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The Presidential Transition Period

What happens in the months between the election and inauguration?

By Susan Rowe/News Reporter

For the President-elect, work begins far before they are sworn in, as preparing for the next four years fast and efficiently is an important task. This year marks the 45th transition from one president to another and over time precedents have turned into protocol to guide the President-elect through this daunting task. As the Center for Presidential Transition (CPT) puts it in Presidential Transition Guide,

“Preparing to take over the presidency of the United States of America is highly complex and extremely important. Done well, it will set up a new administration for success for the next four years; done poorly, and it will be difficult for a new administration to recover.” Luckily for the President-elect, the list of tasks is fairly concrete. Their responsibilities include staffing the White House, making thousands of presidential appointments, organizing federal agencies, building policy plans, and most importantly: communicating with both those in power and the American public. The Presidential Transition Guide explains other responsibilities of the President-elect,

“A good portion of the president-elect’s time between the election and the inauguration will be taken up by traditional events and formal functions. These include communications with foreign dignitaries, outreach to other branches of government, major political figures and personnel announcements.”

Time spent as presidents-elect

Courtesy of Boston Consulting Group.

Another important communicative event; a meeting between the President-elect and the defeated candidate. Finding common ground and working out policy has the potential to bridge some of the gaps between political parties. The CPT illustrates how these are important,

“By taking the time for such a meeting, the president-elect can demonstrate goodwill toward political adversaries and potentially generate more support for policies that will be pursued after the inauguration.”

Most of the time this is the only responsibility of the defeated candidate. In cases where they are also the outgoing President they have another job to do: support the President-elect during the transition. This entails creating an environment of mutual respect and cooperation to communicate current challenges and pressing issues to the incoming President. As the CPT elucidate in their Presidential Transition Guide,

“The incumbent has a responsibility not only to establish a tone of cooperation and transparency, but also to share information and knowledge about national security issues, develop an infrastructure for coordinating the transition within the White House and between the White House and agencies, provide assistance on presidential personnel issues, and plan and conduct training on emergency response with members of the incoming Cabinet.”

Checklist detailing common endeavors to which the presidents-elects tend.

Courtesy of Boston Consulting Group

The presidential transition period is tricky to navigate if approached in the wrong way, but the hope is that any elected official in this high position would know how to take the challenge head-on. As the CPT refers to it,

“Preparing to take over the Executive Office of the President and the enormous responsibility of running the federal government is the most important job a presidential candidate faces outside of winning the election.”

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