a daily basis,” Wielgos said. “But I think that Biden Harris presents an opportunity to move pretty fast in the right direction.”
As the new year starts, all eyes remain on the Biden Administration as it rolls out plans in an effort to unite a divided country. The Seattle U community remains a space where conversation surrounding current events occurs as history unfolds with the Inauguration Day of the next president of the United States.