Former Vice President Joe Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on August 20, beginning a general-election challenge to President Donald Trump that Democrats cast this week as a rescue mission for a country equally besieged by a crippling pandemic and a White House defined by incompetence, racism, and abuse of power. Speaking before a row of flags in his home state of Delaware, Biden urged Americans to have faith that they could “overcome this season of darkness,” and pledged that he would seek to bridge the country’s political divisions in ways President Trump had not. “The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long — too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Biden said. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.” Biden’s appearance was an emphatic closing argument in a four-day virtual convention in which Democrats presented a broad coalition of women, young people, and racial minorities while going to unusual lengths to welcome Republicans and independent voters seeking relief from the tumult of the Trump era. The former Vice President alluded to that outreach, saying that while he is a Democratic candidate, he will be “an American president.” And in implicit contrast with Trump, Biden said he would “work hard for those who didn’t support me.” “This is not a partisan moment,” he said. “This must be an American moment.”
The Democratic Party has offered Joe Biden, less as a traditional partisan standard-bearer than as a comforting national healer, capable of restoring normalcy and calm to the US and returning its federal government to working order. He has campaigned as an apostle of personal decency and political conciliation, and as a transitional figure who would take on some of the worst American crises, not just the coronavirus outbreak but also economic inequality, climate change, and gun violence, before handing off power to another generation. That rising generation, defined by its diversity and in many cases by its liberalism, was again in evidence on August 20, as it has been throughout the week, most notably with the introduction on August 19 of Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.
The program leading up to Joe Biden’s address included speakers such as Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Asian-American military veteran; Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, one of the country’s most prominent African-American mayors; and Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay major presidential candidate. All are younger than Biden by a quarter-century or more. Buttigieg hailed Biden’s leadership on the issue of same-sex marriage in the not-distant past as a sign of how much progress Democrats could quickly make toward building “an America where everyone belongs.” Senator Duckworth, a former helicopter pilot who lost her legs in the Iraq war, used her remarks to denounce President Donald Trump’s leadership of the military and singled out for scorn his administration’s tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., in June. “Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to call himself commander in chief for another four minutes, let alone another four years,” said Duckworth, whom Biden considered seriously for his running mate.
The task that faced Joe Biden on August 20, and that looms over him for the next 10 weeks, was assuring Americans that he had both the grit and the vision first to topple President Donald Trump and then to deliver on a governing agenda that would materially improve their lives. Biden has laid out an ambitious suite of plans for next year, should Democrats win power, but in the daily din of public health emergencies and Presidential outbursts, it is not clear how many voters are familiar with them. Democrats have promised to redraw the country’s energy economy to fight climate change and to build new protections for Americans’ voting rights. Biden promised to strengthen labor unions and to ensure that “the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations in this country paid their fair share” in taxes, even as he emphasized that he would not seek to “punish anyone.” Every night of the convention featured front-and-center vows to take on racism in the economy and criminal justice system, and to empower the generation of women whose political mobilization has reshaped the Democratic Party into a powerful anti-Trump coalition.
Joe Biden enters the general election with a clear upper hand against President Donald Trump, leading him by wide margins in most national polls and appearing to hold a clear advantage in crucial swing states. Biden’s electoral strength is derived mainly from the president’s deep unpopularity. And swing voters this year appear far more comfortable with Biden than they were with several of his 2020 primary rivals, or with the Democratic Party’s previous nominee, Hillary Clinton. Yet Biden’s advisers have cautioned that they expect the polls to tighten in the fall, and there is widespread anxiety among Democrats about the possibility that the pandemic may complicate the process of voting in ways that will disadvantage minority voters and others in their urban political base. Up to this point, Biden has taken a less-is-more approach to his campaign against President Donald Trump, converting his candidacy into a largely virtual affair and holding only sparse and infrequent public events. And so far that approach has seemed to work for him, much as this week’s stripped-down, long-distance party gathering has appeared to do. While television ratings have been down since the 2016 conventions, the Democratic events have still garnered robust viewership, and the party has avoided any significant technical glitches or eruptions of internal strife.