Biden to focus on uniting party and nation as he accepts Democratic presidential nomination

You can watch Night 4 of the Democratic National Convention here at 9 p.m. ET.

Joe Biden is hoping to start unifying a divided America as well as the nation’s diverse Democrats on Thursday night as he accepts his party’s presidential nomination at the climax of recent history’s most unorthodox national convention.

For Biden, it’s also a moment that marks the pinnacle — so far — of a political career spanning almost a half century.

The former vice-president, who at 77 years old would be the oldest president ever elected, will be feted by family and former foes as he becomes the Democratic Party’s official standard bearer in the campaign to defeat President Donald Trump in November.

A day after California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman of colour to accept a major party’s vice-presidential nomination, Biden campaign co-chair Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Delaware congresswoman, predicted that Thursday would be “a whole ‘nother level of special.”

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Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power says Joe Biden believes in democracies tackling shared challenges together, not isolationism. 4:53

Above all, Biden is expected to focus on uniting the deeply divided nation as Americans grapple with the long and fearful health crisis, the related economic devastation and a national awakening on racial justice.

“I knew that of all the incredible candidates we have across that platform, Joe Biden was the one who could unite us. From Harlem to the heartland, he was the one who could unite us,” Blunt Rochester said in a briefing previewing the final night of the four-day convention.

The positive focus expected Thursday night marks a break from the dire warnings offered by former president Barack Obama and others the night before. The 44th president of the United States warned that American democracy itself could falter if Trump is re-elected, while Harris and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton declared that Americans’ lives and livelihoods are at risk.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama delivers a dire warning to voters about re-electing President Donald Trump during the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. He was speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. (2020 Democratic National Convention/Pool via Reuters)

Throughout their convention, Democrats have summoned a collective urgency about the dangers of Trump as president. In 2016, they dismissed and sometimes trivialized him. In the days leading up to Biden’s acceptance speech, they cast him as an existential threat to the country.

The tone signals anew that the fall campaign between Trump and Biden, already expected to be among the most negative of the past half century, will be filled with rancour and recrimination.

Beyond Biden’s speech, Thursday’s program is designed to highlight the diversity of the Democratic Party and the nation he hopes to lead.

Speakers include four former rivals: Pete Buttigieg, who was trying to become the country’s first openly gay president; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; New York ultra-billionaire Michael Bloomberg; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will also be featured, in addition to Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs while serving in Iraq.

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who sought the Democratic presidential nomination against Biden, will be among the speakers at the party’s convention on Thursday night. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Biden’s Democratic Party has sought this week to put forward a cohesive vision of values and policy priorities, highlighting efforts to combat climate change, tighten gun laws and embrace a humane immigration policy. It has drawn a sharp contrast with Trump’s policies and personality, portraying him as cruel, self-centred and woefully unprepared to manage virtually any of the mounting crises and policy challenges facing the U.S.

It’s unclear if tearing down Trump will be enough to propel Biden to victory in November.

Just 75 days before the election, the former vice-president must energize the disparate factions that make up the modern Democratic Party — a coalition that spans generation, race and ideology. And this fall, voters must deal with concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created health risks for those who want to vote in person, and postal slowdowns for mail-in ballots, which Democrats blame on Trump.

The pandemic has also forced Biden’s team to abandon the typical pageantry and rely instead on a highly produced, all-virtual affair that has failed to draw the same television ratings as past conventions.

The silence was noticeable on Wednesday night, for example, as Harris took the stage to make history in a cavernous hall inside the Chase Center in downtown Wilmington, Del. She was flanked by American flags but no family, and her audience consisted of a few dozen reporters and photographers.

Harris, a 55-year-old California senator and the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, addressed race and equality in a personal way Biden cannot when he formally accepts his party’s presidential nomination.

“There is no vaccine for racism. We have got to do the work,” Harris declared.

Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator from California, accepts the Democratic vice-presidential nomination during an acceptance speech in Wilmington, Del., delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“We’ve got to do the work to fulfil the promise of equal justice under law,” she said. “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

Obama, another barrier breaker, called Biden his brother before pleading with voters to cast ballots, to “embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure. Because that’s what is at stake right now. Our democracy.”

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