Biden focuses on uniting party and nation as he accepts Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden vowed to unite an America torn by crisis and contempt Thursday night, accepting the Democratic presidential nomination and achieving a pinnacle in an unfinished quest that has spanned three decades and been marred by personal tragedy, political stumbles and more dynamic rivals.

The past hurdles fell away as Biden addressed his fellow Democrats and millions of Americans at home whom he hopes will send him to the White House to replace Donald Trump — though his triumphant moment was drained of immediate drama by the coronavirus pandemic, which left him speaking to a nearly empty arena rather than a to a joyously cheering crowd.

The pandemic has shaken the nation and fundamentally altered the campaign. But Biden pointed to the public health emergency and the severe economic fallout to turn traits previously seen as vulnerabilities, notably a long career spent in elected office, into an advantage by presenting himself as a competent leader in a moment that Democrats say cries out for one in the White House.

The former vice-president, who at 77 years old would be the oldest president ever elected, was feted by family and former foes as he became the Democratic Party’s official standard bearer in the campaign to defeat Trump in November.

A day after California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman of colour to accept a major party’s vice-presidential nomination, Biden is expected to focus on uniting the deeply divided nation as Americans grapple with the long and fearful health crisis, the related economic devastation. “We must give this country, our country, a chance. And recovery is only possible with a change of leadership and new ideas.”

Biden and his family wanted to make sure that his late son, Beau, was included in the night. Beau was attorney general of Delaware and was close friends with Harris. 

Beau died in 2015 of brain cancer. Biden often speaks of his son on the campaign trail as one of his heroes, and in the video he was described as an “inspiration” to his father even now.

WATCH | A tribute to Beau Biden:

Organizers wanted to make sure that Joe Biden’s late son, Beau, was part of the night when his father accepted his party’s nomination. 2:09

There was also a personal moment with a young boy Biden met and bonded with on the campaign trail over their joint struggles with stuttering.

Brayden Harrington met Biden at an event in New Hampshire and asked for help overcoming his stutter. Biden struggled with a stutter as a boy and continues to counsel youngsters who are going through the same.

“Joe Biden made me feel confident about something that’s been bothering me my whole life,” Brayden said.

“Without Joe Biden, I wouldn’t be talking to you today.”

Rivals come together

Cory Booker, only the ninth African American senator in U.S. history, said Biden believes in the dignity of all working Americans.

Pete Buttigieg, who was trying to become the country’s first openly gay president also spok before the whole group of also-rans, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, got together for a Zoom-style meeting talking about working with Biden.

WATCH | ‘The people who got voted off the island’:

Many of Biden’s former rivals on the road to become the presidential nominee gathered on a Zoom-style call to talk about their experience working with Biden and why he is the right candidate for president. 5:05

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms invoked the legacy of civil rights icon John Lewis as she encouraged people to vote. 

Before he died of cancer in July, Lewis published an essay encouraging people to exercise that right.

“Congressman Lewis would not be silenced, and neither can we,” Bottoms said. “We cannot wait for some other time, some other place, some other heroes.”

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who sought the Democratic presidential nomination against Biden, will be among the speakers at the party’s convention on Thursday night. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Voting was a prime focus of the convention on Thursday as it has been all week. Democrats fear that the pandemic — and the Trump administration — may make it difficult for voters to cast ballots in person or by mail.

Comedian Sarah Cooper, a favourite of many Democrats for her videos lip synching Trump’s speeches, put it bluntly: “Donald Trump doesn’t want any of us to vote because he knows he can’t win fair and square.”

WATCH | Sarah Cooper as Trump… and as herself:

Sarah Cooper, best known for her Tik Tok videos lip synching to Trump speeches, made a pitch for mail-in voting, speaking in her own voice, too. 1:18

Biden’s Democratic Party has sought this week to put forward a cohesive vision of values and policy priorities, highlighting efforts to combat climate change, tighten gun laws and embrace a humane immigration policy. It has drawn a sharp contrast with Trump’s policies and personality, portraying him as cruel, self-centred and woefully unprepared to manage virtually any of the mounting crises and policy challenges facing the U.S.

It’s unclear if tearing down Trump will be enough to propel Biden to victory in November.

Just 75 days before the election, the former vice-president must energize the disparate factions that make up the modern Democratic Party — a coalition that spans generation, race and ideology. And this fall, voters must deal with concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created health risks for those who want to vote in person, and postal slowdowns for mail-in ballots, which Democrats blame on Trump.

The pandemic has also forced Biden’s team to abandon the typical pageantry and rely instead on a highly produced, all-virtual affair that has failed to draw the same television ratings as past conventions.

The silence was noticeable on Wednesday night, for example, as Harris took the stage to make history in a cavernous hall inside the Chase Center in downtown Wilmington, Del. She was flanked by American flags but no family, and her audience consisted of a few dozen reporters and photographers.

Harris, a 55-year-old California senator and the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, addressed race and equality in a personal way Biden cannot when he formally accepts his party’s presidential nomination.

“There is no vaccine for racism. We have got to do the work,” Harris declared.

Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator from California, accepts the Democratic vice-presidential nomination during an acceptance speech in Wilmington, Del., delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“We’ve got to do the work to fulfil the promise of equal justice under law,” she said. “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

Obama, another barrier breaker, called Biden his brother before pleading with voters to cast ballots, to “embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure. Because that’s what is at stake right now. Our democracy.”


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