WASHINGTON – Soothing. Upbeat. Hopeful. Warm. Historic. Bridge-building. Optimistic. Realistic.
After almost four exhausting years of President Donald Trump and his scorched rhetoric and divisive tweets, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, in their first speeches as president- and vice president-elect, made the contrast obvious on Saturday night with their calming words as Biden called for America to begin to end this “grim era of demonization.”
The moment was also historic. Finally, a glass ceiling was shattered and a woman will be vice president for the first time in the nation’s history.
Biden and Harris delivered their message without sticking it to Trump, because at this point, what would be the point.
Harris introduced Biden. She will be the first person of color as vice president, as well as the first female. She said she was thinking of her mom and “about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight.
“Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” she added.
Biden spoke directly to Trump voters, saying he understood their disappointment.
“I’ve lost a couple of elections myself,” Biden said. “But now, let’s give each other a chance. 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 America.”
We know that Trump won’t go quietly and will still command an audience when he is out of office.
A tip of the hat here to Trump, who came close to winning a second term even as he undermined our democracy, busted norms, fueled divisions among us, was impeached, constantly lied and, on Saturday, was not accepting that Biden was elected president.
This COVID-19 election turned out a record number of voters. We learned that when its easier for people to vote — whether by early voting or vote by mail — more folks do, and that’s good.
Biden, who served two terms as vice president to President Barack Obama, broke a record with his popular vote — more than 74 million. With turnout swollen, Trump also broke a record with his 70 million-plus ballots, according to projections from news organizations.
That means a lot of people in our country believed in what Trump was selling. For Biden to be able to govern, they can’t be ignored.
On Saturday, Biden was pledging “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States.”
Biden, without making a direct reference to Trump — he used his name only once in his speech — said he will work to “make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.”
Biden talked about different “inflection points” in U.S. history, and how we are at another one in 2020.
“Lincoln in 1860 — coming to save the Union. FDR in 1932 — promising a beleaguered country a New Deal. JFK in 1960 — pledging a New Frontier. And 12 years ago — when Barack Obama made history — and told us, “Yes, we can.”
Biden has been campaigning to save the “soul of our nation.”
I’m not sure what his governing slogan will be — those two or three words that will sum up the Biden presidency.
We’ll see. Saturday is just the beginning.