Joe Biden, after nearly a half-century on the American political scene, on Thursday night accepted the Democratic nomination to run for U.S president in the November 3 election, telling Americans it was time to oust Republican President Donald Trump after one term in the White House.
“United we can and will overcome this season of darkness,” Biden declared as the United States faces an unchecked coronavirus pandemic and millions of workers have lost their jobs.
He contended that Trump “takes no responsibility” for the spread of the infectious disease and “refuses to lead.”
“After all this time,” Biden said, “this president still doesn’t have a plan” to fight the pandemic. “He failed to protect America … and that is unforgivable.”
Biden’s speech, from an event center in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, is coming on the fourth and final night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, a collection of taped and live presentations extolling Biden and assailing Trump’s 3½-year presidency.
Trump and Republicans will have a rejoinder at their virtual four-day national convention starting Monday. But Trump, in a visit Thursday to Old Forge, Pennsylvania, near Biden’s boyhood home of Scranton, forecast the coming Republican attacks.
“If you want a vision of your life under [a] Biden presidency, think of the smoldering ruins in Minneapolis, the violent anarchy of Portland, the bloodstained sidewalks of Chicago, and imagine the mayhem coming to your town and every single town in America,” Trump told supporters hours ahead of the Biden speech.
Democrats were forced to abandon their planned convention with thousands of people jammed into a basketball arena in the Midwestern city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, because of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, which has killed a world-leading total of 174,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Biden, if he wins the November 3 election and is inaugurated next January, would be 78, the oldest-ever U.S. president, topping Trump, who is 74.
But Biden bested two dozen other Democrats, all but one of them younger than him, to win his party’s nomination on his third run for the presidency, after failed attempts in 1988 and 2008. He was a U.S. senator for 36 years and served another eight as second in command to President Barack Obama before Trump won the presidency in 2016.
Months ago, Biden promised to choose a woman as his vice presidential running mate. He tapped California Senator Kamala Harris last week after a weekslong vetting process of numerous possibilities. Harris was a historic choice in U.S. political annals, the first Black woman and South Asian American on a national party ticket in the U.S.
Several of the Democrats Biden defeated in the string of party primaries and caucuses earlier this year, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, gave convention speeches this week supporting the ticket.
One of them, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, told viewers on the last night of the convention, “I have gotten to know both Joe and Kamala on the trail over the past year – the way you really get to know a person when the cameras are off, the crowds are gone, and it’s just you and them.
“They understand the problems we face,” Yang said. “They are parents and patriots who want the best for our country. And if we give them the chance, they will fight for us and our families every single day.”
Another former Biden opponent turned supporter, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, “I’m telling you to vote against (Trump) because he’s done a bad job. He spends more time tweeting than working. Let’s put an end to this whole sorry chapter in American history."
On previous nights, Biden advocates, most notably former President Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, assailed Trump as a failed U.S. leader, while some prominent Republicans also voiced their support for Biden, including former Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
By U.S. political norms, attacks from a U.S. leader on his successor are rare.
But Obama delivered a searing assessment of Trump on Wednesday night, saying he “has shown no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Obama, speaking from a museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, celebrating America’s founding in the 1700s, warned that Trump’s reelection could undermine democracy. Obama said he had hoped Trump would take the job of president seriously and “discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.”
But Obama said, “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. One-hundred-seventy-thousand Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone, while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”
After excerpts of Obama’s comments were released ahead of his nighttime address, Trump responded, criticizing Obama as having been ineffective and putting U.S. democracy in danger.
"When I listen to that and I see the horror that he’s left us, the stupidity of the transactions that he made. Look what we’re doing. We have our great border wall. We have security," Trump said at a news conference. “Look how bad he was, how ineffective he was.”
Numerous speakers at the Democratic conclave have praised Biden’s decency and common man approach to public life, saying he possesses empathy for the problems of others that they said Trump has been incapable of showing.
They noted that Biden has overcome major losses in his life, including the deaths of his first wife and young daughter in a 1972 car accident and more recently, in 2015, the death of his eldest son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, from brain cancer.