Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called out anger and division in the nation as he accepted his party’s nomination tonight – vowing to unite the country and represent even those who do not support him – not just his political ‘base.’
‘Too much anger, too much fear, too much division,’ Biden said early in his remarks, which he framed around an epic battle of light versus darkness.
He said President Trump had ‘cloaked America in darkness,’ and blasted Trump’s handling of the coronavirus – ticking off the number of dead and faulting Trump for allowing the deadly virus to proliferate – but said the nation would overcome what he called ‘this season of darkness in America.’
‘Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to this nation,’ Biden said. ‘He failed to protect us. He failed to protect America. And, my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.’
Speaking in the Chase Center in Wilmington a night after running mate Sen. Kamala Harris introduced herself to the nation after a history-making nomination, Biden intoned: ‘I give you my word. If you entrust me with the presidency, I’ll draw on the best of us, not the worst.’
He laced his speech in way Ronald Reagan did at the Republican Convention in 1980 – with a combination of an attack on the incumbent president while offering a hopeful future for the country.
But Biden did not mention his rival by name.
‘It’s time for us – for we the people – to come together,’ said Biden, calling November’s contest a ‘life-changing election.
He quoted civil rights organizer Ella Baker, who said ‘Give light and people will find a way,’ a remark that framed his speech.
‘Give people light and they will find the way. These are words for our time,’ Biden said. ‘The current president has cloaked American in darkness for far too long,’ he said, in one of many denunciations of Trump.
He pointed to the coronavirus pandemic, economic troubles, calls for social justice, and climate change as the four key issues, calling it ‘one of the most difficult moments’ the nation has faced. And he promised if elected: ‘I will draw on the best of us, not the worst.’ He said the moment called for ‘hope and light and love.’
But he repeatedly spoke in grave tones about the struggles engulfing the country.
‘Just judge this president on the fact. Five million Americans affected by COVID-19,’ he said. ‘More than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on earth. More than 50 million people have filed for unemployment this year.’
‘Just look around,’ Biden said. ‘It’s not this bad in Canada, or Europe, or Japan, or almost anywhere else in the world. And the president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear.
‘And after all this time, the president still does not a plan. Well I do,’ Biden said.
‘This president, if he’s reelected, you know what will happen. Cases and deaths will remain far too high,’ Biden said. ‘More mom and pop businesses will close their doors and this time for good. Working families will struggle to get by. And yet the wealthiest 1 per cent will get tens of billions of dollars in new tax breaks. And the assault on the Affordable Care Act will continue until it’s destroyed.’
Biden said Trump had failed in his most sacred duty.
‘He’s failed to protect us,’ Biden said.
‘I will defend us from every attack, seen and unseen – always,’ he vowed.
He called on America ‘to be a light to the world once again.’
Biden twice name-checked Barack Obama, calling him ‘a president our children could and did look up to. No one’s going to say that about the current occupant of the White House,’ he tagged on.’
‘Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy – they’re all on the ballot,’ Biden said.
‘The president takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fans the flames of hate and division,’ Biden said.
He referenced the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, saying he would work for communities who have known ‘the injustice of a knee on the neck.’
Biden, who even while fending off left-wing challengers in the Democratic primaries vowed to work with Republicans, made repeated calls for unity.
‘This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment,’ he said.
He pointed to ‘hope for our future, light to see our way forward, and love for one and other.’
The former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee kept in check his inclination to dwell on foreign policy. But he asserted: ‘I will be a president who will stand with our allies and friends. I will make it clear to our adversaries the days of cozying up to dictators are over.’
And he called out the issue that has provoked deep national divisions: Russia’s interference in U.S. elections.
‘Under President Biden, America will not turn a blind eye to Russian bounties on the heads of American soldiers. Nor will I put up with foreign interference in our most sacred democratic exercise – voting,’ Biden warned.
He hailed running mate Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a former prosecutor he credited with calling out the administration’s ‘extremism, its failure to follow the law, its failure to simply tell the truth.’
He sprinkled remarks with calls for economic justice, holding up ‘fairness over privilege’ and calling to back workers over a ‘privileged few,’ as well as ‘rising inequity and ‘shrinking opportunity.’
WATCH: Joe Biden Accept Democratic Nomination For President
As is a tradition in convention speeches, Biden gushed about his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who would go from former second lady to become first lady should he win. ‘She loves this country so much,’ said Biden.
He pointed to family, who have been a source of strength for Biden throughout his life, but also in the case of son Hunter a political headache and vulnerability amid scorching attacks by Trump.
He acknowledged ‘Hunter, Ashley, all our grandchildren,’ on a night when Hunter Biden appeared in a convention video. Biden has seven grandchildren – Beau’s two daughters, and Hunters three children from his first marriage – all of whom appeared in a video before their grandfather spoke – his toddler daughter love child with a former stripper, and his baby daughter with his second wife.
‘While he’s no longer with us, Beau inspires me every day,’ Biden said, pointing to his late son.
Biden, who prevailed over a diverse field and took hits from Haris in the primary over school bussing issues, also spoke about confronting racism as a ‘call to action.’
He spoke of the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, an event – along with Trump’s statements about good people on ‘both sides’ – that served as a foundation of Biden’s campaign launch, as a turning point.
‘At that moment I knew I’d have to run,’ he said.
He said the murder of George Floyd, who died at the hands of police in Seattle, might be a ‘breaking point’ on the road to rooting out ‘systemic racism.’
Biden ended with an impassioned plea to overcome ‘hate’ and darkness, after quoting Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
‘This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme,’ said Biden, raising his voice.
‘With passion and purpose. Let us begin, you and I together. One nation, under God. United in our love for America. United in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate,’ he intoned.
‘Hope is more powerful than fear and light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission.’
‘History will be able to say that the end of this chapter in American darkness began here, tonight,’ Biden said.
When Biden finished his speech with a flourish about dark and light, Jill Biden came from backstage and hugged him. Convention viewers, kept away for social distancing, applauded on large screens off to the side.
Kamala Harris and her husband Douglass Emhoff then came out.
It was an effort by party organizers to provide a hint of the celebration that accompanies a traditional convention speech.
Then, the nominee and his wife walked outside the venue, where supporters were gathered in distanced cars, Drive-In style. They flashed lights and honked horns, while the longtime politician stood in front of a large American flag.
Then, it was a fireworks show for supporters, standing in for the balloon drops that have filled arenas in conventions of the past.