Biden hopes to end 'era of demonisation' as he begins transition to power

·4-min read

Joe Biden doesn’t take office until 20 January, but the 46th president of the United States is wasting no time in getting started with his transition to power – despite Donald Trump’s claims the election was “stolen” and despite his failure to concede what has been a protracted and gritty race to the White House.

Biden will on Monday appoint a 12-member task force to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, while he and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris were quick to updated their official presidential transition website. They've also launched a Twitter account: @Transition46.

It is "time to heal" the United States, Biden said during his victory speech on Saturday – promising "not to divide, but to unify" the country.

Following their monumental win, he and Harris have been thanking US voters and outlining the way they see the next four years. There is clearly a thought for the 70 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump.

“Let this grim era of demonisation in America begin to end – here and now,” he said in a speech from his hometown in Delaware. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again.”

The first presidential candidate in more than 25 years to beat an incumbent told Americans that in order to progress they needed to stop treating opponents as the enemy.

“We must make the promise of this country real for everybody, no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability,” Biden said.

"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.”

Tough task ahead

That very diversity is, of course, what so many of the 70 million disappointed Trump voters are scared of. The incoming president will have to face the ravages of the Covid-19 epidemic, record unemployment, economic collapse and a level of racial disharmony rarely seen in a modern democracy.

Biden is likely to enter his first term as president with a divided Congress, with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives while Republicans will hold a majority in the Senate.

But his priority is clear, in a nation which has reported more than 100,000 new cases of coronavirus infection every day for the past five days.

“On Monday, I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisers to help take the Biden-Harris Covid-19 plan and convert it into an action blueprint that starts on January 20 2021,” Biden said. “That plan will be built on a bedrock of science. It will be constructed out of compassion, empathy, and concern. I will spare no effort – or commitment – to turn this pandemic around.”

Biden mentioned the incumbent president by name only once, and that was at the end, and indirectly: “To those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself,” Biden said. “But now, let’s give each other a chance.”

'I won't be the last woman in this job'

Harris paid tribute to her mother, who immigrated to the US from India at the age of 19, not knowing her daughter would go on to be, as Biden said, “the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country”.

It was a night to celebrate a large hole in the glass ceiling. “I may be the first woman in this office,” Harris said. “I will not be the last.”

On the significance of this presidential race, Harris reminded Americans that they had had a close brush with real disaster. “Our very democracy was on the ballot in this election,” she said. "We, the people, have the power to build a better future."

"You have chosen hope and unity, decency, science ... you chose truth," she told voters.

But getting to the White House may turn out to have been the easy bit for the Biden-Harris ticket.

“Now is when the real work begins – the hard work, the necessary work, the good work,” Harris admitted. "We have to save lives, fight racism, create jobs, heal the climate. We're ready."