Joe Biden greeted the nation as president-elect for the first time Saturday night, calling for decency, compassion and a fair shot for all.
He offered an olive branch to supporters of President Donald Trump, saying he understood their disappointment.
“But now, let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said to a drive-in crowd at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
“The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America,” he said.
The rhetoric was actually fairly standard for presidents, who traditionally try to heal the country and bring everyone together in a time of crisis.
But it felt completely radical after four years of Trump.
Biden never mentioned Trump, aside from telling his supporters he knew they weren’t feeling great Saturday night.
He never called to lock him up.
He didn’t gloat about the size of his win, even though he received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history. Instead, he said he was “humbled by the trust and confidence” voters placed in him and promised to be a president “who seeks not to divide, but to unify.”
He didn’t make fun of anyone, instead saying the nation needed to make the “promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.”
He didn’t lie.
He didn’t encourage conspiracy theories or white supremacists.
He promised to “marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope” to fight the coronavirus, instead of dismissing every piece of scientific advice he’s received.
Trump’s victory speech in 2016 was actually one of his most tame. He also said it was “time for us to come together as one united people” and claimed that he wanted to “bind the wounds of division.”
But the difference was that it was clear he didn’t mean it. That speech was out of step with everything else he had said while campaigning for president, and it wasn’t anything like his next major speech, when he was inaugurated.
“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First,” Trump promised in that speech. He went off on “crime and gangs and drugs” and vowed to stop this “American carnage.” He said he would “unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
Biden, in contrast, ran on his character and compassion. The speech was just like the others he has given over the years and the work he has done in his long career in public service.
Many people complain that politicians all sound the same. They make nice promises and say the right things, but then don’t deliver.
There’s no doubt that Biden has significant challenges ahead of him, ones that he likely will have to undertake as the first president in more than 30 years who will take office without his party controlling Congress.
But for now, not joking about attacking reporters or making racist comments was something new and refreshing.
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