Joe Biden called for unity as he emerged victorious from the fierce battle for the White House, declaring “this is the time to heal in America” after four fractious years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
As Mr. Biden and his running-mate Kamala Harris – who will make history as the country’s first woman, first Black and first South Asian vice-president – clinched the election midday Saturday, people poured into the streets of cities across the country to celebrate Mr. Trump’s defeat.
In his first address as president-elect, Mr. Biden sought to strike a contrast with the Republican incumbent. The country’s “better angels,” he vowed, would prevail over its “darkest impulses.”
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red states or blue states, but a United States. And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people,” Mr. Biden said Saturday evening at an outdoor speech in his home state of Delaware.
Mr. Biden promised to “marshal the forces of decency and the forces of fairness” to control COVID-19, rebuild the economy, battle institutional racism, fight climate change and expand access to healthcare.
Ms. Harris said Americans had “delivered a clear message. You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth.” She invoked her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who came to the U.S. from India at age 19, and the “generations of women” who won and defended the right to vote.
“I stand on their shoulders,” she said. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
A crowd of thousands, gathered in an adjacent parking lot, cheered after every line and blasted car horns. Fireworks lit the sky as drone lights formed a map of the United States.
Mr. Biden, who will be the U.S.'s 46th president, secured 279 electoral college votes by pulling ahead to insurmountable leads in Pennsylvania and Nevada following four days of ballot counting. He also led vote counts in two more swing states, Georgia and Arizona, and was beating Mr. Trump in the popular vote by a margin of 51 per cent to 48 per cent. A 77-year-old career politician, Mr. Biden spent 36 years in the senate and eight as Barack Obama’s vice-president.
The new president will face an uphill battle implementing his agenda, with a reduced Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and control of the Senate to be determined by two run-off elections for Georgia seats in January. He does not take office until January 20, 2021, and Mr. Trump appears unlikely to co-operate in the interim on the pandemic or any of Mr. Biden’s other policies.
Outside the convention centre pic.twitter.com/aEokHi7IpW— Adrian Morrow (@AdrianMorrow) November 7, 2020
In the hours after U.S. media projected Mr. Biden’s victory, the country erupted in celebration. In New York, Mr. Trump’s home town, a crowd filled Times Square and jumped for joy. In Atlanta, revelers set off fireworks. In Los Angeles and Seattle, they banged pots and pans. At Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, the assembled sang “na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye.”
In 20C sunshine in Philadelphia, crowds chanted “no more years” as they converged on Independence Hall. Outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where the vote count tipped the state to Mr. Biden, his supporters continued a raucous dance party they’d maintained all week as results steadily rolled in.
“It’s a good day in the city of brotherly love,” said Rashida Ali, 65, a retired police officer, as she banged two pot lids together. “With Biden, I feel we really are going to become the United States.”
Maddy Russell, a 26-year-old medical student, said she hoped Mr. Trump’s brand of divisive politics was done.
“I’m elated. I hope the era of Trump is over,” she said. “I want to be done with half the country being treated as second-class citizens. I hope we can maintain the Affordable Care Act and reform it. I hope we can stop the deportation of immigrants.”
Mr. Trump, who was golfing at his Virginia country club when Mr. Biden’s win was projected, took to Twitter to repeat accusations of widespread election fraud. And he dispatched his legal team to brief reporters at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, in a Philadelphia industrial park between an adult book store and a crematorium. The President has filed or threatened a multitude of lawsuits in recent days seeking to invalidate ballots.
No state has reported electoral fraud, and Mr. Trump’s campaign has not presented evidence of any.
The unprecedented election unfolded amid a pandemic, the largest anti-racism protests since the civil-rights movement and a damaged economy. At the centre of Mr. Biden’s campaign was the accusation that Mr. Trump had mismanaged and played down COVID-19, which has killed and infected more people in the United States than in any other country. Mr. Biden on Monday plans to unveil and expert task force on the virus.
He also accused the President of racism for his response to protests against police brutality, and promised to jettison Mr. Trump’s isolationist foreign policy in favour of rebuilding relationships with allies such as Canada.
The election saw the highest turnout of eligible voters since 1900, with Mr. Biden receiving 75 million votes — more than any previous presidential candidate. Mr. Trump also received nearly eight million more votes than he did in 2016.
To win, Mr. Biden tried to assemble a broad voting coalition that leaned heavily on motivating Black voters and winning over suburban women. For his running mate, he chose Ms. Harris, a California senator with an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father. Ms. Harris spent much of her adolescence in Montreal, when her mother worked as a cancer researcher at McGill University.
The Democrats' strategy hinged on retaking the “blue wall” of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Rust Belt states that had been reliably Democratic before going narrowly for Mr. Trump in 2016. Mr. Biden also looked to make inroads in once reliably red Republican bastions such as Georgia and Arizona, where demographic changes have favoured the Democrats.
The election result hung in the balance for several days as states processed mail-in ballots. Mr. Trump jumped out to a lead in several swing states during early counting, in which election day votes were tabulated first. As more postal ballots were counted, Mr. Biden steadily overtook Mr. Trump. Republicans had encouraged supporters to vote in person on election day, while Democrats encouraged supporters to use mail-in ballots.
Trump rally at the Arizona state legislature today. Protesters said they were headed back to the Maricopa County election offices to protest the ongoing vote count. pic.twitter.com/jL9fQjqGQl— Tamsin McMahon (@tamsinrm) November 7, 2020
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Biden pushed a similar message of “decency” and unity as he highlighted in his Saturday speech. But bringing together a country so at war with itself remained a tall order.
Hundreds of Trump supporters gathered on the lawn of Arizona’s state capitol building in Phoenix Saturday afternoon and urged the President not to concede defeat.
Thomas Holden, 31, a security guard from Phoenix, came to the rally armed with an AR-15 rifle, which he said was a way to exercise the Second Amendment rights he believed would be taken away under a Democratic president.
Mr. Holden said he didn’t think Mr. Biden had legitimately won the election. “Something has to be going on. Something is in play, with the Sharpie incident,” he said, referring to a series of legal complaints filed by voters in Arizona claiming that votes cast by some Trump supporters were rejected by voting tabulation machines because voters had been given Sharpie-brand markers to mark their ballots.
Election officials didn’t report any problems with their voting equipment and Arizona’s Republican attorney-general said an investigation into the Sharpie complaints turned up no problems with any ballots.
Steve Padgett, 50, a Trump supporter from Maryland, said he believed the President’s legal challenges would succeed in uncovering voter fraud.
“I’m fully confident they’re going to find out there was so much malarkey and shenanigans in this election,” he said as he waved a Trump flag outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. “This is ground zero for cheating.”
Across the street, Biden voter Pavan Auman, 48, opened a bottle of Chimay Grande Reserve and filled paper cups with beer to share with fellow celebrators. For him, the election had been an existential fight for the central principle of American democracy.
“It was a struggle against fascism. We had an authoritarian in Trump,” he said. “Whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, this came down to whether democracy would survive or not.”
With files from Tamsin McMahon in Phoenix
Photo gallery: Biden supporters celebrate across U.S.
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