Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party nomination for the White House on Thursday (20 August), vowing to heal a United States battered by a deadly pandemic and divided by four years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division,” Biden said. “Here and now, I give you my word: if you entrust me with the presidency, I’ll draw on the best of us, not the worst.”
Biden’s speech – the capstone of nearly five decades in politics – was delivered inside a largely empty arena in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, at the conclusion of a Democratic convention held virtually because of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans.
Describing the current moment as one of the most difficult times the country has ever faced, Biden offered himself as a uniter who would work “just as hard” for those who do not support him – drawing a stark contrast with the Republican Trump, who has kept the focus on his base of voters.
“While I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I’ll be an American president,” said Biden, who faces Trump in the 3 November election. “This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment. It’s a moment that calls for hope, and light, and love.”
Democrats used the convention to highlight the broad coalition working to oust Trump, showcasing liberals and moderates, elder statesmen and rising stars – and even some high-profile Republicans, who urged their fellow conservatives to place patriotism above party.
While the party laid out plenty of areas in which Biden would pursue dramatically different policies than Trump, including immigration, climate change and gun safety, much of Thursday was devoted to themes such as faith and integrity.
The program also emphasized Biden’s personal experience with tragedy – his first wife’s and infant daughter’s deaths in a car accident, and the death of his son Beau from cancer – to underscore his ability to empathize with suffering Americans. Trump, whose instincts are more combative than comforting, has been accused of failing to offer solace at a time of crisis.
Biden spoke directly to those who had lost someone to the pandemic and offered a withering assessment of Trump’s response to the months-old health crisis.
“Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation: he’s failed to protect us,” Biden said.
Trump responded on Twitter, writing: “In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!”
Earlier on Thursday, several Democrats who challenged Biden for the nomination, including US Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, pressed the case for Biden, a former vice president.
Bloomberg said Trump had failed both as a businessman and as a president.
“I’m not asking you to vote against Donald Trump because he’s a bad guy. I’m urging you to vote against him because he’s done a bad job,” said Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
“And let me tell you a little secret. Donald Trump’s economic plan was to give a huge tax cut to guys like me, who didn’t need it. And then lie about it to everyone else,” he said.
As they have throughout the week, Democrats focused on the importance of voting amid the pandemic. Trump’s repeated, unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots are rife with fraud, coupled with cuts to the US Postal Service, have fueled fears that some voters may be disenfranchised.
“All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential. As many have said, America’s at an inflection point, a time of real peril, but also extraordinary possibilities,” Biden said.
“This is a life-changing election. This will determine what America is going to look like for a long, long time. Character’s on the ballot, compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy – they’re all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation, what we stand for most importantly, who we want to be – that’s all on the ballot,” Biden continued.
The program offered some light-hearted moments from its moderator, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who portrayed a US vice president in the comedy television show “Veep,” and took some digs at both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Biden, 77, heads into the general election campaign leading in opinion polls over Trump, 74, who will accept the Republican nomination for a second White House term at his own convention next week.
Trump has campaigned across the country to offer counter-programming to the Democrats, a break with tradition in which candidates limit their activities during their opponents’ conventions. His party’s convention is next week.