Joe Biden’s decades-long journey to the top of the Democratic ticket ended Thursday when he gave his first official address as the party’s nominee to a nearly empty convention center in Wilmington, Del.
“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,” said Biden as he formally accepted the nomination.
He continued: “I will draw on the best of us, not the worst of us. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”
Without mentioning him by name, Biden quickly admonished President Trump, accusing him of abdicating his responsibility to the American public.
“Just judge this president on the facts. Five million Americans infected by COVID-19. More than 170,000 Americans have died. By far the worst performance of any nation on earth,” said Biden.
Biden said the president had been “looking for a miracle” when he could have helped stem the tide of the virus before it was too late.
“The tragedy that we face today is that it didn't have to be this bad. The president keeps waiting around, looking for a miracle. Well, I have news for him: Mr. President, no miracle is coming.”
He also acknowledged the work that must be done to begin to address racial inequalities – an issue he said he would prioritize, if elected, with the first African-American vice president by his side.
“History has thrust one more urgent task on us: Will we be the generation that finally wipes out the stain of racism from our national character? I believe we're up to it.”
Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and was, at times, chairman of the Senate’s judiciary and foreign relations committees. The 77-year-old first ran for president in 1988, when he was seen as a party rising star. That bid crashed and burned, however, in part due to a plagiarism scandal.
He made a second attempt in 2008 but was unable to pick up any traction in a race dominated by Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Still, his run further elevated his profile, and Obama chose Biden as his running mate after securing the nomination.
Biden was then elected to two terms as vice president. He considered a White House bid in 2016 but demurred as he dealt with the death of his son Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general and Army veteran.
Last year, however, Biden again announced that he was running for president. Although he consistently polled well, he had a rocky few months as Democrats looked to younger and more progressive figures in the party.
As the primaries approached, Biden’s robust fundraising began to falter, and he was ridiculed for his verbal slips and sometimes eccentric interactions with voters. After finishing fifth in the New Hampshire primary, his candidacy was on life support.
His saving grace came in February’s South Carolina primary, which he won after a campaign-reviving endorsement from Rep. James Clyburn. Black voters turned out in record numbers to catapult Biden firmly into first place, and several of his primary opponents quickly dropped out and endorsed him. It is widely viewed as one of the greatest political comebacks in modern political history.
“This is a life-changing election,” Biden said Thursday. “It will determine what America will look like for a long time. Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy: they’re all on the ballot."
The convention marked the pinnacle of Biden’s career as a politician. Nearly 50 years after he first ran for office – and 33 years since he first ran for president – Biden has at last won the Democratic nomination for president. And with polls showing him to have opened up a significant lead against Trump, he is now the odds-on favorite to win the presidency in November.
On a night of personal triumph, he spoke to a nation on edge about what he has gained from loss.
“I understand how hard it is to have any hope right now. On this summer night, let me take a moment to speak to those of you who have lost the most. I have some idea of how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep, black hole that opens up in the middle of your chest and you feel like you’re being sucked into it,” Biden said Thursday night.
“I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes. But I’ve learned two things: first, your loved one may have left this earth, but they’ll never leave your heart. They’ll always be with you. You’ll always hear them. And second, I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose.”
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