Joe Biden has used his first national address as president-elect to vow to heal a deeply divided nation, declaring it was time to “let this grim era of demonisation in America begin to end”.
Reaching out to the millions of people who voted against him, he said: “Let’s give each other a chance.”
His calls for reconciliation at a Saturday evening victory celebration came even as President Donald Trump continued to argue the election had been stolen from him, an indication that the divisive politics that have gripped the U.S. over the past four years are far from over.
It also suggested that even as Biden seeks to build out a government during his transition to the presidency, the president has little interest in helping him do so.
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment,” Mr Biden said during a drive-in event in Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again.”
The 77-year-old Democrat headed into his first full day as president-elect on Sunday with key staffing decisions to make as the coronavirus rages. The always-frenzied 10-week transition period before Inauguration Day on January 20 already has been shortened by the extra time it took to determine the winner of Tuesday’s election.
The second Catholic to be elected president, Mr Biden planned to attend church at St. Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Wilmington, as he does nearly every week. He began Election Day with a visit to the church and the grave of his son, Beau, a former Delaware attorney general who died of brain cancer in 2015.
His top priority in the transition is expected to be quickly naming a chief of staff. Mr Biden suggested during the campaign that his first call after being elected would be to Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, but his advisers have not said whether the two have spoken yet.
Mr Biden said on Saturday that he would announce a task force of scientists and experts on Monday to develop a “blueprint” to begin beating back the virus by the time he assumes the presidency. He said his plan would be “built on bedrock science” and “constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern.”
The former vice president was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted. He made Mr Trump the first incumbent president to be denied a second term since Republican George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992.
His running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, used her first address as vice president-elect to showcase her history-make place as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said in her speech Saturday night.
To win, Mr Biden successfully unified different wings of the Democratic Party around their universal loathing of Mr Trump, garnering support from progressive insurgents and establishment moderates alike.
“The party came together to defeat Donald Trump,” said Brian Lemek, a longtime progressive fundraiser and executive director of Brady PAC, which invested $6 million on 2020 candidates supporting gun violence prevention efforts and voting rights. “His main job right now, we all think, is to heal the nation.”
Mr Biden senior adviser Ted Kaufman said the transition team will focus on the “nuts and bolts” of building the new administration in coming days. He said Mr Biden plans to speak to legislative leaders and governors from both parties.
Mr Biden’s efforts at bipartisan reconciliation, meanwhile, could still be derailed by Mr Trump’s refusing to concede the presidential race. It wasn’t clear if Mr Biden and Mr Trump would meet in coming days, as is the modern tradition.
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