Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, portraying the nation as being in a “season of darkness,” while offering his remedies to rebuild it.
Though his actual name was never spoken, attacks on “this president,” “the current president,” or “the current occupant of the office” were omnipresent throughout Biden’s 25-minute acceptance speech.
Almost from the beginning, Biden directly took aim at his rival in the upcoming election, saying “the current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.”
“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 of the darkness,” Biden said from the Chase Center in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, pledging that while he is a Democratic candidate, he will be an American president, and he will work as hard for those who don’t support him as he will for those who do.
Biden, 77, who is running for the White House for the third time in his political career that has lasted for almost a half century, highlighted “four historic crises” facing the United States: the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 5.5 million people and claimed over 170,000 lives in the country, the national economy that is reeling from the worst recession since the Great Depression, sweeping protests across the nation for racial justice following the death of African American man George Floyd by police brutality, and the rapidly worsening climate change.
“Now history has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced. Four historic crises. All at the same time. A perfect storm,” Biden said, stressing that the upcoming election “is more consequential,” as “America is at an inflection point, a time of real peril, but of extraordinary possibilities.”
Biden spent a big chunk of time during his speech detailing what he would do to tackle the coronavirus from day one as president, including making COVID-19 testing widely available with immediate results, giving schools necessary resources for them to safely reopen, stocking the country with adequate U.S.-made medical supplies and personal protective equipment, as well as requiring a national mandate on mask-wearing.
“The tragedy of where we are today is it didn’t have to be this bad,” Biden said, contrasting his country’s world-leading cases and deaths with the lower numbers in European and Asian countries. “And after all this time, the president still does not have a plan,” Biden said of Trump.
To sum up his response to the pandemic, Biden said he “will do what we should have done from the very beginning,” adding that “our current president has failed in his most basic duty to this nation. He failed to protect us. He failed to protect America. And, my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”
Turning to other issues, Biden promised an economic plan that will rebuild the nation, a healthcare system expanded on the basis of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act that Trump vowed to undo, and an education system that better trains students for jobs and makes tuition payments and debt no longer burdens for young people.
Biden also talked about bridging the income gap, turning the challenges posed by climate change into job-creating opportunities, reversing Trump’s tax cuts by taxing the wealthiest and the biggest corporations, and protecting seniors’ social security, which he said Trump had threatened to disrupt by cutting the tax that pays for almost half of it.
He then made an appeal to the young progressives — the most difficult group for him to win over — by saying he heard their voices against inequity and injustice that existed in economic, racial and environmental spheres. He vowed to “restore the promise of America to everyone.”
On racism, Biden seized upon Trump’s claim at the time of the march on Charlottesville, Virginia, by white supremacists in August 2017 that there “were very fine people, on both sides,” saying Trump’s assertions are “a wake-up call for us as a country,” and that the America led by him is ready “to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.”
The speech not only capped off the convention in its culmination, it was also the pinnacle of Biden’s long career of public service, a hard-fought journey marked by devastating personal tragedy: namely, the loss of his first wife and infant daughter to a car crash in his early Senate career, and then his son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer in 2015 when he was vice president.
“I understand it’s hard to have hope right now,” Biden said. “I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes. But I’ve learned two things: first, your loved one may have left this Earth, but they’ll never leave your heart. They’ll always be with you. You’ll always hear them. And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.”
Trump, who hours before Biden delivered his speech was in the former vice president’s birthplace slamming him at a campaign event, gave a real-time reaction to Biden’s words.
“In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks,” Trump tweeted. “He will never change, just words!”
Calling Biden “a puppet of the radical left movement” at the campaign event near Scranton, Pennsylvania, Trump claimed that trade policies adopted by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, killed manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, and that the Green New Deal — a proposal centering on clean energy that is championed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to counter climate change, but something Biden has actually never explicitly endorsed — will strip Pennsylvanians of their energy supply.
He also slammed Biden for hiking taxes on Americans, implementing stricter gun control rules that would “eviscerate the Second Amendment,” providing “free healthcare for illegal aliens,” and expanding “deadly sanctuary cities,” while touting his own policies, ranging from cutting taxes and building the U.S.-Mexico border wall to propping up workers in the traditional energy sector and emphasizing “law and order.”
The president’s highly political speech was part of his grander counterprogramming, which was not only scheduled to coincide with the Democratic National Convention running Monday through Thursday, but was also chosen to be rolled out in key swing states that, in addition to Pennsylvania, also include Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona.
Adding to the speeches delivered by the president himself in the battlefield states is the Trump campaign’s multi-million-dollar ad blitz occupying the homepages of YouTube and other major media outlets this week, aiming to smear the Biden campaign.