This Is What A Mammal-American President Sounds Like
If Americans had held their breath since Election Day, Saturday was when we finally exhaled. Joe Biden officially defeated Donald Trump, and while President Lame Duck can spend the rest of his life disputing the results, sensible people are ready to move on. Our long — and far more gruesome — national nightmare is over.
After a day of celebrations across the country, there was still a dream-like quality to Biden's victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware. The past four-year trauma was so relentless, it's still difficult to believe it's ending. Barack Obama's 2008 victory speech was a celebration of hope and change. Biden's was a restoration of that hope, which has been battered and bludgeoned, and change is now a moral call to arms. He declared that this “grim era of demonization" should begin to end here and now. Those aren't just flowery words. It's a gauntlet thrown down against a Republican Party that fully embraced Trump-ism and will likely continue to do so once he's out of office.
Biden's biggest statement of the night wasn't in his speech. Breaking with tradition, he acknowledged the barriers broken that night and had his running mate, Kamala Harris, speak first to the cheering crowd at the “drive-in rally."
I’m thinking about my mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, and the generations of Black women who came before me who be… https://t.co/kTjWZm1gF7— Kamala Harris (@Kamala Harris) 1604850945.0
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris entered in a cream pantsuit, a shout out to the suffragists. She acknowledged "generations of women: Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women throughout our nation's history and paved the way for this moment tonight."
HARRIS: All the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century, 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment, 55 years ago with the Voting Rights Act, and now in 2020 with a new generation of women in our country who cast their ballots and continue the fight for their fundamental right to vote and be heard.
Harris will replace a man who refused to be in the same room alone with a woman. This shatters several ceilings, because the Trump administration was one of the most regressive when it came to women.
There was nothing more moving that watching the women of all ages and colors sharing this historic moment. A sea of aunties wept as one of their own headed to the White House.
HARRIS: But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. To the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they've never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.
Harris introduced Biden, who jogged adorably onto the stage while wearing a mask. They gave each other a fist bump, which reminded me when Michelle Obama congratulated her husband when he clinched the Democratic Party nomination. That was cool as fuck. This demonstrated a simple respect for public health, which nowadays is also cool as fuck.
The president-elect declared his commitment to controlling COVID-19, and he'd used science instead of dumb ass denial. He's a Democrat, so he's prepared to fix the country after his Republican predecessor ran it into the ground.
BIDEN: We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality, or relish life's most precious moments — hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us — until we get this virus under control.
He was appreciative of the broad coalition that delivered him this victory, but he also singled out Black voters, who were in his corner from the start, even when everyone else, especially the pundits, had given his campaign up for dead.
Joe Biden says he's proud to have built "the broadest and most diverse coalition in history" and thanks Black voter… https://t.co/EVuTKzhjJO— CBS News (@CBS News) 1604800427.0
BIDEN: I am proud of the campaign we built and ran. I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history. Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American. And especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest — the African American community stood up again for me. They always have my back, and I'll have yours.
This is one, of course, infinite differences between Biden and Trump, who laughably declared he's done more for Black people than Abraham Lincoln (crudely ignoring Barack Obama, who we love, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Civil Rights Act). You got the sense that President Klan Robe expected our thanks. Biden starts his presidency by thanking us.
BIDEN: And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I've lost a couple of elections myself. But now, let's give each other a chance. It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric.To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again.To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.
I don't expect Trump voters and Republicans to recognize Biden's compassion and genuine desire for reconciliation. But it's an important sentiment to express. That's what I'll enjoy most about this president — his kindness. It's been notably absent from the White House.
As a personal hero of mine once said, “I’m not sure any of that matters: Friends, enemies. So long as there's mercy, always mercy."
Let the healing begin.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."