Biden triumphs, pledges to ‘restore America’s soul’

President-elect Joe Biden addresses the nation after Pennsylvania secured his victory (Photo: Prachatai Flickr)

The chaotic, bitter and frequently surreal Trump era is over. Joseph R Biden Jr will be the 46th president of the United States, after vote-counting in the key battleground of Pennsylvania delivered the Democrats an Electoral College majority.

The result early today (Saturday US time) also represents a historic moment for the nation, with Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, to become the first woman and first person of colour to serve as vice president.

“The people of this nation have spoken,” declared 77-year-old Biden, in an energetic victory speech from his home state in Delaware.

“They’ve delivered us a convincing victory. A clear victory.”

Biden, who was also declared the winner in closely-fought Nevada, struck a conciliatory tone. “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but to unify,” he said.

“I sought this office to restore the soul of America … to make America respected around the world again.”

Harris, who wore a white pantsuit in a nod to the women’s suffrage movement, told the nation: “You ushered in a new day for America.”

The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants paid tribute to the hard work and sacrifice of generations of women before her who “paved the way for this moment tonight”.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching here tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities … Our country has sent you a clear message: dream with ambition, lead with conviction.”

The wins in previously Republican Pennsylvania and Nevada gave Biden an unassailable lead, and followed a nail-biting four days since polls closed on Tuesday evening US time.

An early strong showing by Trump evaporated as early and postal votes were counted, tilting the likely result in the Democrats’ favour.

Biden also remains ahead in Arizona and Georgia, although the latter may well go to a re-count.

Despite Biden’s clear victory, President Trump and some senior Republicans continued to argue today that the election was not yet lost.

Trump – the first president to lose office after one term in more than a quarter of a century and only the third since the Second World War – vowed to press ahead with legal challenges to the voting and counting process.

As he insisted that “this election is far from over”, street demonstrations by his supporters in a number of cities led to scuffles and other minor violent incidents.

But in New York City, Washington DC and other cities across the country, there were jubilant celebrations as Biden supporters banged pots and pans, danced in the street and honked their car horns.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was among world leaders offering early congratulations.

Morrison said his government welcomed “the president-elect’s commitment to multilateral institutions and strengthening democracies”.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted: “Congratulations Joe Biden and Kamala Harris! What a relief that you won.”

Biden’s nearly 75 million votes thus far are the most ever won by a US presidential candidate, surpassing the record set by Barack Obama in 2008.

But Obama’s record has also been broken by Trump’s 70 million-plus votes, illustrating the latter’s continuing support, particularly among white and rural voters.

Pundits have attributed Biden’s win to his successful appeal to urban, suburban, black and female voters. He managed to rebuild the “blue wall” of Democrat states in the post-industrial northern Mid-West.

It was the third presidential bid for Biden, who was elected a senator 48 years ago and served two terms as Obama’s vice-president.

Harris described him today as “a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand”.

Biden told the nation: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again.”

He spoke of the “great battles” that lay ahead: to control Covid-19, build prosperity, secure healthcare, “save the climate”, and “achieve racial justice and root out systematic racism in this country”.

“Our work begins with getting Covid under control,” Biden said, adding that he would on Monday name a group of leading scientists and experts to formulate an action plan, to begin the moment he is inaugurated on 20 January.

“I will spare no effort or commitment to turn this pandemic around.”

The election followed a tumultuous year that included an unsuccessful attempt to impeach Trump, deep divisions over Covid-19, which has claimed nearly 240,000 lives in the US, and Black Lives Matters protests across the country following the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Trump today accused Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner”, and said his team would go to court on Monday “to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated”.

But amid the noisy celebrations in the US and beyond, it seemed like increasingly few people were listening.

Biden edges closer to victory, urges unity

Joe Biden: Looking increasingly like the next US President (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden has the White House within his sights today after overtaking Donald Trump in the two key battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia.

A win in Pennsylvania alone, where Biden is currently ahead by more than 14,500 votes, would deliver him 20 Electoral College votes – enough to take him over the 270-vote threshold and guarantee victory.

He also has a narrow lead in Georgia, a traditional Republican stronghold, and continues to hold the advantage in Nevada and North Carolina.

In an address to the nation today, Biden called for unity and an end to “partisan warfare”, saying:

“Put the anger and demonisation behind us. It’s time for us to come together as a nation to heal.”

He added: “”The numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: we’re going to win this race.”

As both Republican and Democrat supporters rallied outside counting centres in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and other major cities, Trump repeated his unfounded claims that the electoral process was rigged against him.

In a statement, he insisted that “illegal ballots should not be counted”, and claimed that “the integrity of our entire election process” was at stake. However, Trump’s tone was decidedly more subdued than in recent days.

The former vice-president – who already has 253 Electoral College votes, to Trump’s 213, and is ahead in the popular vote by more than four million votes – said he had “no doubt” that he and his running mate, Kamala Harris, were on course for victory.

Notably, a growing number of Republicans have begun to distance themselves from Trump, and his baseless claims of election fraud.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said: “The president’s allegations of large-scale fraud and theft of the election are just not substantiated.”

And Utah Senator Mitt Romney called Trump’s attacks on the electoral process “recklessly inflame(s) destructive and dangerous passions”, adding:

“He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt or stolen.”

Other Republicans, such as Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, backed Trump’s claims.

Trump, who needs Georgia and Pennsylvania to win the White House, is pressing on with numerous legal challenges in various key states.

However, some of those lawsuits have already been rejected, and his wins so far have been peripheral, relating to issues such as how close to the counting process observers can stand.

Biden nearly doubled his lead in Nevada and George overnight. In Arizona, his lead is slowly being whittled away, but not as much as Republicans had hoped.

Trump’s claims of election theft have spurred his supporters to take to the streets, demanding that some vote counts cease and others continue.

Meanwhile, some of Biden’s followers have been dancing in the streets to celebrate his leads in key states.

Outside Philadelphia’s Convention Center, where votes are being counted, they held up a banner proclaiming “The People Have Spoken”. Two armed men were arrested near the Convention Center yesterday.

Trump’s former adviser, Steve Bannon, has been permanently banned from Twitter after calling for leading public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray to be beheaded.

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