Joseph R. Biden Jr. waited a long time to deliver the speech he gave in Delaware on Saturday night. Not just the five days since election day, but arguably the 48 years since he was first elected to the Senate, during which he ran for president three times. And at 77, as Mr. Biden trotted up the track toward an explosion of car horns and screeches, beaming and almost looking surprised by the standing ovation, it was clear his time had come.
Here are five takeaways from the President-elect’s victory speech.
A new tone from above.
The contrast between Mr. Biden and President Trump was invigorating and noticeable in almost every passage, as the President-elect invoked his own spirituality and shared the credit of the moment with his supporters and the people around him.
He quoted a hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings”. He thanked his supporters: “I owe you, I owe you, I owe you everything.” He warmly congratulated Kamala Harris, his running mate, and celebrated that she would be the first woman, let alone a woman of color, to serve as vice president: so hard for so many years to get there.
Especially, even as the nation faces one of the darkest periods in its history – a deadly pandemic, economic decline, political polarization – Mr. Biden was relentlessly optimistic, even cheerful. “We can do it,” he said. “I know we can.”
There were many notable passages in the speech, but one stood out. “May this dark era of demonization in America begin to end here and now,” he said. It’s likely a line people will talk about long after Biden’s presidency.
Mr. Biden only mentioned Mr. Trump’s name once during his 17-minute speech. He ignored the fact that the president had not conceded, and that he had challenged – without any evidence – the legitimacy of the election. Mr. Biden also failed to note that many senior Republican leaders, likely following Mr. Trump, failed to offer him the usual kudos.
But while Mr. Biden didn’t dwell on the president, he certainly spoke to his supporters, a notable contrast to Mr. Trump’s speech after his own victory in 2016. “To those who voted for President Trump , I understand your disappointment this evening ”. he said. “I myself lost a few elections. But now let’s give ourselves a chance. “
And while ignoring Mr. Trump’s protests about the election, Mr. Biden made it clear that there should be no doubt about the legitimacy of the result. “The people of this nation have spoken,” he said. “They gave us a clear victory. A convincing victory. A victory for “We the people”. We won with the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of this nation – 74 million. “
Mr. Biden’s strategy here was clear. He has surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become president, and could end up collecting more than 300. He is now moving beyond the contest with Mr. Trump and ascending to the role of president-elect. The transition is near, and the trappings of the presidency have begun to surround him – apparent in the size of the Secret Service contingent that followed him to deliver his speech, and the way each TV channel spoke of him as as elected president.
He seeks to relegate Mr. Trump to the sidelines and turns to the urgent task of forming a new government and dealing with the crises it will face.
Mr Biden left no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic would be a priority for his administration in a way it has not been under Mr Trump.
Mr Biden announced that on Monday he would appoint senior science and health experts to a committee tasked with developing a pandemic plan, which he said would be ready to be put in place when he and Ms. Harris will take office in January. Mr Biden told the nation that bringing the coronavirus under control is essential to normalcy and economic prosperity.
“We can’t fix the economy, restore our vitality, or savor life’s most precious moments – hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us – as long as we don’t have this virus under control, ”he said.
Mr. Trump took a very different approach. Throughout his campaign, he urged Americans not to fear the virus, saying the danger was exaggerated by his political opponents. He defied advice from health officials on precautions such as wearing a mask, even after he himself was diagnosed with the virus.
Mr Biden’s victory comes as the country sets daily records for new infections and health officials warn of a bleak winter. Masks were everywhere during his celebration.
Mr. Trump set the tone for his presidency during his inauguration, with a somber speech in which he notably did not exceed his base of supporters. The strategy had led him to a narrow victory in 2016 – in the Electoral College; he lost the popular vote – and he sought to recapture it in his losing campaign this year.
Mr. Biden has aggressively moved the other way.
“I pledge to be a president who does not seek to divide, but to unify – who does not see the red and blue states, but the United States,” he said on Saturday. “And who will work with all my heart to earn the trust of all the people.”
To some extent, this mirrors what Mr Biden said during the campaign, but the approach will take on new urgency as he becomes president. While waiting for the outcome of two rounds in Georgia, the Senate is controlled by Republicans, and it will have to reach out to senators from the Red States if it wants to pass an agenda.
There have been some impressive fireworks during this campaign – the ones over the Washington skyline the night Mr. Trump accepted the Republican nomination from the backyard of the White House come to me. the mind.
This one, however, set a bar that can be hard to match: fireworks and drones spelled out Mr Biden’s name, Ms Harris’s name and a map of the United States. Mr Biden and Ms Harris, surrounded by their families, stood on stage, gazing at the Delaware sky, lit over and over again the night Mr Biden had waited for most of his life.