Ronald Reagan called the peaceful transfer of power from one U.S. president to the next a miracle, and it is. It is also the most delicate and hazardous period in the entire political cycle. Americans learned the stakes in 2020, when President Donald Trump’s refusal to trigger the formal start of the transition process to President-Elect Joe Biden created perhaps the worst crisis for American democracy since the Civil War. Even at the best of times, an incoming administration faces a gargantuan task, as every new president must make more than four thousand political appointments in a short period of time.

Yet the day-to-day process of presidential transitions remains poorly understood, even by government specialists. This is why the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition created Transition Lab, a one-year podcast series that ran through January 2021. The Peaceful Transfer of Power now puts those distinct interviews with scholars, journalists, public servants, and—most important—participants in every transition from Ford–Carter to Trump–Biden into a narrative format that illuminates the long history, complexity, and current best practices associated with this most vital of democratic institutions.

Presidential transitions stand at a critical juncture here and abroad. Highly readable and deeply informative, this book offers every citizen invested in safeguarding our democracy accessible and concentrated insights that will help future transitions run better, faster, and more smoothly.

The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is building a better government and a stronger democracy.

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