Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden entered the final leg of his presidential campaign Thursday by accepting the Democratic nomination at the party’s convention, imploring Americans to unite against a common enemy: Donald Trump.
After four days full of stark warnings about the future of democracy should Trump win a second term, Biden closed the convention by laying out a path forward, one he said will include people of all races, genders and orientations.
“It’s time for us, for we the people, to come together,” he said. “Make no mistake, united we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America.”
But while the fiery acceptance speech was full of positive visions of the country’s future should he be elected, Biden naturally took time to highlight Trump’s failures, particularly on handling the coronavirus pandemic — without ever mentioning his name.
“Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation: he’s failed to protect us,” Biden said. “My fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.
“Here and now I give you my word, if you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst,” he further declared. “I’ll be an ally of the light, not our darkness.”
The speech was the culmination of nearly 50 years in politics, after failed bids for the White House in 1988 and 2008. With the presidency now in sight and the nomination finally clinched, Biden promised to fight for working people, linking the threads of his campaign — infrastructure, taxes and the environment — to job creation. That, he said, further separates himself from Trump.
“He’ll wake up every day thinking the job is about him, not about you. Is that what you want?” he asked.
“While I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I’ll be an American president,” he said. “That’s the job of a president: to represent all of us, not just the base of our party.”
Throughout the convention this week, Biden has been portrayed as the stabilizing, compassionate leader America needs after four years of the Trump administration.
Speakers young and old — including Biden’s former running mate Barack Obama and his current one, Kamala Harris — have highlighted his work with Republicans on legislation during his time in the Senate and as vice-president while still pursuing Democratic agendas.
Many have attributed to him an ability to listen, along with the attention he has paid to civil rights, gun violence and climate change.
Several Democrats who challenged Biden for the nomination — U.S. senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker; former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — praised Biden’s empathy and leadership in a taped conversation.
Biden’s speech was introduced by his children and grandchildren in a pre-recorded video, including past recorded comments about his father from son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
That loss, as well as the death of his first wife Neilia in 1972, was featured prominently throughout Thursday night’s program as an example of how Biden drew strength from pain.
“I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes,” Biden said during his speech. He added: “I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.”
Also featured in the introductory video was Hunter Biden, who was at the centre of Republicans’ arguments supporting Trump against impeachment.
The younger Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice-president, which Republicans called a conflict of interest. Trump had asked Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation into the Bidens in exchange for military aid, the “quid pro quo” at the centre of Democrats’ impeachment charges.
Trump spent Thursday holding a campaign rally in Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pa., seeking to attack his opponent and his decades-long record — or as the speech was framed, a “half-century of Joe Biden failing America.”
“He abandoned Pennsylvania. He abandoned Scranton,” Trump told hundreds of supporters gathered outside a kitchen remodeling company in Old Forge on the outskirts of Scranton. Biden’s family moved to Delaware when he was 10 years old.
“But he spent the last half-century in Washington, selling out our country and ripping off our jobs and letting other countries steal our jobs. Mexico, China, all of them,” the president added.
Trump also continued his claim that Biden will be “a puppet of the radical left movement that seeks to destroy the American way of life” if elected in November.
Trump will accept the Republican nomination to seek re-election at the party’s own convention, which kicks off on Monday.
— With files from Reuters