President-Elect Biden’s Victory Speech

"Now this campaign is over, what is the will of the people? What is our mandate?"

In his first speech upon taking office in the wake of the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s resignation, President Gerald Ford declared, “Our long national nightmare is over.” In his first speech as President-Elect, Joe Biden couldn’t promise quite so much. Instead, he pleaded, “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now.”

He began his speech as only he could,

Hello. My fellow Americans and the people who brought me to the dance, Delawareans. I see my buddy Tom — Sen. Tom Carper down there and I think — I think Sen. Coons is there and I think the governor’s around. Is that Ruth Ann? And that former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner? Most importantly, my sisters in law and my sister Valerie. Anyway …

Following it with, for the first time since 2008, a speech by a newly-elected President that sounded Presidential.

Folks, the people of this nation have spoken. They’ve delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for we, the people. We’ve won with the most votes ever cast on a presidential ticket in the history of the nation, 74 million!

And what I must admit has surprised me, tonight we’re seeing all over this nation, all cities in all parts of the country, indeed across the world, an outpouring of joy, of hope of renewed faith in tomorrow, bring a better day. And I’m humbled by the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me.

Certainly, a victory lap and a claim for a mandate. But, more importantly, an awareness that there are other people on the planet and that they matter.

I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify. Who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States. And work with all my heart with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you. And for that is what America I believe is about. It’s about people. And that’s what our administration will be all about.

I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make America respected around the world again. And to unite us here at home. It’s the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for that vision. And now, the work of making that vision is real, it’s a task — the task of our time.

While seemingly bland goals, they’re vital ones. And, importantly, not in his power to command. Assuming his party doesn’t win both of Georgia’s Senate seats in January’s run-off, he’ll face an opposition Senate run by an emboldened Mitch McConnell who has shown ruthlessness and cunning in stopping a Democratic President from enacting his agenda. Still, one is permitted to harbor a glimmer of hope that decades of service with Biden will allow a spirit of compromise to enact policies on which overwhelming majorities of Americans agree.

Next a nod to his family:

Folks, as I said many times before, I’m Jill’s husband. And I would not be here without the love and tireless support of Jill and my son Hunter and Ashley, my daughter, and all our grandchildren and their spouses and all our family. They’re my heart. Jill’s a mom, a military mom, an educator.

And she has dedicated her life to education, but teaching isn’t just what she does. It’s who she is. For American educators, this is a great day for y’all. You’re gonna have one of your own in the White House. And Jill’s gonna make a great first lady. I’m so proud of her.

More on Dr. Biden later.

I’ll have the honor of serving with a fantastic vice president who you just heard from, Kamala Harris, who makes history as the first woman, first black woman, the first woman from south Asian descent, the first daughter of immigrants ever elected in this country.

Don’t tell me it’s not possible in the United States! It’s long overdue. And we’re reminded tonight of those who fought so hard for so many years to make this happen. Once again, America’s bent the arc of the moral universe more towards justice. Kamala, Doug, like it or not, you’re family. You’ve become an honorary Biden. There’s no way out.

While we’ve come far enough in the civil rights movements that these “firsts” shouldn’t be all that noteworthy—after all, Biden served with a two-term Black President and a woman received the majority of the votes for President in the previous cycle. Still, coming off four years of emboldened white nationalism, it’s a historic notion. (And, seldom mentioned, Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, will be the first man in whatever we’re going to call that role. Second Gentleman?)

To all those of you who volunteered and worked the polls in the middle of this pandemic, local elected officials, you deserve a special thanks from the entire nation. And to my campaign team and all the volunteers and all who gave so much of themselves to make this moment possible. I owe you. I owe you. I owe you everything. And to all those who supported us, I’m proud of the campaign we built and ran.

I’m proud of the coalition we put together. The broadest and most diverse coalition in history. Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. I mean it. Especially those moments — and especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me.

You always had my back and I’ll have yours. I said at the outset, I wanted to represent — this campaign to represent and look like America. We’ve done that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like and act like.

While pleas for unity of this sort were standard fare until 2016, the call-outs seem genuinely meaningful given the moment. And, the last time a decent man was elected to the office, gay and transgender Americans would not have merited a mention.

Next, a nod to the opposition:

For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight.

I’ve lost a couple of times myself, but now let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans. They are Americans.

The Bible tells us, “to everything there is a season: a time to build, a time to reap, and a time to sow and a time to heal.” This is the time to heal in America. Now this campaign is over, what is the will of the people? What is our mandate?

Trump isn’t going along with this yet, and is therefore making it harder. I’m genuinely hoping his tantrum will be over with soon and that his people will contain him. Then again, I’ve been continually disappointed on that front.

The days of Presidential “honeymoons” are, alas, likely over. Even a man as decent and conciliatory as Biden will have difficulty uniting a country where there’s a permanent campaign on talk radio, partisan news networks, and social media. Still, I predict that, unlike the man he beat, he’ll soon have approval ratings well above the 50 percent mark.

I believe it’s this: Americans have called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus. The battle to build prosperity. The battle to secure your family’s health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country.

And the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control. The battle to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everybody in this country a fair shot. That’s all they’re asking for, a fair shot. Folks, our work begins with getting COVID under control.

That’s both a modest and ambitious agenda. Given Trump’s poisoning the well with negative leadership, it’s going to be very difficult to persuade large swaths of the country to do the necessary things to slow the spread of the disease while we await a vaccine—and to trust it once it’s approved. And, alas, racial justice, global warming, and health care are all hyper-politicized issues despite elite consensus.

We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments, hugging our grandchildren, our children, our birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us until we get it under control. On Monday I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisors to help take the Biden-Harris COVID plan and convert it into an action blueprint that will start on January the 20, 2021. That plan will be built on bedrock science.

It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern. I will spare no effort, none, or any commitment to turn around this pandemic. Folks, I’m a proud Democrat. But I will govern as an American president.

January 20 is a long time away but I do believe he’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

I’ll work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did. Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now. The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another, it’s not some mysterious force beyond our control.

It’s a decision. A choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate. And I believe that this is part of the mandate given to us from the American people.

They want us to cooperate in their interest, and that’s the choice I’ll make. And I’ll call on Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to make that choice with me. The American story is about slow yet steadily widening the opportunities in America. And make no mistake, too many dreams have been deferred for too long. We must make the promise of the country real for everybody, no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.

Again, this seems both a minimum for healing the country and getting on with its business and yet an incredibly ambitious task. And, alas, “matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity” will be perceived as threatening, not unifying, by far too many.

Folks, America has always been shaped by inflection points, by moments in time where we’ve made hard decisions about who we are and what we want to be. 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, he told us, “Yes, we can.”

Well folks, we stand at an inflection point. We have an opportunity to defeat despair, to build a nation of prosperity and purpose. We can do it. I know we can.

I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. And what presidents say in this battle matters. It’s time for our better angels to prevail. Tonight, the whole world is watching America. And I believe at our best, America is a beacon for the globe.

We will not lead — we will lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. I know, I’ve always believed, many have you heard me say it, I’ve always believed we can define America in one word: possibilities. That in America everyone should be given an opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them.

You see, I believe in the possibility of this country. We’re always looking ahead, ahead to an America that’s freer, more just. Ahead to an America that creates jobs with dignity and respect. Ahead to an America that cures diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. Ahead to an America that never leaves anyone behind.

Ahead to an America that never gives up, never gives in. This is a great nation. It’s always been a bad bet to bet against America. We’re good people. This is the United States of America, and there has never been anything, never been anything we’ve been able — not able to do when we’ve done it together.

That’s not the most poetic version of that call I’ve ever read but it’s very Joe Biden. It comes across as earnest and heart-felt.

Folks, in the last days of the campaign, I began thinking about a hymn that means a lot to me and my family, particularly my deceased son Beau. It captures the faith that sustains me and which I believe sustains America. And I hope, and I hope it can provide some comfort and solace to the 230 million — thousand Americans who have lost a loved one through this terrible virus this year. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. Hopefully this hymn gives you solace as well. It goes like this.

“And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand.” And now together on eagles’ wings, we embark on the work that God and history have called us to do with full hearts and steady hands, with faith in America and in each other, with love of country, a thirst for justice. Let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed.

The United States of America, ladies and gentlemen, there has never, never been anything we’ve tried we’ve not been able to do. So remember, as my grandpop — our grandpop, he said when I walked out of his home when I was kid up in Scranton, he said “Joey, keep the faith.” And our grandmother when she was alive, she yelled, “No, Joey, spread it.”

Spread the faith. God love you all. May god bless America and may god protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m generally not a fan of religiosity in public speeches but, again, unlike so many American politicians who invoke it, it’s genuinely a reflect of the man we’ve elected to lead us.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Still, one is permitted to harbor a glimmer of hope that decades of service with Biden will allow a spirit of compromise to enact policies on which overwhelming majorities of Americans agree.

    Or maybe just naive. The truth is that even if “overwhelming majorities of Americans agree” on a number of policies, they aren’t the right Americans. Mitch serves only those few, the .1%.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: McConnell is a ruthless politician who has contributed to the further breakdown of American norms and institutions. But he was just reelected by a 57-38 margin against a well-financed opponent to a seventh term in the dirt-poor state of Kentucky. One presumes he’s doing something right for his constituency.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m in a good mood this morning, perhaps that it is going to be 70 degrees in Nov. or that it’s best to be optimistic at a new beginning. Or perhaps I’m naive this morning. But Moscow Mitch might have a tougher time with his scorched earth legislative policy than he had when Obama was in the WH.

    First he has incumbents to protect in competitive states, he can’t lose any R votes as he have only, at best, a bare majority and there are R senators who might be peeled off depending on the legislation. He won’t be receiving a steady stream of anti-Biden legislation from the House and will likely be getting any number of bills that are popular in some R states that he will be seen by his normal allies as obstructing.

    Moscow won’t roll over, but he will have a tougher field to play on.

    And of course perhaps the US Attorney for KY will start sniffing around that deal the McConnell and Chow brokered for that Russian oligarch.

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  4. Moosebreath says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    “he can’t lose any R votes”

    That assumes that votes are held at all. As Majority Leader, McConnell controls what bills come up for votes. And the easiest way to ensure Senators with tough reelections to fight don’t have to take unpopular votes is to prevent votes on those bills from coming to the floor.

    So for the next two years (at least), the Senate is where bills will go to die.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    One presumes he’s doing something right for his constituency.

    I agree with one modification: “ One presumes he’s doing something his constituency wants.” And that would be sowing racial and social resentment, pitting people against each other and making it clear that if you want to make sure no one on the other side gets something better than what you are getting, Mitch has your back in Kentucky and in Washington.

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  6. Scott F. says:

    Again, this seems both a minimum for healing the country and getting on with its business “no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity” will be perceived as threatening, not unifying, by far too many.

    “No matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity” is ‘All Lives Matter’ in all but the specific words, yet you are right that many won’t hear it that way and they’ll invent threat and victimization. And I have to say that this angers me to no end. Because I’ve read enough literature to understand that when there’s no comeuppance for the villain, there’s no catharsis.

    After decades of vilification and disparagement as everything from radical communists to satanic pedophiles, Democrats once again find themselves as conciliators because they have no other choice. They have no choice because their constituents always bear the brunt of societal unrest and because they earnestly (and correctly) believe that good governance can help people and solve big problems, so Democrats will have to try to make it work with an opposition party that will slap their hand away. And the Republicans will blame them for the left’s unwillingness to compromise and they will characterize the liberal agenda with cartoonish misrepresentations of both the intent and affects of the policies within. And it will cost the Republicans nothing with their voters.

    Because, you see, that’s how it works. Obama inherited the Great Recession and turned it around into years of uninterrupted economic expansion while driving unprecedented improvements into our healthcare systems, yet he ended up a disappointment the left because he didn’t do enough and a villain on the right because… well, beyond his being black, I’ve never been able to figure that out.

    Now, Biden is going to change the trajectory of the pandemic and oversee the economic recovery that likely will follow a vaccine. He’ll start to repair the damage to our institutions and restore most of our standing within the international community, but he’ll reap no benefit from that. The GOP base will brand him a deviant and a liar (without a hint of irony) and Republican politicians will celebrate themselves as stalwart defenders of the status quo (a status quo that’s only good for them, but they won’t say that).

    I was inspired by Biden’s call for unity. As you note, it was refreshing and necessary. But, not for Biden’s lack of trying, it won’t be enough. And someone ought to pay for that.

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  7. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    But he was just reelected by a 57-38 margin against a well-financed opponent to a seventh term in the dirt-poor state of Kentucky.

    57% of the voting population within a state of 4.5 million people punched their ballot for McConnell, so his ruthless destruction of American governance in service of a country of 330 million must be how it’s supposed to work?

    Yeah, I’ve got a problem with that.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: Quite right. Moscow Mitch didn’t win because he delivers pork for KY, he won because he has an R after his name. That partisanship thing Dr. T talks about. KY is a very Republican place, just the sort of place the GOPs faux populism is targeted at. He won by 19 points, in a state Trump took by 26 points.

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  9. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    70+F in this bit of November is rare. Enjoy it. Go for a walk and smell the leaves. Autumn smells like no other time of year. It is a precious small window.

    Winter is coming.

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Hating the libs, James.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    Via Tom Sullivan at Digby, Rachel Bitecofer offers good advice in a tweet thread.

    Now, IDK if its just that I’m one of fewer academics that come from the real, unpolished, bottom 50% world, and not the romanticized bullshit painted by J.D. Vance of working-class America- the real one where people have 3 kids from 3 different women and get angry when 1 of them is reticent to let them visit their kid when they get out jail. AGAIN. In THAT working class, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and bigotry run rampant: and not only are these “isms” prevalent, there is a belief that they shouldn’t have had to be buried (see how that relates back to their culture war champion?) That the old days were far superior bc they could just call someone a f&g or slap their female co-worker in the ass is they were in the mood. There was a hierarchy, a caste as @Isabelwilkerson notes, and they were at the top of it- as Wilkerson notes in her book, that shit was SOLID. And now its gone. And do you know who took it?
    The Democrats

    This is what is meant by “Trump talks like they do”. Not his babbling incoherence, but his willingness to, shall we say, call a spade a spade.

    Bitecofer is talking about the no-college working class white that many see as the typical Trump supporter. But they’re not the typical Republican voter. As long as the GOPs continue to indulge in racism and faux populism, Ds have a better chance converting middle class suburban Republicans. Although they should certainly do what they can to support the working class. Stuff training coal miners to code, supporting enlarged union membership would be a good start.

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  12. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    Union now. Union forever.

    PS – I have edit privileges on @gVOR08‘s previous comment and could make it say anything I wanted. That is really unwelcome. Hosts, please fix this and soon. It is ripe for abuse.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl: I appreciate your forbearance.

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  14. Unsympathetic says:

    Ds have a better chance converting middle class suburban Republicans

    No, they don’t. They stand ZERO chance of accomplishing that conversion. It will likely be what they do – and you’ll hear about it on MSNBC – because it will allow them to keep complaining “who could have known?” while they keep losing when Republicans just can’t find it in themselves to pull the lever for a D because [insert fake reason, different every election]. The only successful strategy is old Howard Dean’s 50-state GOTV organization with tangible benefits for working-class citizens.. but that would require actual work, so we can be sure they won’t do that.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @de stijl: I’ve gotten links to the edit controls, brought up the edit dialog, and failed when saving other people’s comments in the past. So, the only way to be sure is to try to edit.

    If anyone’s comments start ending with “Gustopher is awesome” you will know that edit is really broken.

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  16. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    Gustopher is awesome

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  17. Jay L Gischer says:

    I liked that Bitecofer thread. I will note that I know families like the sort Vance wrote about, too. These visions are not mutually exclusive.

    I’m not sure how enlarged membership in a – let’s say mine workers – union is going to help things when coal mining is literally underwater in Appalachia, and on its way out worldwide.

    There is nothing any politician can do to reverse that trend, it’s bigger than nations. But yeah, we could go in there and have lying competition with them and say we’re going to “Bring Back Coal” even better than Trump.

    Thing is, I personally want no part of that. I’m a terrible politician, what do I know. That’s just a personal choice.

    I have spent many hours on the mat as a sensei or assistant watching people do terrible falls (we call them sutemi) and noting “wow, that looks like that hurt” – because they are doing them incorrectly. I didn’t hurt them. I didn’t want them to hurt. I want them to change. It takes a long time to change, even for the smart ones. (And IQ doesn’t predict the speed they learn all that well.) Somehow, this is a better path for me.

    I doubt that politics – with its focus on laws and budgets – can manage this sort of thing. I can.

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  18. Joe says:

    For American educators, this is a great day for y’all. You’re gonna have one of your own in the White House.

    My girlfriend is a first grade teacher. She has said how specifically she felt that Trump was not her president because, as a woman and a teacher, he supported no part of her life. This sentence from Biden’s speech really struck her. She almost started tearing up.

    I have a lot of educator friends. My FB feed is blown up with people who are so done with DeVos.

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