December 3, 2020

“This is the time to close wounds in the United States”

In his first speech as president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden called for unity in a divided country, promised order and calm after four turbulent years and assured that he arrives with a plan for the crises that this difficult 2020 leaves. His central message was that he will try “heal” the divisions of the country. “It is time to close the wounds in the United States.”

Kamala Harris: Obama's heir and symbol of a new generation

Kamala Harris: Obama’s heir and symbol of a new generation

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This Saturday night (early morning in Spain), Biden and Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, appeared together on an outdoor stage next to a convention center in Wilmington, Delaware, the small state where Biden lives and that represented three decades in the Senate since he was elected for the first time exactly 48 years ago, on November 7, 1948. It was the traditional speech of victory in non-traditional circumstances, a few hours later of the announcement of his victory, published by the media when the scrutiny reached the point where the result was clear, just when the state of Pennsylvania was awarded in his favor.

Biden came out on stage to the music of We Take Care of Our Own by Bruce Springsteen. He specifically addressed Trump’s voters and reminded them that he himself knows what it’s like to lose “a couple of times,” referring to his two failed presidential races. “To the people who did not vote for me: let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to lower the tension, to see each other, to talk to each other … They are not ours enemies, they are Americans. This is the time to close wounds in the United States. ”

The president-elect mentioned the fight against the pandemic and the climate crisis among his priorities. He also referred to international cooperation, with “the power of example”. “Tonight the whole world is looking at America … We are going to lead by the power of our example,” he said.

“Let’s make this the beginning of the end of the dark age of demonizing America now. The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with each other is not a mysterious force beyond our control. It is a decision,” he said the senator, with experience in reaching bipartisan agreements in his years as a senator.

Biden and Harris’s words came four nights later than normal. Presidents-elect usually appear around midnight on Election Day. But slow scrutiny and the current president’s reluctance to admit defeat delayed the usual speech. They spoke before a congregation of cars, the formula Biden chose for the rallies as a precaution to ensure distance from the pandemic.

Suffragette white

Kamala harris, dressed in white, the color of suffragettes, entered the stage to music by Beyoncé, surrounded by screens with messages such as “the people have chosen unity” and “the people have chosen empathy.” Harris began his speech by recalling the words of John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights fighter who died in July: “Democracy is not a state, it is an act.” “America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our will to fight for it,” Harris said.

Harris remembered her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who immigrated to California from India in the 1950s when she was 19 years old and raised her almost alone after the separation from her husband, of Jamaican origin. “I think of her. And of the generations of women. Of black, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women who have paved the way through our history to get to this moment,” said Harris, who spoke in especially to Black who “so often gets overlooked”.

Harris will be the first female vice president. Also the first black person and the first Asian-American. It is a milestone in a country where his mother, a prestigious researcher, was used to being looked down upon for her Indian accent or where Harris roamed the city to go to a school that was not segregated by color. A milestone for a country where the current president praises racist groups and the deaths of blacks at the hands of the police do not stop.

Biden was accompanied by the future first lady, Jill Biden, a professor who was the first vice president’s wife to continue working during the two terms of the Obama Administration. And Harris from her husband, Douglas Emhoff.

The scrutiny is still going on, and Biden may end up winning by a margin of close to seven million, with a record above 80 million. You can have a map of electoral votes, those distributed by the states according to the majority vote in their territory, equal to the one obtained by the current president in 2016: 306 electoral votes for Biden against 232 for Trump.

A difficult country

Biden and Harris will inherit the management of a country affected by the pandemic – the United States returns to beat data on daily infections -, a damaged economy and an electorate just as polarized as in 2016.

The Biden Administration may also have a difficult time if the Democrats fail to regain the majority of the Senate, which may depend on two races in Georgia that will have to be repeated because the winner has not managed to reach the necessary threshold of 50%. If you finally get it, it may be for just one seat. Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives but the Senate is essential in passing legislation and confirming appointments of judges and government officials.

For now, Trump still does not concede defeat and has no plans to make the usual voter appreciation and farewell speech. There is a tradition of courtesy that losers honor with even exciting speeches, such as John McCain to congratulate Obama in 2008.

New York was a party

The four-day and four-night wait has been marked by tension, false accusations of fraud by President Trump, who does not accept the results, and some protests and isolated episodes of violence. But when the media announced the victory of Biden and Harris at about 11:30 AM on the East Coast, the streets of the big cities became a spontaneous party.

The party went all over the country. Among many others, the two cities of Trump. New York, Trump’s hometown, and Washington, the headquarters of the White House, erupted in a celebration that is only matched by the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Applause from the windows, guitarists playing the hymn, dances, mariachis Y shouts of thanks to the mail van, in a record year of vote-by-mail for the pandemic.

The Trump presidency has been unprecedented in recent US history, as has the personal animosity it has aroused. Not even in the most controversial moments of George W. Bush’s presidency was there an atmosphere of tension and sadness similar to that generated by Trump in the last four years.

The rejection of Trump is also significant. Presidents in office tend to have the upper hand and most often have a second term. Trump is the third president since World War II to not be reelected. The other two were Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush.

From Scranton to the White House

Pennsylvania was the key state that gave Trump victory in 2016 and now it has been the one that has pushed Biden this Saturday above the 270 electoral votes that are needed to be president.

Biden was born in this state, in Scranton. On Election Day he visited his childhood home and wrote a message on the wall: “From this house to the White House with the grace of God.”

In his old home he seemed pensive. A reporter for public radio NPR asked Biden what he was thinking. “In my mother,” he replied.


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