US President-elect Joe Biden addressed a deeply divided nation Saturday night, turning to the challenges ahead by grounding his victory speech in the spirit of compromise, asking supporters of President Donald Trump to give him a chance, and calling on all Americans to turn the page from what he described as a “grim era of demonization.”
Biden made that plea for unity and understanding in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware, at an extraordinary moment in American history when the current occupant of the White House showed no indication that he plans to concede to his rival and continued to push the fiction on Twitter that he had won the election, while making baseless accusations about how the election was stolen from him.
After jogging on stage wearing a mask, Biden repeated his promise that he would seek to unify rather than divide. He pledged to govern by the creed that he does not see blue states and red states, but only the United States.
When the campaign started nearly two years ago, it would have been extraordinary to think that Americans would show up to a victory rally wearing masks. The fact that they had to, and at a drive-in event outside in November, was a reminder of the moment of national extremis that Biden and Harris will inherit in January.
Biden noted that he sought the nation’s highest office “to rebuild the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class and to make America respected around the world again.” He acknowledged how Black voters carried him across the finish line both in the primary and then again in the general election by increasing turnout in key battleground states.
But it was Biden’s entreaties to Trump voters, who also turned out in huge numbers on Election Day, that were the most striking as he faces the daunting task of governing in a sharply polarized nation.
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
Alluding to scripture, he added: “This is the time to heal in America.”
Cognizant of the historical import of the moment, the Biden campaign opened the event by having Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduce her running mate. Harris will be the first woman — and the first woman of color — to serve as vice president.
Invoking the legacy of the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis, Harris praised the campaign’s supporters for turning out in record numbers at a time when “our very democracy was on the ballot in this election,” and said they had chosen hope, science and truth by selecting Biden as the next president.