Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 September 2020

US ELECTIONS

Biden promises to 'restore America' as he accepts Democratic nomination

The Democratic challenger vowed to end 'this chapter of American darkness'

Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden accepted the party’s nomination for president on Thursday, delivering the most important speech of his nearly 50-year political career.

He will now take on Republican Donald Trump in an election occurring during unprecedented circumstances as the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic looms over the November 3 vote.

"All elections are important, but we know in our bones this one is more consequential," he said.

"History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced," said Mr Biden as he noted the "perfect storm" brought on by the pandemic, a severe economic crisis, rampant racial injustice, and the accelerating threat of climate change.

"The tragedy of where we are today is it didn't have to be this bad." he said.

An emerging theme of Mr Biden's campaign is his promise to pull America out of "darkness." He called on his own personal experiences with tragedy, after a car accident killed his first wife and first daughter, and later his son died from cancer, to reassure Americans that "we can find the light once more."

Mr Biden, 77, is making his third White House bid after failing to win the nomination in 1988 and 2008.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Biden delivered his remarks outdoors to an audience consisting of only a few reporters, aides and family in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware.

His acceptance speech was the final salvo in a convention that was to have been held in the battleground state of Wisconsin, but ended up being almost entirely online because of Covid-19.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris greet supporters at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention. AFP
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris greet supporters at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention. AFP

In a show of unity, the other speakers on Thursday night included politicians who challenged Mr Biden during the Democratic primaries for the presidential nomination.

Speakers included former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, who addressed his experiences as a gay man in the army. New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg urged Americans not to "rehire" a failed president.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang was not originally asked to speak at the convention, but after tweeting "I've got to be honest I kind of expected to speak," online supporters rallied behind the hashtag #LetYangSpeak and he was added to the schedule.

When many Americans received a $1,200 (Dh4,400) relief cheque to help them through the mass unemployment and economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic, Mr Yang, who campaigned on a single issue - universal basic income - received resurgent support.

A central theme of the night was the shrinking middle class, with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker going after the Trump administration’s policies that have left “working people under attack."

Speaking to an auto worker, a firefighter and a bus driver, Mr Biden said "You guys built America, not Wall Street."

Numerous speakers throughout the convention, including former president Barack Obama, emphasised the importance of voting amid the pandemic and warned against efforts to suppress the vote. Mr Trump's repeated and unsubstantiated claims that mail-in ballots are rife with fraud, coupled with cuts to the US Postal Service, have fueled fears that some voters may be disenfranchised.

Democrats urged Americans to vote early and anticipate challenges from long lines to delays with mail-in voting.

On Wednesday, California senator Kamala Harris made history as she accepted the nomination to be Mr Biden's running mate.

Ms Harris, the first Black woman on a major party ticket, joined Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's 2016 opponent, in denouncing the president.

"Donald Trump's failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods," Ms Harris said. "We're at an inflection point."

As Democrats finalised their nomination for president, federal prosecutors announced the arrest of Mr Trump's former top strategist Steve Bannon and a judge rejected the president's bid to block the release of his financial records to the Manhattan District Attorney.

Mr Trump described Mr Bannon's arrest as a "sad event" before travelling to Pennsylvania to deliver remarks to supporters in the town of Old Forge, near Mr Biden's birthplace of Scranton.

Pennsylvania, like Wisconsin, is one of a handful of states seen as crucial to Mr Trump and Mr Biden's hopes of victory in November.

The president was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives in January for seeking political dirt on the Bidens from Ukraine, but was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

The arrest of Mr Bannon is the latest in a string of high-profile criminal investigations into Mr Trump's inner circle, which have led to the indictment or conviction of half a dozen of his close associates, including several key leaders of his 2016 campaign.

Updated: August 21, 2020 08:21 AM

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