Biden, 'an ally of light,' accepts Dem presidential nomination as convention ends

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday August 20, 2020
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Joe Biden accepts the Democratic nomination for president Thursday. Photo: Screengrab
Joe Biden accepts the Democratic nomination for president Thursday. Photo: Screengrab

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. accepted his party's nomination for president of the United States at the final session of the virtual Democratic National Convention Thursday night.

Biden is joined on the Democratic ticket by California Senator Kamala Harris, who accepted her nomination Wednesday night. The two were joined by their spouses in watching a socially distanced fireworks display after Biden gave his remarks.

In accepting the nomination, made by the convention earlier this week, Biden said that he would be "an ally of the light, not the darkness."

"We can and will overcome this season of darkness in America," Biden said. "We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege. ... While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn't support me as I will for those who did."

Biden invoked the memory of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another Democrat who took office in a moment of crisis.

"Nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear. Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, FDR insisted that he would recover and prevail and he believed America could as well. And he did. And so can we," Biden said. "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. The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the 1960s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change. So, the question for us is simple: Are we ready? I believe we are. We must be. All elections are important. But we know in our bones this one is more consequential."

Biden said America is at "a time of real peril but also extraordinary possibilities."

"This is a life-changing election that will determine America's future for a very long time. Character is on the ballot. 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," Biden said. "And the choice could not be clearer. No rhetoric is needed."

Biden laid the blame for America's COVID-19 response at the feet of the administration of President Donald Trump, saying that he has failed the country.

"Just judge this president on the facts. Five million Americans infected with COVID-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on Earth," Biden said. "More than 50 million people have filed for unemployment this year. More than 10 million people are going to lose their health insurance this year. Nearly one in six small businesses have closed this year. If this president is reelected we know what will happen. Cases and deaths will remain far too high. More mom and pop businesses will close their doors for good."

Biden said his first step as president would be "to get control of the [COVID-19] virus that has destroyed so many lives.

"We will never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus," Biden said.

Biden said "I understand how hard it is to have any hope right now," speaking to those who have lost a loved one.

"I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes," Biden said. "But I've learned two things. First, your loved ones may have left this Earth but they never leave your heart. They will always be with you. And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose. As God's children each of us have a purpose in our lives. And we have a great purpose as a nation: To open the doors of opportunity to all Americans. To save our democracy. To be a light to the world once again."

Biden discussed how he will, in his words, "build [the economy] back better" after COVID.

"With modern roads, bridges, highways, broadband, ports and airports as a new foundation for economic growth. With pipes that transport clean water to every community. With 5 million new manufacturing and technology jobs so the future is made in America," Biden said. "With a health care system that lowers premiums, deductibles, and drug prices by building on the Affordable Care Act he's trying to rip away."

Biden said he is listening to the concerns of the young people who have been pressing for change, and said Harris would be of great help in addressing how some communities have been disadvantaged in America.

"One of the most powerful voices we hear in the country today is from our young people. They're speaking to the inequity and injustice that has grown up in America. Economic injustice. Racial injustice. Environmental injustice," Biden said. "I hear their voices and if you listen, you can hear them too."

Nodding to the young people who have taken to the streets this summer in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Biden asked, "will we be the generation that finally removes the stain of racism from our national character? I believe we're up to it."

"One of the most important conversations I've had this entire campaign is with someone who is too young to vote," Biden said. "I met with six-year old Gianna Floyd, a day before her daddy, George Floyd, was laid to rest. She is incredibly brave. I'll never forget. When I leaned down to speak with her, she looked into my eyes and said 'Daddy, changed the world.' Her words burrowed deep into my heart."

Biden said that the United States must never lose the sense that anything is possible in this country and we must be "united in our determination to make the coming years bright."

"This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme. With passion and purpose, let us begin — you and I together, one nation, under God — united in our love for America and united in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission. 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. And this is a battle that we, together, will win. I promise you. Thank you. And may God bless you. And may God protect our troops."

Biden was preceded in his acceptance speech by joint pre-recorded remarks from his daughter, Ashley, and his son, Hunter. The Biden family, which as convention viewers should be well aware by this point in the week, had been scarred by the death of Biden's first wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, in a 1972 automobile crash, and the death of his son Beau, a former Delaware attorney general, from brain cancer in 2015. Beau Biden was memorialized in a video tribute.

"He'll beam with pride every time you succeed," Ashley Biden said. "He'll be the worst enemy any bully ever saw. ... We think he'll be a great president."

Hunter Biden was at the center of Trump's impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives last year after the president reportedly withheld military aid to Ukraine in an effort to have the Ukrainian government announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden did not mention this in his remarks, which were of a personal nature about his father.

A video highlighted the Biden grandchildren.

Pete Buttigieg addressed the Democratic convention.  

Mayor Pete: 'Love made my marriage real, but political courage made it possible'
Several of Biden's rivals in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination spoke, including Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who burst onto the national scene last year and became the first gay man to win a U.S. presidential nominating contest when he won the Iowa caucus in February.

Buttigieg, who served in the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said that progress in the fight for LGBTQ rights shows how progressive change is still possible in America.

"Just over 10 years ago, I joined a military where firing me because of who I am wasn't just possible — it was policy," Buttigieg said, referring to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. "Now in 2020, it is unlawful in America to fire anyone because of who they are or who they love. The very ring on my finger that we celebrated here where I'm standing reflects how this country can change. Love makes my marriage real, but political courage made it possible — including that of Joe Biden, who stepped out ahead of even this party when he said that marriage equality should be the law of the land.

"If so much can change between 2010 and 2020, imagine what 2030 could look like," Buttigieg added. "Imagine what we could achieve — the coalition we are building this very season, gathering progressives and moderates, independents and even what I like to call 'future former Republicans,' to help build a future where everyone belongs."

Buttigieg discussed LGBTQ visibility in politics.

"I trust the capacity of America to grow more inclusive, because I have lived it," Buttigieg said. "The day I was born, close to where I'm standing, here in South Bend, the idea of an 'out' candidate seeking any federal office at all was laughable. Yet earlier this year I campaigned for the presidency, often with my husband at my side, winning delegates to this very convention."

Buttigieg reflected Harris' remarks from Wednesday's session that America in 2020 is at an inflection point.

"Every American must now decide. Can America be a place where faith is about healing and not exclusion? Can we become a country that lives up to the truth that Black lives matter? Will we handle questions of science and medicine by turning to scientists and doctors? What will we do to make America into a land where no one who works full time can live in poverty?"

In his remarks, Buttigieg framed the "struggle for the soul of the nation" that Biden talks about.

"Joe Biden is right: this is a contest for the soul of the nation," Buttigieg said. "To me, that contest is not between good Americans and evil Americans. It's the struggle to call out what is good — what is best — in every American.

Buttigieg was followed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York City, who spent over $200 million in a last-ditch effort to win the Democratic nomination. Bloomberg dropped out and endorsed Biden after a dismal showing on Super Tuesday.

"I've never been much for partisan politics. I've supported Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Hell — I've actually been a Democrat, Republican, and independent," Bloomberg said. "Four years ago, I came before this very convention and said New Yorkers know a con when we see one. But tonight I'm not asking you to vote against Trump because he's a bad guy. I'm urging you to vote against him because he's done a bad job."

Bloomberg discussed the race in the context of a business decision.

"Before I ran for mayor, I spent 20 years running a business I started from scratch. So I want to ask small business owners and their employees one question, and it's a question for everyone: Would you rehire, or work for, someone who ran your business into the ground? And who always does what's best for him or her — even when it hurts the company? And whose reckless decisions put you in danger? And who spends more time tweeting than working?" Bloomberg asked. "If the answer is no, why the hell would we ever rehire Donald Trump for another four years?!"

Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey), who ran against Biden for the nomination and dropped out before the Iowa caucus, talked about the state of the economy during the pandemic and how his grandfather taught him about the American Dream.

"I'm here because a union job lifted my family out of poverty and into the middle class. My grandfather left the Jim Crow South for Detroit, joined the UAW and got a job on the assembly lines during World War II. That union job enabled him to support his family, raise my mom, and send her to Fisk University," Booker said. "That's the American dream. Together we work; together we rise."

"Last week, Donald Trump said 'our economy is doing good,' while 40 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes. Thirty million aren't getting enough food to eat and 5.4 million people have lost their health care because of this crisis. He has failed us," Booker added. "So like [Booker's grandfather's] generation, up out of the Depression; let's now work together and stand together and America, together, we will rise."

Andrew Yang, who like Buttigeg was relatively unknown to the general public until his presidential bid grabbed Democrats' attention last year, spoke at the beginning of the evening.

"You might know me as the guy who ran for president talking about math and the future. Unfortunately for all of us, that future is now," Yang said. "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. 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."

Buttigieg, Booker, and Yang were featured in a virtual panel discussion alongside the other Democratic presidential aspirants, including Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), former Congressman Beto O'Rourke (Texas), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts).

Baldwin, first LGBTQ senator: Biden, Harris 'the only answer in this election'
Senator Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), a lesbian who is the first out member of the LGBTQ community to be elected to the U.S. Senate, delivered a speech in which she discussed how she had a "pre-existing condition" as a hospitalized 9-year-old. An insurance company refused to cover Baldwin "at any cost."

"We all have stories like this. Stories about a time when the system was rigged against us. When we were counted out, left out, pushed out," Baldwin said. "Do we want to be a country where medical bills bury people in debt or where coverage is affordable for all?"

"I think we know the answer to that fundamental question — because most of us want the same things: good schools in our neighborhoods, racial justice, the freedom to love who we want, dignity in our work, and an economy where small businesses and working families thrive," she added.

"That's why Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the only answer in this election. Trust me they are," she said, before discussing Biden's role in passing the Affordable Care Act.

"Trust me: it was a 'big f'ing deal,'" she said, referring to the swear word uttered by Biden to Barack Obama before the then-president signed the ACA into law.

Baldwin spoke live from Milwaukee, the largest city in the Badger State, which is technically the host city of this mostly-virtual convention. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, the convention would have been held at the Wisconsin Center there.

Danica Roem, the first out transgender person to both be elected and serve in any U.S. state legislature, made a brief appearance in a video of people's hopes for the next year.

"I want to see a president of the United States who can look a trans woman in the eye and say your rights are worth protecting," Roem said.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) spoke briefly, apparently over FaceTime, about the ongoing California wildfires.

"If you are in denial about climate change, come to California," Newsom said. "Just today, the president of the United States threatened the 40 million Americans in the state of California to defund our firefighting because we didn't rake enough leaves — can't make that up."

Due to the wildfires, it was unclear as of Thursday afternoon if Newsom would be speaking at all.

"There is so much at stake in this election," Newsom said. "It's our decision, not our conditions, that will determine our fate and future. Let us resolve after this historic night and remarkable convention we do everything in our power to get Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House in 2021."

Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state, gave remarks with Jocelyn Benson, his counterpart in Michigan. The two sought to dispel Trump's criticisms of mail-in voting.

"Election results may take a little longer this year, but Democrats will fight to make sure your ballot is counted," Padilla said, urging people to vote as soon as they can either by mail or in person, with a mask.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms introduced a video about the late Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia), who was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1966.

"We have cried out for justice, we have gathered in our streets to demand change, and now, we must pass on the gift John Lewis sacrificed to give us, we must register and we must vote," she said.

This was followed by a musical performance by John Legend and the rapper Common.

Historical perspective was provided by historian Jon Meacham, quoting Abraham Lincoln that "we cannot escape history."

"Nor should we want to. We have been given much," Meacham said. "Our democracy is under assault from an incumbent more interested in himself than in the rest of us. ... If we live in hope we open our souls to the power of love. When we fail we must try again and again and again, for only in trial is progress possible."

The last session of this quadrennial gathering of the nation's Democrats was hosted by actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who introduced a dash of sometimes-racy humor into the evening.

"When the president campaigned against 'American carnage,' I thought it was something he was against: not a campaign promise," she quipped.

In a prerecorded appearance with their two daughters, apparently from their home in Atherton on the Peninsula, Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry and his wife, Ayesha, endorsed Biden.

The night's theme was "The Promise of America." The national anthem was sung by The Chicks (formerly known as the Dixie Chicks). The invocation was prayed by Simone Campbell, a Roman Catholic religious sister and benedictions were given by Rabbi Lauren Berkun, Muslim Imam Dr. Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid, and the Reverend Father James Martin, a Roman Catholic priest. Martin prayed for "the LGBT teen who is bullied."

The Republican National Convention begins Monday.

Updated, 8/20/20: This article has been updated.

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