Presidential historian: 'We’ve rarely seen America so fractured'

Historian Mark Updegrove speaks about the importance of seeing outgoing and incoming presidents together on Inauguration Day and the challenge of uniting the country.
4:12 | 01/21/21

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Transcript for Presidential historian: 'We’ve rarely seen America so fractured'
More than 150 years the outgoing and incoming US presidents have stood together at every single inauguration 1897. President Grover Cleveland with president elect William McKinley successive president shoulder to shoulder with waves handshakes and polite conversation. Is iconic moments through the years symbol of American democracy and our peaceful and orderly transfer of power. With president Barack Obama passing the baton to Donald Trump after a bitter election season. But today in Tony Tony won this split screen president elect Joseph Biden atop the capitol steps before his swearing in and president trump across town. Heading out of it. We now bring in presidential historian mark up to grow thanks so much for joining us and we appreciated your your nuggets an insight all day. So we of course just watched images of more than a century of outgoing presidents at the inaugurations of their successors. Significance of this tradition and does it make a difference that former president trump broke with it. I think he does Lindsay because it shows. Then he came into the presidency and angry insurgent defying. Democratic norms and he goes out in the same manner it but he shows didn't nation and the world. Manifestly. The peaceful transfer of power that is a hallmark. Of American democracy thankfully the former president stepped in to fill the void including of course notably. Republican. George W. Bush who voiced his support. For president barn Biden earlier today. But I think it's unfortunately. Reflective. Of the character. Donald Trump and that character as did the Greeks used to say character is destiny. And unfortunately the character of Donald Trump are is destined to make him a president it will not be looked upon favorably in history. President Biden certainly spoke a lot about unity promising to fight just as hard for the 74 million Americans who voted against him as for those who supported him. We've heard language like this before but practically speaking how challenging is it for president. To really bring Americans together especially in this particular moment. I think it's very difficult we rarely seen America as fractured. As it is in this moment and then Joseph Biden knows that as you mentioned earlier when he used the word unity 08 times during the course of his speech. It's one thing to say it's another thing to make it happen but I think he's sounding all the right notes including. His many calls for unity during the course of today importantly though he has made this inauguration not about Joseph Biden. But about America and I think that in the days to come that unity will be seen in what he does for the American people can he deliver. On his promise to do everything he can all Americans whether they voted for him or. Professor Leslie what stood out to you about today's inauguration. What stood out to be I think was how humble. Joseph Biden was. I think we saw. In very plain speaking Joseph Biden it we've you and I were on ABC earlier today when James Cliburn. Was asked to get his advice to Joseph Biden James Cliburn who more than anyone. Is responsible effort Joseph Barton a sending to the present giving support that he gave him in South Carolina. But what he said was be yourselves. And what we saw from Joseph Biden today was Joseph Biden the authentic Joseph Biden. When Gerald Ford addressed the nation in the wake of the resignation. A Richard Nixon becoming the 38 president. Call it a little straight talk amongst friends and that's exactly the tone that Joseph Biden took Tuesday. He left the poetry to a man hit Gorman. But gave us a little straight talk amongst friends and that was authentic Joseph Biden I think we've seen the president we will secret annex where younger. Historian mark up to crow we thank you so much as always. Fleas and.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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