‘Democracy prevailed’: Biden aims to unify divided nation

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE (AP) – United States (US) president-elect Joe Biden pointedly criticised President Donald Trump on Monday for threatening core principles of democracy even as he told Americans that their form of self-government ultimately “prevailed”.

Speaking from his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware, on the day that electors nationwide cast votes affirming his victory, Biden was blunt in critiquing the damage done by Trump’s baseless allegations that the contest was stolen. Such arguments have been roundly rejected by judges across the political spectrum, including the justices at the Supreme Court.

Democracy, Biden said, has been “pushed, tested, threatened”. But he said it proved to be “resilient, true, and strong”.

“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago,” Biden said. “And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.”

Biden and his team hope that the formal victory in the Electoral College combined with his record-setting 81 million-vote count will help the country unify and accept his presidency. But the challenge facing Biden was evident as many congressional Republicans, including some of the party’s top leaders, refused to officially accept Biden’s win. Trump, meanwhile, shows no sign of conceding.

President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware. PHOTO: AP

The president-elect acknowledged an irony in the circumstances, noting that he won with the same number of electoral votes – 306 – as Trump did four years ago. Trump hailed that win as a “landslide”.

“By his own standards, these numbers represent a clear victory then, and I respectfully suggest they do so now,” Biden said.

A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to clinch the presidency.

The fact that Biden had to even give such a speech shortly after electors voted to make him the president – a usually routine and even mundane step – shows how extraordinary the post-election period has been, with Trump trying to thwart Biden at every turn.

Despite that, Biden struck a familiar theme of his presidential campaign, pledging to be “a president for all Americans” who will “work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did”.

“Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history,” he said. “To unite. To heal.”

He said that was the only way the country could overcome the worst health crisis in more than a century, saying that in the face of the pandemic, “we need to work together, give each other a chance and lower the temperature.”