Joe Biden: ‘It’s time for our better angels to prevail’


Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden said Saturday evening that he plans to be a president for all Americans and that he’ll hit the ground running to try to “heal” the country as he claimed a mandate from the American people to govern cooperatively and reach across the aisle.

Mr. Biden spoke after multiple news outlets declared him the winner of the 2020 presidential election late Saturday morning, four days after Election Day on Tuesday.

“The people of the nation have spoken. They’ve delivered us a clear victory,” Mr. Biden said. “I am humbled by the trust and confidence you placed in me.”

Mr. Biden spoke outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware before one of his largest crowds in 2020 — if not the largest — of an unprecedented campaign that took place amid the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

“To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies,” he said. “This is [the] time to heal in America.”

He said a “grim era of demonization in America” needed to end.

“It’s time for our better angels to prevail,” he said.

He touted that the more than 74 million votes he received is the most for a presidential candidate in U.S. history, but he also made a direct appeal to the more than 70 million people who voted for President Trump.

“To those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight,” he said. “But now, let’s give each other a chance.”

The delayed call on Saturday was a product of the razor-thin margins Mr. Biden was leading Mr. Trump by in key battleground states as election officials grappled with ballot-counting and an expansion of vote-by-mail during the public health crisis.

Mr. Biden now faces the task of trying to pull together a country still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, which is raging with new record daily case totals this week, and the associated economic fallout that has not yet fully abated.

He said he plans to announce a coronavirus task force next week as he tries to hit the ground running on crafting a robust federal response to the pandemic.

“Our work begins with getting COVID under control,” he said. “I will spare no effort — none — or any commitment to turn around this pandemic.”

He was introduced on Saturday by his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who would be the first female vice president.

Ms. Harris, who was born in Oakland, California, to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, had already made history as the first woman of color to run on a major-party presidential ticket.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” she said, also describing Mr. Biden as a “healer,” a “uniter,” and “a tested and steady hand.”

Should the vote count hold, Mr. Biden, who turns 78 this month, would be the oldest-ever president to be sworn in for a first term in office.

He plans to almost immediately sign a series of executive orders after being sworn into office, rejoin the Paris climate accords, and repeal Mr. Trump’s travel ban from many majority-Muslim countries, according to a Saturday report in the Washington Post.

If the current vote patterns hold, it appears that Mr. Biden will likely be dealing with a GOP-controlled U.S. Senate unless Democrats can sweep two runoff races in traditionally red Georgia in January.

House Democrats were also projected to lose seats and enter the new Congress with a diminished majority.

Mr. Biden said he views a call for cooperation as part of his governing mandate.

“If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate,” he said. “And I believe that this is part of the mandate given to us from the American people. They want us to cooperate…and that’s the choice I’ll make.”

The left has already vowed to hold Mr. Biden‘s feet to the fire, and he might not have much wiggle room in either direction if the era of divided government continues.

In a possible sign of the challenges ahead for Mr. Biden, some on the left criticized his expressions of conciliation toward Trump supporters.

Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter organizer and professor at Cal State-Los Angeles, tweeted, “Quit trying to unite with the damn Trump supporters who are blatant white-supremacists, who didn’t vote for your ass…Instead it’s time to DO SOMETHING for the Black folks who saved you/us and VOTED TRUMP OUT.”

Retiring Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a Libertarian who left the GOP last year, called it “a good, unifying speech.”

“We’ll disagree a lot, and I’ll hold President-elect Biden accountable, but I firmly believe liberty can flourish only in an environment of mutual respect and trust among Americans,” Mr. Amash tweeted.

But it’s also unclear how much cooperation Mr. Biden would get in the transition from Mr. Trump, who has vowed to challenge the election results in court.

The president said earlier in the day that he, not Mr. Biden, won the election “by a lot.”

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Saturday evening that Mr. Trump is well within his legal right to request recounts and contest unlawful votes.

“The media can project an election winner, but they don’t get to decide if claims of broken election laws and irregularities are true,” the Florida Republican said on Twitter.

It’s also unclear how much cooperation Mr. Biden would get in the transition from Mr. Trump, who has vowed to challenge the election results in court.

The president said earlier in the day that he, not Mr. Biden, won the election “by a lot.”

Faced with a crowded Democratic presidential primary field, Mr. Biden bottomed out with a dismal fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary in February, which had followed a fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucus.

Mr. Biden turned his campaign around by winning the South Carolina primary after a major endorsement from House Majority Whip James Clyburn.

“Especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” Mr. Biden said Saturday. “You’ve always had my back and I’ll have yours.”

After South Carolina, Mr. Biden then bulldozed his way through Super Tuesday in March after rivals like Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended their campaigns and endorsed him.

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, the self-described democratic socialist who was once again the Democratic runner-up, got behind Mr. Biden after ending his campaign in April even as he made clear that their two worldviews did not align perfectly.

As the pandemic took hold, Mr. Biden largely eschewed holding large, in-person events and was content to participate in virtual campaign events and fundraisers.

He eventually ventured back out onto the physical campaign trail in the closing stretch, though his smallish “drive-in” events were met with mockery by the president.

Mr. Biden, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, spent eight years as vice president under former President Barack Obama from 2009-2017.

This year marked his third bid for the White House.

In his last run, in 2008, Mr. Biden ended up ceding the spotlight to a budding rivalry between Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who would go on to win the Democratic nomination in 2016 only to lose to Mr. Trump in the general election.

Mr. Biden‘s 1988 bid was derailed amid allegations that he plagiarized a speech from a British politician.

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