In an emotional, direct address forced by the virtual convention format, Democratic nominee Joe Biden set the stage for less of an election and more of a cosmic battle between good and evil: A battle for the soul of the nation.
“I’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness,” he began.
He painted a picture of President Donald Trump’s American carnage, reeling off the horrifying statistics of Americans dead and sick and out of work.
“History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced,” he said, later adding: “We lead the world in cases, we lead the world in deaths, our economy is in tatters.”
The state of our union, he said, is “unforgivable.”
He described an America battered and tired, rent by a pandemic, an economic crisis, a cry for racial justice and facing cataclysmic environmental peril all at the same time.
“I understand how hard it is to have any hope right now,” he said. And in perhaps the most compelling moment of the speech, he turned his attention directly to those who lost loved ones to the novel coronavirus. The father of two dead children and husband of a dead wife, he did what Trump never has: acknowledged Americans’ grief and pain and anger from the vantage point of someone who’s felt the same things, who knows how “mean, cruel and unfair” life can be.
“I’ve found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose,” he said, pivoting to the America he envisions.
He called social security a “sacred promise,” vowing never to endanger it as Trump has threatened to do. He promised “pay,” not just “praise,” for frontline workers, and laid out his intention to distribute COVID-19 tests and protective equipment to prepare schools for the fall and to take the “muzzle” off of experts.
He promised to protect the franchise of voting, the institution that has come under recent fire from the Trump administration.
“Under President Biden, America will not turn a blind eye to Russian bounties on the heads of American soldiers,” he said, his voice hardening. “Nor will I put up with foreign interference in our most sacred democratic exercise, voting.”
He voiced the hope that this can be the generation that “wipes the stain of racism from our national character,” relaying the story of George Floyd’s young daughter telling him that her father changed the world.
In Trump’s world of grievance and anger, Biden made the case for an America that’s generous and hopeful.
Using imagery with echoes of his Catholic faith, he called on believers in love and decency to swell his ranks, and support him in his most important battle yet.
“Let us begin, you and I together, one nation under God, united in our love for America, united in our love for each other,” he said. “For love is more powerful than hate, hope is more powerful than fear, light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment.”