Biden accepts challenge: Takes Democratic nomination, eyes Trump

Joe Biden delivers his speech as he accepts the Democratic nomination for president Thursday night in Wilmington. TNS photo

WILMINGTON — The Democratic National Convention may be over, but Delaware’s time in the spotlight is just beginning.

The fourth and final day of the convention wrapped up Thursday, with Joe Biden officially accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president and making his case to the American people.

Carrying the theme of “America’s Promise,” the final night was meant to inspire Americans and highlight both Mr. Biden’s record and what may lie ahead.

“The measure of a president is the same as the measure of a person: What principles guide them? How do they handle adversity?” the Democratic National Convention Committee said in a statement.

“Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are. Joe Biden is a good man who believes in the promise of America, and as president, he will deliver on that promise for all.”

Mr. Biden’s address Thursday was preceded by a number of others, including Chris Coons, Delaware’s junior member of the Senate.
Chiming in remotely, Sen. Coons described Mr. Biden as a good man, emphasizing his faith.

“We need a president who brings people of all faiths together to tackle our challenges, rebuild our country and restore our humanity. Someone who knows we’re called to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Joe Biden will be that president,” he said.

“Joe’s always known this race is a battle for the soul of our country, and he’s right. Joe believes. He believes in both the greatness and the goodness of this country. He believes in us and in what we can do together.”

Mr. Biden has cited his religious beliefs as helping him get through the death of his son, Beau, in 2015, whose presence almost seemed to hang over the convention.

From left, Donna Tucker Jones, Jordan M. Hines, Tyrone Jones and Francine Oates, all of Wilmington, enjoy the evening at the drive-thru viewing party the Democratic National Convention and the Biden campaign organized for Delaware Democrats. Delaware State News/Ashley Dawson

Thursday’s event included a tribute to the younger Biden, the attorney general of Delaware from 2007-15, who lost his life to brain cancer. Featured in the montage were lines from his memorial service delivered by former President Barack Obama and from Beau Biden’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech.

“He did in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146,” President Obama said in the eulogy.

The former vice president’s two surviving children spoke briefly, as did several of his grandchildren. Before Mr. Biden himself took the stage at the Chase Center on Thursday, viewers saw a video about his background, much of which is old hat to Delawareans.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden moved to Delaware with his family as a child. His political career took off quickly, with the young lawyer winning a seat on New Castle County Council in 1970 and, two years later, upsetting Republican incumbent Cale Boggs in a race for the U.S. Senate.

Tragedy struck just six weeks after the election, however, when his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash. Faced with despair, Mr. Biden considered resigning office to ensure he could be with his sons.

What Delaware and the country might look like had he followed through with that plan is unknown, as in the end, Mr. Biden made the fateful decision to remain. Urged on Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, he was sworn in to the Senate, where he served for more than three decades until being elected vice president.

Now, after his third try, he’s the Democratic nominee for president in an election many have called the most important in the history of the United States.

“This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America,” Mr. Biden said.

From left, Jill and Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris with her husband Douglas Emhoff wave to those gathered in the parking lot of the Chase Center in Wilmington Thursday night. (Delaware State News/Ashley Dawson)

President Donald Trump has failed the country in so many ways, he said, citing the toll COVID-19 continues to take on Americans and the president’s embrace of authoritarian leaders around the world.

Mr. Biden pledged to “draw on the best of us, not the worst.”

The convention was a rebuke of President Trump, with speakers laying out Mr. Biden’s plan for the country and arguing American democracy cannot afford four more years under the same administration.

Throughout the week, participants have tried to differentiate Mr. Biden from the president, emphasizing over and over he will bring a level of basic competence and decency they said has been missing from the office since 2017.

A number of Delawareans spoke during the convention’s four days, ranging from the members of Delaware’s congressional delegation to Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill, to Rabbi Michael Beals of Wilmington’s Congregation Beth Shalom, who relayed a story about Mr. Biden attending a Jewish memorial service just to pay his respects.

“Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain,” he said in prepared remarks. “He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because he’s a mensch. And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country — we need a mensch.”

A man proudly wears his Joe Biden facemask as he drives to the Chase Center on Thursday during the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Wilmington. Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys

Many people gathered outside the Chase Center to cheer on Mr. Biden and be part of history on the final day. Giant screens were set up in the facility’s parking lot in a fashion that resembled drive-in movie theaters, with numerous attendees waving American flags or signs proclaiming their support for the Democratic nominee.

In a reminder of why exactly Mr. Biden delivered his remarks from Wilmington rather than Milwaukee, as originally planned, many people wore masks and social distanced.

Carrying a sign reading “Donald Trump You’re Fired,” Donald Lafferty expressed no trepidations about Republican protesters gathered nearby.

“I’m going to walk right through them and see what happens,” he said. “I have enough police here to protect me.”

With that, Mr. Lafferty never broke stride while walking past, absorbing a few fairly innocuous verbal jabs.

Standing outside the convention for a third straight night, he estimated there was “10 times” more activity Thursday.

While Al Kraszewski was nostalgic about a Delawarean taking center stage as presidential nominee in his home state, he felt a twinge of disappointment, too.

“This is a historical time, and my only concern is where are the kids?” he said. “I must have talked to 15 young kids (recently), and they had no idea who Joe Biden was. When they’re my age, they’re going to say, ‘Geez, this was an opportunity.’”

Still, he’s thrilled just to see Delaware in the spotlight.

“I would have never thought I would live to see a Delawarean running for president,” he said. “This is such a moving movement to have Joe Biden, and we need him to save our country.”

David Redlawsk and Aletia Morgan of Newark awaited the Democratic National Convention from the parking lot of the Chase Center.

David Redlawsk and Aletia Morgan of Newark await the Democratic Convention from the parking lot of the Chase Center in Wilmington. Delaware State News/Ashley Dawson

In a red convertible and wearing facial coverings that promoted voting and Mr. Biden, the 23rd Representative District volunteers were thrilled to get the drive-thru viewing party invite.

“We’ve been watching every night. It seemed like a great opportunity to take advantage of something that seemed like a crowd,” said Mr. Redlawsk, chairman of the University of Delaware Political Science Department, who has been following the presidential race since Iowa last fall.

“I started at the beginning, and here I am at the end of this part,” he said.

The couple appreciated the social distancing measures enforced as police officers on bicycles rode through the parking lot and reminded people to stay in their cars when they ventured too far or gathered too long with people from other vehicles.

“You don’t see this kind of thing in Delaware a whole lot,” Ms. Morgan said.

Music rang out across the parking lot, and cheers went up frequently, as Delaware’s party leaders appeared in person and on the big screen. Del. Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long stopped for selfies as she made her way across the parking lot.

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who spoke at the convention Tuesday night, waved to the crowd, standing up from her driver’s side door, pumping her fist and encouraging support with her “Biden for President” sign.

Tyrone Jones works for the congresswoman and said he is proud of the work she’s doing with other Democrats in Delaware.

“It’s a great opportunity to work for someone who is as competent and passionate as they are, not just for Delaware but the nation,” he said.

His car-party guests Thursday night included Wilmington residents Donna Tucker Jones, Jordan M. Hines and Francine Oates, a member of the Wilmington Urban League.

The group laughed as they took selfies by the car with the Chase Center in the background.

As a woman of color, Ms. Tucker Jones weighed in on the significance of having California Sen. Kamala Harris on the ticket as vice president.

The parking lot was filled with media tents from all over the world covering the Democratic National Convention on Thursday at the Chase Center in Wilmington. Special to the Delaware State News/Butch Comegys

“First of all, to hear her was awesome,” she said of the nominee’s speech Wednesday night, delivered from inside the Chase Center.

“Just to know what she is about right now. I’m excited. I’m very excited for what is about to happen next,” she said, looking toward an election win for the Biden-Harris ticket.

“I’m speaking it. It will happen,” she said jubilantly.

Jesse Chadderdon, executive director of the Delaware Democratic Party, should have been in Milwaukee this week for the national convention.

Instead, he’s hosted Zoom calls through the week and watched as the four-day virtual event was televised live and in pre-taped sections.

“Ever since we learned the convention in Milwaukee wasn’t going to be held in the way that we had all hoped, we tried to find alternative ways to create an exciting environment for our delegates,” he said Thursday.

So he was happy that the drive-thru party came together to incorporate the Delaware delegation.

“This was the result that a lot of smart and creative (people) put together so we could celebrate in a responsible and socially distanced way,” he said. “Public health is more important than pomp and circumstance. Joe Biden is going to be the next president to lead the country. It’s not about a party for him. It’s about a responsibility that he takes seriously.

“What should be a memorable celebration — a crowning week of his political career — needed to look and feel different to show the public that he’s the leader we need right now.”

Having worked 18-hour days over the past week, Mr. Chadderdon appreciated friends joining him personally for the event Thursday and their ability to prep for the social aspect of the night’s festivities, as he helped with the setup and organizational elements for the committee.

“I’m in the car en route with friends, and from the looks of it, they’ve packed a cooler with some sandwiches and, hopefully, a few adult beverages inside.”