A history lesson on presidents who snub their successors' inaugurations

Presidents John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson and John Adams.

Thomas Balcerski teaches history at Eastern Connecticut State University. He is the author of "Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King" (Oxford University Press). He tweets @tbalcerski. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.

(CNN)The presidential election of 2020 is already one for the history books. After a long campaign set against a global pandemic, it appears former Vice President Joe Biden has defeated incumbent President Donald Trump by a wide margin in the popular vote and a decisive count in the Electoral College.

Nevertheless, Trump has so far refused to concede the election, calling into question whether there will be a smooth transition of power from one president to the next. According to the Twentieth Amendment of the US Constitution, the term of an outgoing president expires at noon on January 20. But Trump has not yet indicated if he would attend his successor's inauguration.
Thomas Balcerski
History provides some indication of what Inauguration Day 2021 may look like. In the past, three outgoing presidents -- John Adams in 1801, John Quincy Adams in 1829 and Andrew Johnson in 1869 -- refused to attend their successors' inaugurations. Poor form even then, they all the same provide an apt example for what may follow in today's divided political climate.
    In highly polarized times, in which the results of an election are called into question, an outgoing president's refusal to attend the new president's inauguration has yielded surprisingly beneficial results for the country. In all three instances, the incoming president went on to run highly popular administrations and win two terms in office.
    All this may bode well for Biden's political future.
    Here's a look back on the three outgoing presidents who boycotted their successor's inauguration:

    John Adams (1801)

    President John Adams
    The election of 1800 was one of the most bitter in the nation's history. Incumbent John Adams sought a second term, but he faced a powerful challenge from his own Vice President, Thomas Jefferson. Worse still for Adams, popular opinion had turned against his championing of the highly divisive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 that restricted the activities of foreign nationals and limited the freedom of speech and the press.
    The voting process itself was equally fraught. Before the passage of the Twelfth Amendment in 1803, which regularized the selection process, electors voted not for a single ticket but instead twice for individuals, with the presidency and vice presidency decided by those receiving the highest and second-highest votes.
    The result in 1800? A tie between Jefferson and running mate Aaron Burr, which meant that the election decision next moved to the House of Representatives. In the interim, relations between Adams and Jefferson remained cordial enough. Jefferson dined amicably with John and Abigail Adams at the White House that January.
    Would a reconciliation prove possible? "Sir, the event of the election is within your own power," Jefferson beseeched Adams in early February. But Adams refused to interfere in the House vote. After more than 30 ballots, the House of Representatives finally decided the race for Jefferson.
    Adams chose not to attend his successor's inauguration, departing the nation's capital at 4 a.m. on March 4, 1801. By avoiding Jefferson's inauguration, Adams was perhaps motivated by a desire to cool the political temperature in the capital.
    The resulting peaceful transfer of power from Adams to Jefferson was ironically dubbed the "Revolution of 1800." After delivering a conciliatory inaugural address, Jefferson began the now venerable tradition of marching from the Capitol to the W