President-elect Joe Biden in a victory speech Saturday night vowed to heal a nation torn apart by deep political and racial divisions and promised to hear the concerns of both Americans who voted for him and the tens of millions who supported President Trump.
Speaking outside the Chase Center, near his home in Wilmington, Del., to scores of enthusiastic supporters honking their car horns and dancing in the night, Biden said he would leave behind this “grim era of demonization in America” and do his best to “unify” the country at a moment of historic civil unrest.
Biden appealed directly to the more than 70 million Americans who cast their ballots for Trump, saying he understands their disappointment and wants to return to an era where people are able to remain friendly despite their political differences.
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight,” Biden said. “I’ve lost a couple myself. But let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies, they are Americans.”
“This is the time to heal in America,” Biden added.
Biden will face many difficult and immediate challenges upon being sworn into office in late January.
There has been a resurgence in the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 people in America, wreaked havoc on the economy and torn at the nation’s social fabric.
Biden will likely lead a divided government, as Republicans remain favored to keep control of the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House is expected to be the smallest in decades.
Trump is not expected to concede the race, which was called in Biden’s favor Saturday morning after four days of vote counting. Trump’s campaign is flooding several states with legal challenges and making unsubstantiated claims about the election having been stolen through fraud.
Trump’s four years in office exposed the deep political polarization that has overcome the nation and been exacerbated by the pandemic, economic anxiety and social media.
Biden addressed all of those challenges in his victory speech, pledging to restore an atmosphere of decency and compromise, rather than one of political warfare and brinkmanship.
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify,” Biden said. “Who doesn’t see red states or blue states, only sees the United States. I’ll work with all my heart to win the confidence of all of you.”
Biden did not criticize Trump directly in his speech, although he did appear at one point to reference what he described as the president’s reckless and divisive rhetoric as being a driving force behind the nation’s polarization.
“Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses,” Biden said. “What presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail.”
Biden’s most pressing challenge as president will be getting the coronavirus under control and potentially overseeing the distribution of a vaccine, when one becomes available.
On Friday night, Biden announced he would appoint a transition team made up of scientists and experts to develop a plan of action so he can hit the ground running when he takes office Jan. 20.
“We cannot repair the economy and restore our vitality or enjoy life’s most precious moments … until we get it under control,” Biden said. “I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around."
But Biden’s remarks were also a victory speech that represents the culmination of a decades-long career in politics.
More than 74 million people turned out to vote for Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the most for any presidential ticket in history.
Harris will also make history as being the first woman, Black person and person of South Asian descent to be vice president.
“It’s long overdue,” Biden said.
It has been a long two years for Biden, who repeatedly beat back the doubters and made a dramatic comeback to triumph over the largest and most diverse Democratic primary field.
The turning point in the primary came when Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) endorsed him ahead of the South Carolina primary. Just when it seemed the nomination was slipping from his grasp, Black voters turned out in huge numbers to help him secure sweeping primary victories across the country.
“To all those who supported us — I am proud of the campaign we built and ran,” Biden said.
“I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history. Democrats, Republicans and independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American. And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.”
Now, the pressure will be on Biden to fulfill his promises of being a president who can breach the partisan divide.
Biden has spoken about having a “mandate” to govern, and on Friday night he said he would fulfill that mandate by “marshaling the forces of decency.”
The president-elect said part of his mandate is to reach across the aisle and work with anyone who is willing to compromise.
“I’m a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” Biden said Saturday night.
“If we can decide not to cooperate we can decide to cooperate,” he continued. “And I believe that this is part of the mandate given us from the American people. They want us to cooperate in their interest and that’s the choice I make. I’ll call on Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to make that choice with me.”