Joe Biden Accepts Democratic Nomination Promising ‘We’ll Find The Light Once More’

August 21, 2020by Evan Halper and Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden greets his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, on stage during the Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, during the virtual convention on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

MILWAUKEE — Joe Biden made his case Thursday for a major course correction in America as he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, forcefully indicting the Trump administration as he laid out a vision to reunify the nation and restore competence and decency to the White House.

“If you entrust me with the presidency I will draw on the best of us, not the worst,” Biden said. “I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”

The tone seesawed between intense conviction and the conversational style of a neighbor across the fence, both hopeful and warning of what the nation could become under four more years of President Donald Trump.

Closing out the four-day Democratic National Convention, Biden spoke for less than 25 minutes, relatively short by traditional convention standards, but it was his most consequential speech in half-century in politics.

While he never mentioned Trump by name, he hammered away at the president’s performance and the chaos of his administration, especially in the throes of a deadly pandemic and an economic calamity.

“Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to America,” Biden said. “He has failed to protect us.”

He offered a series of ambitious policy vows: to implement a plan to confront the virus on day one, to confront climate change, to confront racial injustice.

Biden promised to enable middle-class workers to care for elderly family members at home, and equal pay for equal work.

“And, yes we’re going to do more than praise our essential workers,” he said. “We’re finally gong to pay them.”

“History shows America makes great progress during dark times,” Biden said, drawing upon references to Franklin D. Roosevelt and civil rights icon John Lewis. “I believe we’re poised to make great progress again. That we’ll find the light once more.”

If elected, Biden would be the oldest president in U.S. history. At 74, Trump is three years younger.

The convention ended with the traditional tableau of Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, together onstage, with a pandemic-related twist.

Without a cavernous arena and sea of delegates to blanket in a cascade of tumbling balloons, Bider, Harris and their spouses turned and waved at a wall-sized display of Zoom boxes, whose occupants smiled and waved back.

Outside in a parking lot, a crowd of supporters hefted signs, shook thunder sticks and honked their car horns as the two couples emerged — wearing face masks — on flag-bedecked stage and watched as fireworks streaked through the night sky.

Biden clapped merrily and supporters flickered their car lights in celebration.

He kept returning to the theme of racial division throughout his address. He grew angry as he spoke of the third anniversary of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and how Trump responded to it, saying it was a catalyst for Biden to run.

Trump “said there were ‘very fine people on both sides,’” Biden said, spitting each out the words with disdain. “I could never remain silent or complicit.”

“Will we be the generation that finally wipes out the stain of racism from our national character?” he said. “I think we’re up to it.”

At times, the night had the feel of a family reunion, albeit a carefully formatted one.

There were video tributes to Biden’s late son, Beau, a former Delaware attorney general who died of a brain tumor in 2015 at age 46. He and Harris were friends, which factored into Biden’s selection of his running mate.

Another segment, highlighting the nominee’s relationship with his grandchildren — he likes vanilla ice cream, they revealed, with chocolate sprinkles — played before Biden was introduced by his daughter, Ashley, and son, Hunter, who has been attacked by Republicans for his work overseas.

“He will be tough and honest,” they said, alternating lines. ‘He’ll treat everyone with respect no matter who you are. … He’s been a great father. And we think he’ll be a great president.”

Many saw the online confab as a more persuasive and effective presentation than the traditional arena-sized gathering originally planned for here in Milwaukee, but then deemed unsafe in the COVID-19 pandemic.

To the great relief of Democrats, there were no major technical glitches in the four nights.

Still, there were more than a few jarring moments Thursday night when the evening’s hostess, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, interspersed serious-minded policy discussion and other sober segments with jokes that often fell flat.

One recurring head-scratcher was joke about how to pronounce the last name of Vice President Mike Pence.

A day after making history by installing Harris as Biden’s vice presidential running mate — the first woman of color on a major-party ticket — Democrats continued to place their diversity at center stage.

Speakers emphasized racial injustice and voting rights, warning that suppression efforts from the White House and other malfeasance that could tip the election to Trump.

Introducing a video honoring the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis — part of a lengthy tribute to the movement — the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, told Americans how they could best honor his legacy.

“Let’s stand up for our children, our children’s children and for the great democracy that our ancestors worked to build,” Bottoms said, “and let’s vote.”

Almost as striking as the novel format was something else unusual for a Democratic convention: the utter lack of dissent.

One reason was delegates were scattered across the country. With no gathering on the convention floor, there was no way to wage a floor fight over the platform or other areas of disagreement.

More than a half dozen of Biden’s former rivals, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, appeared Hollywood Squares-style in a jokey segment extolling their erstwhile rival.

It was a stark contrast with the enmity of the convention four years ago when some Sanders supporters repeatedly booed Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 nominee.

But the good tidings also reflect the desperation Democrats feel to oust Trump and the willingness to unify around that singular goal.

California, with its Electoral College heft, was well represented throughout the week.

On the final night, Gov. Gavin Newsom was featured in a phone video he taped earlier in the day while in transit to a wildfire evacuation center in Watsonville.

He said climate change deniers like Trump should visit to see firsthand the wreckage it has wrought, and took aim at Trump for suggesting California should be denied federal wildfire relief because the state hasn’t raked enough leaves.

“You can’t make that up,” Newsom said. “Nor can you make up that we are involved in more than 90 lawsuits” against the Trump administration.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla played prominently in the party’s push to expand mail voting in the face of Trump’s efforts to undermine it.

“Trump has admitted he is trying to sabotage the post office by undermining voting by mail,” Padilla said Thursday night. “And we are not going to let him do that.”

After a parade of speakers spent the first three nights and much of Thursday’s program pounding away at Trump — with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, landing some of the harshest blows — the way was cleared for Biden to offer an affirmative case for his White House bid.

Polls have consistently shown Biden leading the race, but apparently not from a flood of enthusiasm for his candidacy. In a recent Pew poll, more than half the registered voters who supported Biden or leaned his way said their motivation was simply the fact he was not Trump.

Much of the week’s programming — glowing testimonials, family photos, archival footage — was intended to fill in those gaps, painting Biden as a caring and competent alternative to the truculent incumbent.

Trump continued trolling Biden from afar. He traveled to Pennsylvania to appear outside Scranton, where Biden grew up, accusing his rival of betraying its people by moving away from the hardscrabble city.

Biden was only 10 at the time.

The Biden campaign welcomed the outbursts, suggesting they reinforced the Democrats’ case that Trump is too erratic and insufficiently attentive to pandemic’s rising death toll — now more than 174,000 Americans — and brutal job losses to deserve another four years in office..

“We actually appreciate President Trump going out there because the American people will get to see a tale of two presidents,” said Symone Sanders, a Biden campaign adviser.

She contrasted Trump “lobbing attacks” while Biden intended to talk to Americans about his “hopeful and upbeat” vision for the future.

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(Halper reported from Washington and Barabak from Milwaukee. Times staff writer Janet Hook in Washington contributed to this report.)

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©2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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