President-elect Joe Biden, in his first remarks since declared the victor in the 2020 election, pledged to bring unity to the country after a polarizing and brutally fought campaign.
“I am humbled by the trust and confidence you placed in me,” Biden said to a crowd of supporters in Wilmington, DE. “I pledge to be a president who does not seek to to divide, but unify, who doesn’t see red states or blue states, who only sees the United States.”
As he spoke, supporters in a parking lot of the Chase Center cheered and honked their horns from their cars, spaced apart in the name of social distancing.
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” Biden said.
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He addressed supporters of his opponent Donald Trump.
“I understand your disappointment tonight,” he said. “I’ve lost a couple of elections myself. But now, 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.”
He added, “To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
Biden cited previous presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, as leaders who were at crossroads of history, and framed this moment as another one. He spoke of “part of the mandate from the American people” as one of cooperation.
“Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses,” he said. “It is time for our better angels to prevail.”
Afterward he was joined on stage by his family and Kamala Harris and her family for a fireworks display and aerial graphics, with drone lights spelling his name and other messages, like “VP Elect.”
Through his entire campaign, Biden’s message was that he would restore the soul of America, but a part of that was a return to normalcy, an end to the tweeting, the off-the-rails press conferences and the boasting and bombast. For a time, Trump turned his presidency into a 24/7 reality show, but there were plenty of other moments, like the clearing of protesters at Lafayette Square, that disturbed many as something darker, a reminder that democracy depends not just on laws but on norms.
Out in the streets of Washington, D.C., and other cities on Saturday, people honked horns, held signs, cheered and even drank champagne at the Biden-Harris victory, even in spots where just ago there was unrest and tear gas.
It was quite a scene for the ousting of an incumbent: There wasn’t this type of reaction after George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford lost their bids for new terms. But the jubilation will likely dissipate as Biden contends with an out-of-control virus and an economic crisis. In his speech, Biden said that on Monday, he would announce the members of a committee to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
“Vice President Biden represents a kind of tonic for a toxic politics,” historian Jon Meacham said on MSNBC, adding that it represents a time when much of the country said, “Enough.”
On Saturday night, with fireworks and light sticks and a sea of American flags, it was Biden’s time for celebration. For many, many others, it was time for a big sigh of relief.
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