In the biggest speech of his political career, the former vice president decried “too much division” under incumbent Donald Trump, who soon responded on Twitter
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told supporters Thursday night that, after three and a half years of “too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” he plans to unite the country and move on from President Donald Trump .
“Here and now, I give you my word,” Biden, 77, said. “If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst.”
Biden’s acceptance speech for the nomination marked the close of the first all-virtual Democratic National Convention , which unprecedentedly took place without an audience this year due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The virus has killed at least 174,000 people and counting, according to a New York Times tracker at the time of Biden’s speech. The pandemic was ever-present while Biden spoke on an almost empty venue in Delaware, with supporters watching via live-stream and TV at home.
Biden’s speech began somber and hopeful, as he quoted civil rights icon Ella Baker’s message to “give people light and they will find the way,” before he disputed that the U.S. is a divided nation.
"We're so much bigger than that,” he said. “We're so much better than that."
Without directly naming Trump throughout, the former vice president implicitly compared their leadership as he touched on major U.S. events that have unfolded in recent months — from the pandemic to the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests against injustice that followed throughout the summer.
"Will we be the generation that finally wipes the stain of racism from our national character?” Biden asked, before turning again to a message of hope. “I believe we're up to it. I believe we're ready."
But while Biden pushed forth an optimistic and determined vision of the future of the country, he turned to a no-nonsense tone while criticizing Trump’s penchant to flatter autocratic leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un.
Biden called on voters to join him in a “battle for the soul of the nation.”
"The days of cozying up to dictators is over,” he said. “Under President Biden, America will not turn a blind eye to Russian bounties on American soldiers, nor will I put up with foreign interference on our most sacred American exercise: voting."
(Trump soon bit back on Twitter, writing , “In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!”)
Pre-taped remarks throughout the week showed Democratic support for Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris , from politicians, celebrities, casual voters, activists and more.
Thursday’s closing theme of “America’s Promise” saw Democratic leadership hone in on the diversity of the party, while messages of support aired from all 50 states and some U.S. territories throughout the week.
Following a roll-call vote from delegates on Tuesday, in which the party officially selected Biden, on Thursday he formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president and set the table for the final stretch of the campaign ahead of the November vote between him and Trump.
"This is a life-changing election,” Biden said. “This will determine what America is going to look like for a long, long time."
In closing images fit only for 2020, the DNC live-stream showed Biden and his wife, former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden , place protective masks on their face, walk hand-in-hand out of the virtually empty 18,000-seat Chase Center and wave to supporters honking their car horns from a drive-in viewing party outside.
Fireworks exploded overhead and the Bidens clapped as they watched, while the parking lot full of cars outside flashed their lights.
Biden — who has 50 years in politics, 48 of which have been at the national level — would become the oldest president to ever be elected if he wins in November.
His running mate, Harris, accepted her own nomination for vice president Wednesday night, making history as the first Black woman and first Asian American to be named to a major party’s presidential ticket.
“We're at an inflection point,” Harris said in her own speech , referencing Trump. “The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It's a lot. And here's the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more.”
Earlier in the day, Trump, 74, broke the campaign tradition of laying low during a rival party’s convention by hosting speeches of his own — including a campaign stop near Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
There the billionaire reality show host-turned-president attacked Bided, describing the country under Biden’s leadership in harrowing terms.
In Biden’s home of Wilmington, Delaware, however, the newly anointed Democratic nominee cast himself as a defender of a democracy enfeebled under the Trump administration. He pointed to his five decades of public service — including eight years as vice president and 36 years in the Senate — as evidence he can lead the country through crisis.
“Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation: He's failed to protect us. He's failed to protect America,” Biden said. “And my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”
In additional to the 174,000 deaths from the coronavirus in recent months, tens of millions of people across the country filed for unemployment benefits at the same time. April’s mark of nearly 40 million people seeking benefits — 14.7 percent of the country — was the steepest reported job loss in any month since the Great Depression, according to the Department of Labor.
President Barack Obama warned voters in his own emotional speech Wednesday that “our democracy” is at stake in the upcoming election — using perhaps his starkest language yet to underline a longstanding Democratic criticism of Trump’s behavior.
Biden thanked Obama for his two terms in office during his acceptance speech Thursday night and echoed the former president, alluding that much of the damage to the country’s public health and economy in recent months could have been avoided if someone other than Trump was president.
“Just judge this president on the facts,” Biden said.
Pushing back on a key Trump tactic of provocation, Biden said that “while I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I’ll be an American president.”
The DNC, building on that theme this week, had several major Republicans appear in support of Biden, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Bush-era Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain.
“That’s the job of a president,” Biden said Thursday night, “to represent all of us.”
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