Joe Biden is hoping to start unifying a divided America as well as the nation’s diverse Democrats on Thursday night as he accepts his party’s presidential nomination at the climax of recent history’s most unorthodox national convention.
For Biden, it’s also a moment that marks the pinnacle — so far — of a political career spanning almost a half century.
The former vice-president, who at 77 years old would be the oldest president ever elected, will be feted by family and former foes as he becomes the Democratic Party’s official standard bearer in the campaign to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
A day after California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman of colour to accept a major party’s vice-presidential nomination, Biden is expected to focus on uniting the deeply divided nation as Americans grapple with the long and fearful health crisis, the related economic devastation and a national awakening on racial justice.
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The positive focus Thursday night marks a break from the dire warnings offered by former president Barack Obama and others the night before. The 44th president of the United States warned that American democracy itself could falter if Trump is re-elected, while Harris and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton declared that Americans’ lives and livelihoods are at risk.
The tone signals anew that the fall campaign between Trump and Biden, already expected to be among the most negative of the past half century, will be filled with rancour and recrimination.
Former rivals on the bill
Early in the night, a group of supporters, including former rivals, cast Biden as uniquely prepared to help the nation recover from its mounting crises.
“We are in a deep dark hole and we need leaders who will help us dig out,” said Andrew Yang, a New York entrepreneur who challenged Biden for the Democratic nomination. “We must give this country, our country, a chance. And recovery is only possible with a change of leadership and new ideas.”
Pete Buttigieg, who was trying to become the country’s first openly gay president, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and New York ultra-billionaire Michael Bloomberg were also to speak. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was featured, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs while serving in Iraq, was on the bill, too.
Biden’s Democratic Party has sought this week to put forward a cohesive vision of values and policy priorities, highlighting efforts to combat climate change, tighten gun laws and embrace a humane immigration policy. It has drawn a sharp contrast with Trump’s policies and personality, portraying him as cruel, self-centred and woefully unprepared to manage virtually any of the mounting crises and policy challenges facing the U.S.
It’s unclear if tearing down Trump will be enough to propel Biden to victory in November.
Just 75 days before the election, the former vice-president must energize the disparate factions that make up the modern Democratic Party — a coalition that spans generation, race and ideology. And this fall, voters must deal with concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created health risks for those who want to vote in person, and postal slowdowns for mail-in ballots, which Democrats blame on Trump.
The pandemic has also forced Biden’s team to abandon the typical pageantry and rely instead on a highly produced, all-virtual affair that has failed to draw the same television ratings as past conventions.
The silence was noticeable on Wednesday night, for example, as Harris took the stage to make history in a cavernous hall inside the Chase Center in downtown Wilmington, Del. She was flanked by American flags but no family, and her audience consisted of a few dozen reporters and photographers.
Harris, a 55-year-old California senator and the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, addressed race and equality in a personal way Biden cannot when he formally accepts his party’s presidential nomination.
“There is no vaccine for racism. We have got to do the work,” Harris declared.
“We’ve got to do the work to fulfil the promise of equal justice under law,” she said. “None of us are free until all of us are free.”
Obama, another barrier breaker, called Biden his brother before pleading with voters to cast ballots, to “embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure. Because that’s what is at stake right now. Our democracy.”
Published at Thu, 20 Aug 2020 20:52:36 +0000