“The choice could not be more clear,” he said. “No rhetoric is needed — just judge this president on the facts.”
Still, he frequently underscored a message of hope that political gaps could be filled. “We are so much better than that,” he said, adding later that the crossroads at which the nation finds itself “is not a partisan moment — this is an American moment.”
It was an address that Biden has yearned to deliver since his first White House bid more than 30 years ago.
But it was delivered, because of the coronavirus pandemic, at the tail end of an entirely virtual nominating convention, without any of the immediate fanfare of a cheering crowd, and no falling balloons or confetti at the conclusion of the speech.
Absent from Biden’s remarks were not only cheering supporters but also any major gaffes or issues with delivery, in light of a heartfelt video feature on the former vice president’s struggles with overcoming a stutter.
Viewers whose only exposure to Biden is Trump and his allies — who repeatedly and explicitly paint the Democratic nominee as a man in cognitive decline — would have seen little to bolster that portrayal, and even the president, who weighed in on Twitter in real time to offer his commentary, focused on the content of the speech rather than its delivery.
“In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks,” Trump wrote. “He will never change, just words!”
Biden’s acceptance speech came after dozens of voices across the political spectrum spent the week vouching for his character, his capacity for leadership and his overall fitness for office. They also expressed the urgent necessity of Biden’s election and raised alarms about the stakes of the vote in November.
The capstone event appeared tailored for a TV audience, with Biden delivering the speech directly to camera absent wide shots of the mostly empty room he was standing in. He finished with a straight face before greeting his wife and turning to wave at applauding supporters who appeared on video feeds behind him. Afterward, he and his wife, Jill, along with his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, walked outside of Wilmington’s Chase Center donning face masks, where they were met by a “drive-in” crowd and a fireworks show.
Biden stressed that the country was at an “inflection point.” But he also set forth an optimistic vision for the future of the country as it grapples with cascading crises for which he placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the man he is looking to unseat.
“Our current president’s failed in his most basic duty to the nation,” Biden said. “He’s failed to protect us. He’s failed to protect America. And, my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”
The former vice president laid out a series of contrasts with Trump, vowing that “while I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I’ll work hard for those who didn’t support me, as hard for them as I did for those who did vote for me.”
He added: “That’s the job of a president, to represent all of us, not just our base or our party.”
The address was slim on policy, the most notable exception being that Biden laid out several steps he planned to take immediately to address the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 5.5 million Americans and killed more than 174,000.
He lit into Trump’s handling of the crisis and his attempts to wish the virus away, speaking directly to the president and declaring: “No miracle is coming.”
More than six months into the outbreak, Biden asserted, “the president still does not have a plan. Well, I do. If I’m your president, on Day One we’ll implement the national strategy I’ve been laying out since March.”
That includes, he said, implementing a nationwide mask mandate, dramatically ramping up the development and production of rapid coronavirus tests, ensuring that the country has ample amounts of the necessary personal protective gear and medical equipment, and securing uncompromisable supply chains.
Biden repeatedly spoke of the inherent “possibilities” offered by the country he is bidding to lead, pledging to help its people “find the light once more.”
But while Biden asserted that the nation is stronger than its divisions, he painted a portrait of a separate, grim reality under Trump, issuing a searing indictment of the president’s character and leadership.
At one point while denouncing Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Biden paused to offer a contrast between Trump and his predecessor.
“You were a great president,“ he said of Barack Obama, “a president that our children could and did look up to. No one’s going to say that about the current occupant of the White House.”
Trump, Biden said, “takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fans the flames of hate and division.”
“He’ll wake up every day believing the job is all about him, never about you,” Biden continued. “Is that the America you want for you, your family, your children? I see a different America, one that’s generous and strong, selfless and humble.”
The former vice president insisted that he was clear-eyed about the struggle that awaits him should he become commander in chief.
“Look, I understand,” he acknowledged. “I understand how hard it is to have any hope right now.”
But, he contended, with the country staring down a massive public health emergency, the economic fallout of the pandemic, a racial reckoning not seen since the 1960s and the threat of climate change, “I believe there’s only one way forward: as a united America.”
Biden began his speech by quoting the late civil rights icon Ella Baker.
“Give people light and they will find the way,” Baker once said.
“Make no mistake,” Biden vowed. “United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.”