Center for Political Future hosts zoom event discussing the future ahead for the Biden Administration

A green grass lawn is shown in front of two red brick buildings, including the Social Sciences Building which has a metal globe on top of a tower.
Instead of the usual events held on campus, the Center for Political Future hosted a Zoom discussion Thursday evening to discuss President Joe Biden’s Inauguration and years ahead. (Charles McCollum/Daily Trojan)

Thirty hours following President Joe Biden’s oath of office, the Center for Political Future welcomed USC students, faculty and staff for a conversation about the 59th Presidential Inauguration and a look at the months and years ahead for the Biden administration and the country. 

For the event, CPF welcomed its Spring 2021 Fellows — former Rep. Barbra Comstock, Crooked Media’s Shaniqua McClendon, and veteran journalist Todd S. Purdum — as panelists Thursday evening for a conversation with over 120 members of the Trojan community.

Moderated by veteran political strategists and CPF Director Bob Shrum and Co-Director Mike Murphy, panelists discussed pertinent topics including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the impending impeachment trial.

The moderators first opened the discussion by embracing the civility of yesterday’s inauguration, harboring on the hope it provided for the political future of the United States.

“Yesterday, during the inauguration, just to see the contrast of what happened exactly two weeks ago was symbolic of where our country is going,” McClendon said. “We had just left this really dangerous, chaotic time, hopefully behind us. I think we’re still gonna see some remnants of it, but we really got to turn the page and see a new type of leadership that would never provoke that type of behavior against our government.”

The insurrection at the Capitol proved a prominent topic for discussion, as panelists reflected on the sanctity of both the House and Senate floor, the violations made to the space Jan. 6th, and the uneasiness panelists shared in the moments leading up to the insurrection.

“On January 6, I realized just how much we had been dealing with, and that there was still more to come,” McClendon said. On that day I remember waking up — Jon Ossoff, and Raphael Warnock had just won their races in Georgia — and I thought that day would be a really exciting day and there might be some shenanigans on the hill with trying to overturn the election but what ultimately happened was a mob of people tried to unsuccessfully overthrow government. It just brought me back into the reality of what we had been living through for the past four years.

McClendon and Comstock both noted their own experiences as congressional staffers and shared the rarity of a staffer appearing on the floor. Comstock also expressed disdain for the gross violation former President Donald Trump committed to the presidential office by encouraging “monsters” to disrupt and wreak havoc on the joint Congressional session. 

While Biden once again denounced the acts of the insurrectionists and the violence that took place during the previous administration in his inaugural address, he will, however, have no choice in picking right up where the Trump Administration left off on tackling the ongoing pandemic.

Comstock also shared her hope for centrist support on coronavirus relief legislation with audience members. Naming Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins as people Biden can “turn to to govern.” In contrast, Purdum refuted the idealistic centrist support, noting that Biden has “his work cut out for him.”

“I think that’s really the challenge, strike at [coronavirus] first, and then they will have to deal with Impeachment,” Purdum said.

Impeachment remained at the forefront of the panelists’ minds throughout the event, with Comstock commenting, “If this isn’t impeachable, what is?” McClendon added, “The first step is holding Donald Trump accountable.” Panelists also discussed the potential pushed date of the former president’s impeachment to early February following a recent report from The New York Times

Aside from the insurrection, impeachment and the coronavirus, CPF panelists took time to celebrate yesterday’s events: Biden became the 46th President of the United States, Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman, person of African American descent and person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency, as well as the performance of the youngest ever inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman.

“[The inauguration] was such a contrast to what we had seen the weeks prior, that it said a lot about American resiliency,” said Kamy Akhavan, executive director of CPF. “One of the points tonight that was made, Barbra Comstock made the point, she says, ‘So many people talk about the fragility of democracy,’ and that demonstration of contrasts, to her, reflected American resilience and strength.”

With about 40 events lined up for the spring semester, CPF looks to use future events as a way to reflect on what is of importance to the USC community and the world, according to Akhavan.

“We want USC students to feel national politics from the front row,” Akhavan said. “So we bring the national stage to everyone’s living rooms, because we can and we should. We want people to have a strong interest in politics; we want them to feel like politics is for them and we want them to feel like politics is of such an interest that maybe they want to get involved in it it, that maybe they want to work for a political office or work for a government agency or work in advocacy somehow. We want to inspire them and train them and the programs, like the one we held tonight, are a really important part of that.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Shaniqua McClendon’s last name as McLendon. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.