Following an emotional introduction from his children, former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage at the fourth and last night of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday to accept the Democratic nomination for president, striking a hopeful tone even as he zeroed in on President Trump ahead of November’s election.
Without ever mentioning Trump by name, Biden asserted that America’s current leader has “failed in his most basic duty to the nation.”
Promising instead to be “an ally of the light, not the darkness,” Biden vowed that the first thing he would do, once in office, is to “get control of the virus that ruined so many lives.”
“The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear,” he said. “He keeps waiting for a miracle. I have news for him. No miracle is coming.”
The Democratic nominee said he would deploy a national strategy he has been laying out since March, to develop and deploy rapid tests, and make medical supplies and protective equipment in the U.S. so that we “will never again be at the mercy of China and other foreign countries in order to protect our own people.”
Biden continually returned to the theme of light, telling viewers that “United, we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.”
“We can choose the path of becoming angrier, less hopeful, and more divided,” he said. “A path of shadow and suspicion. Or we can choose a different path, and together, take this chance to heal, to be reborn, to unite. A path of hope and light. This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time.”
“Character is on the ballot,” he continued. “Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy. They are all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation. What we stand for. And, most importantly, who we want to be. That’s all on the ballot. And the choice could not be clearer.”
Biden emphasized his goals to help the working and middle classes, espousing improvements to the healthcare, education and labor systems, and promising to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s long past time the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations in this country paid their fair share,” said Biden. “And for our seniors, Social Security is a sacred obligation, a sacred promise made. The current president is threatening to break that promise. He’s proposing to eliminate the tax that pays for almost half of Social Security without any way of making up for that lost revenue. I will not let it happen.”
“He totally looked and sounded like a president,” noted historian Michael Beschloss told “PBS News Hour.” With the camera tight on Biden, the pandemic precautions of no live audience and a straight-to-the-camera speech allowed him to implore the American public to vote for him in a direct, intimate manner.
Biden hearkened to President Obama’s legacy, thanking the former president and contrasting Obama’s presidency with the current administration. Trump has “cloaked America in darkness for much too long,” he said.
“The days of cozying up to dictators is over,” he said. “Under President Biden, American 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.”
Calling voters to action, Biden appealed to their sense of hope and desire for socioeconomic and racial equality.
“It’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America. Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish,” he said. “Winning it for the workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of the ‘knee on the neck.’ For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity.”
Amid concern that Biden will not be able to draw enthusiasm from Gen Z voters, the nominee sought out younger generations watching, telling them, “I hear their voices” and their concerns about climate change, economic injustice and racial injustice.
“And whether it’s the existential threat posed by climate change, the daily fear of being gunned down in school, or the inability to get started in their first job — it will be the work of the next president to restore the promise of America to everyone,” he said.
The Democratic nominee also made clear that he would not tiptoe around racist rhetoric, calling out Trump for calling the alt-right groups at the 2017 Charlottesville protest “very fine people.” Biden plainly called those protesters in his speech “neo-Nazis,” “Klansmen” and “white supremacists.”
Remembering the protests in Charlottesville as a “call to action,” Biden said he “knew I’d have to run” for office at that moment.
“My father taught us that silence was complicity,” he said. “And I could not remain silent or complicit. At the time, I said we were in a battle for the soul of this nation. And we are.”
Biden recounted meeting with the six-year-old daughter of George Floyd the day before Floyd’s funeral, and talked about the “hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.”
“America’s history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we’ve made our greatest progress. That we’ve found the light. And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again. That we can find the light once more.”
Ending his speech with a recitation of Irish poet Seamus Heaney, Biden said this is the country’s moment to “make hope and history rhyme.”
“May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation,” he said. “And this is a battle that we, together, will win.”