Biden shows he’s prepared to be a force for decency & democracy

"After three nights of searing criticism aimed at President Trump and numerous testimonials about his personal character, Joe Biden took center stage at his Democratic National Convention on Thursday night in an enviable and yet challenging position."



August 21, 2020 - 12:38 PM

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)

After three nights of searing criticism aimed at President Trump and numerous testimonials about his personal character, Joe Biden took center stage at his Democratic National Convention on Thursday night in an enviable and yet challenging position.

Enviable because he leads in the national and battleground state polls and because he has a party that has temporarily set aside its policy differences to unite behind the goal of defeating Trump in November. Challenging because, despite those advantages, there are still questions about his vision, his policies, his capacity to lead and his ability to make good on his pledge to unify a divided country.

He framed the election as a stark choice, describing a country under Trump as one with “too much anger, too much fear, too much division.” He promised as president to be “an ally of the light, not the darkness.” The election, he said, is about character, compassion, decency and democracy. “They’re all on the ballot,” he said.

He described his policy aspirations, ticking through a list of issues he has spoken about through the campaign, from climate to education to jobs and the economy. But the strength of the speech was to draw a contrast with the president and to make clear that his principal focus if he becomes president in January will be on the pandemic and the economic recession that has accompanied it.

He pledged to “get control of the virus” as the first priority of his presidency. “We’ll do what we should have done from the very beginning. Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation,” he said. “He’s failed to protect us. He failed to protect America. . . . That is unforgivable.”

There are few moments for a presidential nominee as big as his or her acceptance speech. One test is the selection of a running mate, and in Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Biden successfully checked that box a week ago. Another major test awaits him when he and Trump meet for three debates, the first of which is scheduled for Sept. 29 in Cleveland. But on Thursday night, he checked another box, with an acceptance speech that was thematic, pointed and forcefully delivered.

The opening nights of the convention had been good to and for Biden. Party luminaries raised the stakes for the election with grim warnings about democracy at risk. Friends, colleagues and especially his wife, Jill Biden, offered testimony about his resilience, his empathy, his heart and soul.

But all conventions ultimately are about how the nominee presents himself or herself — their biography and values, the principles and convictions that shape policy priorities. On Thursday, Biden built on the themes of his nomination campaign to offer a preview of the case he will make between now and Nov. 3 — against the president and for his candidacy.

At a time of suffering and uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recession, he presented himself as a person of boundless compassion running against a president who struggles to show any.

“If he’s given four more years, he’ll be what he’s been the last four years,” he said, “a president who takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fanned the flames of hate and division.”

He said Trump will “wake up every day thinking the job is all about him, never about you. Is that the American you want for you, your children, your family?”

AT A TIME when the problems confronting the country are among the most difficult any president has faced, he argued that nearly half a century in public life has given him the experience and steadiness needed to bring the country back. It was an implicit contrast with a president whose leadership has drawn harsh reviews from the American people, especially during the current crises.

Long before Biden delivered his address, he got a taste of what will come at him next week, when Trump and the Republicans hold their convention, with the main speeches in Washington and party business held in Charlotte. Trump went to a site just outside Scranton, Pa., where Biden was born, and described an apocalyptic future if the Democratic nominee wins in November.

Thursday’s speech gave Biden the biggest forum and biggest audience to date to allay any doubts and in both content and presentation he showed the essence of how he plans to take on the president and what he would do if he is elected.

The speech brought to a conclusion a week of optimism among the Democrats, but too many remember that they left their convention in Philadelphia four years ago with the same sense of confidence, only to see their hopes crushed by the president’s victory. They are vowing not to let that happen again. Biden signaled Thursday his determination to write a different ending to the story this year.

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