Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president Thursday night, culminating a political career that spanned 36 years in the Senate, eight years as vice president and two previous attempts at the nation’s highest office.
“It’s with great honor and humility that I accept this nomination for president of the United States,” Biden said from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. “This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot.”
Biden campaigned as an empathetic leader with the experience to guide the country through the four crises of the worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, the most serious racial reckoning since the 1960s and the threat of climate change. He contrasted his abilities with what he called four years of chaos under President Donald Trump.
“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Biden said. “If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness. It’s time for us – for we the people – to come together.”
Biden blasted Trump for failing to curb the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 170,000 Americans and infected 5 million.
“Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation,” Biden said. “My fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”
Biden, who previously ran for president in 1988 and 2008, also embodied the ability to get back on his feet after the deaths of his first wife and infant daughter in a car crash, and the death of his adult son from a brain tumor.
If elected, Biden will be older when he is inaugurated at 78 than the previous oldest president, Ronald Reagan, was when he left office. But Biden unified more progressive rivals behind the campaign and generated enthusiasm by choosing Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the first Black woman and first Asian person nominated to a major-party ticket.
“She’s overcome every obstacle she’s ever faced,” Biden said.
After the speech, Joe and Jill Biden donned masks, held hands, and walked with Harris and Doug Emhoff through two rows of state flags. They exited the Chase Center where supporters honked the horns and blinked the lights on cars socially distanced throughout the parking lot.
Fireworks llit up the sky as the Democratic ticket stood on a stage and waved against the backdrop of a giant American flag.
Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, tweeted that it was “easily the best and most affecting speech Biden has ever delivered.”
Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, tweeted that Biden’s speech had a focus and intensity, magnified by the lack of an audience, that made it shorter and stronger than it would have been in a traditional format.
Kerry lauds Biden’s ‘moral compass’
Biden headed the Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees at various times while serving in the Senate. He said another four years under Trump would lead to the same problems as the first four.
“The president takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fans the flames of hate and division,” Biden said. “Is that the America you want for you, your family or your children?”
John Kerry, who served in the Senate with Biden and as secretary of state in the Obama administration, said the nominee’s “moral compass always pointed in the right direction” to break the back of apartheid in South Africa or alert the world to genocide in the Balkans.
The Obama administration negotiated a deal to hinder Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, built a 68-nation coalition to destroy the Islamic State and joined a 195-nation agreement called the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
Trump withdrew from the Iran deal and the Paris Agreement, which he slammed as diplomatic mistakes that gained nothing for the U.S. He withdrew troops from Syria as the threat from the Islamic State subsided.
“In fact, what Donald Trump inherited, which was this growing economy and a world of respect, he has turned into a world of chaos literally,” Kerry told reporters Tuesday before his speech. “Our nation and the world, with respect to all of these critical priorities, is at much greater risk as a result of this.”
Biden sought justice in Senate
Biden said this generation should be the one to tackle the stain of racism. He said one of the most important conversations he had this entire campaign was with someone who is too young to vote, 6-year-old Gianna Floyd, the daughter of George Floyd, whose death in police custody sparked nationwide protests.
“When I leaned down to speak with her, she looked into my eyes and said, ‘Daddy, changed the world,’” Biden said. “Her words burrowed deep into my heart. Maybe George Floyd’s murder was the breaking point.”
Biden promoted his ability to work across the aisle with Republicans to achieve common goals. His leadership of the Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991 left some women and progressives uneasy with Biden’s cooperation.
But one of Biden’s greatest legislative achievements was the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. A trio of advocates offered emotional testimony at the convention about Biden’s contribution to fighting sexual assault on college campuses and on against domestic abuse.
“I didn’t even know the name for what was happening to me then: domestic violence,” said Ruth Glenn, president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She said the legislation needs to be revamped and that we “need leaders who believe a woman’s life is worth fighting for.”
Trump has criticized Biden’s crime legislation for creating a surge of stiffer penalties and longer prison terms, which the president overhauled in criminal justice legislation approved this year. Trump has also called himself the law-and-order president supporting police amid nationwide protests for racial justice that sometimes turn violent.
“We will bring back law and order to your community,” Trump said at Minneapolis airport on Monday, a city where the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25 sparked the protests.
Biden wins over rivals
Former rivals in the contentious Democratic primaries joined and supported Biden during the convention. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had negotiated a 110-page platform of shared positions dealing with issues such as criminal justice and climate change.
“The way I see it: big problems demand big solutions,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “I love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans—plans to bring back union jobs in manufacturing and create new union jobs in clean energy. Plans to increase Social Security benefits, cancel billions in student loan debt, and make our bankruptcy laws work for families instead of the creditors who cheat them.”
Biden pointed his finger at the camera when he called Social Security a sacred promise.
“If I’m your president, we’re going to protect Social Security and Medicare, you have my word,” he said.
Trump has argued that the economy was the best in the country’s history with among the lowest unemployment during his first three years in office, and that it will come roaring back once the pandemic is under control.
“Don’t forget, until the China virus came in, we had the greatest economy in the history of the world,” Trump said Wednesday at the White House. “And now we’re doing it again. I’m going to have to do it a second time.”