In a powerful acceptance speech in which he never uttered the name of Donald Trump, Joe Biden cast his campaign against “the current president” as a battle of light versus darkness.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.

“Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst. I will be an ally of the light not of the darkness,” Biden said in a 25-minute address that wrapped up a most unconventional 2020 Democratic National Convention.

The former vice president, reaching the pinnacle of a 47-year political career at age 77, carried the theme through the end of his speech

“May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation.”

Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan, lauded the speech.

“Vice President Biden certainly rose to the occasion while delivering the most important speech of his political career on Thursday night. Though it was only 25 minutes in duration and lacked an audience, the speech will be fondly remembered if Biden is elected president in November,” Kall said.

While the Democratic challenger may have talked about the incumbent a little too much, “He looked like a political candidate who has eagerly awaited this moment for his whole life and his supporters will definitely be thrilled with the outcome.”

Trump apparently was watching the speech as well, but was less impressed.

“In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!” he tweeted.

In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2020

Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director, said in a statement, “Joe Biden is a twice-failed candidate for president and is, without question, a far worse candidate the third time around.”

As the four-day, mostly online convention drew to a close, Democrats seemed eager to present a united front instead of the divisions between the camps of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that plagued the party through the 2016 election.

This time, the Vermont senator appeared with six other vanquished Biden rivals to sing the praises of the newly minted nominee.Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got his own prime time slot.

I want to ask small business owners and their employees one question, and it’s a question for everyone: Would you rehire, or work for, someone who ran your business into the ground?” the billionaire wanted to know.

“If the answer is no, why the hell would we ever rehire Donald Trump for another four years?!”

The evening’s most poignant moment came not from a politician, but from a 13-year-old New Hampshire boy, Breydon Harrington, who deals with a stutter. Biden gave the youth tips he used to overcome the affliction.

“About a few months ago I met (Biden) in New Hampshire. He told me that we were members of the same club: we stutter. It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president,” the teen said.

Biden said his struggle with stuttering helped him become more compassionate and empathetic with others.

In a rather unique twist for a Democratic gathering, Biden’s faith was put on full display perhaps to counter Trump’s claim that Biden is “against God” and would “hurt the Bible.” Convention organizers played a CNN clip of the Catholic explaining his faith during a forum shortly after the Charleston, South Carolina, church shootings.

Michael Wear, who led faith-based initiatives for President Barack Obama, praised the change.

“I was clear in 2016, unafraid to call it as I saw it when it came to the Democratic campaign and how they approached faith. In 2020, Joe Biden and this campaign are not making that mistake. They are asking directly, explicitly for the votes of religious Americans. That matters.”

I was clear in 2016, unafraid to call it as I saw it when it came to the Democratic campaign and how they approached faith. In 2020, Joe Biden and this campaign are not making that mistake. They are asking directly, explicitly for the votes of religious Americans. That matters.

— Michael Wear (@MichaelRWear) August 21, 2020

In a joke that seemed to draw mostly negative reviews on Twitter, host Julia Louis Dreyfuss cracked: “Just remember, Joe Biden goes to church so regularly that he doesn’t even need tear gas and a bunch of federalized troops to get there.”

It’s likely no one laughed at a Trump campaign tweet about the same time: “Phony Kamala Harris is an anti-Catholic bigot.” Ohio’s Bob Paduchik, one of Trump’s top campaign advisers, “liked” the tweet.

Phony Kamala Harris is an anti-Catholic bigot. #DemConventionhttps://t.co/koBlHnFZj4

— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) August 21, 2020

“This campaign isn’t just about winning votes, it’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America,” Biden said in his speech.

“Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for the workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of the ’knee on the neck’. For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve to experience America’s promise in full.”

While Biden didn’t blame Trump for the coronavirus that’s taken some 170,000 American lives, he said the president’s inaction made the pandemic far worse in the U.S. than in other countries.

“Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to this nation. He failed to protect us. He failed to protect America,” said Biden, who favors a national mask mandate

“And, my fellow Americans, that is unforgivable.”

The COVID-19 outbreak combined with the country’s economic woes, struggle for racial justice, and the growing dangers from climate change means “History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced,” he said.

“Will we be the generation that finally wipes the stain of racism from our national character? Biden asked. “I believe we’re up to it.”

As he often does, Biden quoted an Irish poet.

He cited a work by Seamus Heaney that spoke of a time “when hope and history rhyme.”

Biden said, “This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme.”

drowland@dispatch.com

@darreldrowland


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