WILMINGTON, Del. — President-elect Joe Biden told Americans on Monday that “democracy prevailed” as electors nationwide cast votes affirming his victory in last month’s election, saying the country's governing principles were “pushed, tested, threatened” but did not crumble.
In a speech from his longtime home of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden aimed to guide Americans past the tumult of the campaign and President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept defeat.
“If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now. What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy,” Biden said. “The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose the leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves.”
After garnering a record of more than 81 million votes, Biden is still trying to build momentum as he prepares to assume the presidency on Jan. 20. That's been complicated by Trump refusing to concede and has instead pursued baseless legal challenges that have been roundly rejected by judges across the political spectrum, including the justices at the Supreme Court.
Though Trump's actions have threatened core democratic norms, including the peaceful transfer of power, Biden argued that America's system of government remains in tact.
“In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them,” Biden said. “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing — not even a pandemic — or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.”
He will also pledged 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.”
Whether his message of unity will have any effect remains to be seen. Top Republicans have mostly continued to back Trump and his unsubstantiated claims of a rigged election and, even once Biden takes power, are unlikely to give him any of the traditional honeymoon period.
Biden faces a narrowly divided Senate — next month's runoff elections in Georgia will decide which party controls the chamber — and a thinned Democratic majority in the House as the GOP picked up seats even as Trump lost.
But aides are pointing to the president-elect's strong approval numbers and an electorate worn by the pandemic in their attempt to nudge Republicans to cooperate. Mike Donilon, a senior adviser to Biden, said Americans are looking for Democrats and Republicans to get in sync.
“The agenda that the president-elect is putting forward is very much at the forefront of what people want in their lives,” Donilon said. “So, I think the case is going to be that it’s going to be in the interest of the country, it’s going to be in their own self-interest to get on board and not to get in the way.”
In making the case for a mandate, Biden’s team points to the president-elect retaking Rust Belt states that helped spring Trump to the White House four years ago as well as wins in Arizona and Georgia — firsts for a Democratic presidential candidate since the 1990s. Biden also won the popular vote by more than 7 million people, powered by strong showings with women, people of color and independents.
Still, getting the nation to turn away from a contentious election and to governing is perhaps easier said than done. The spotlight on the Electoral College vote process is heightened this year because Trump has refused to concede the election and is pushing forward with baseless allegations of fraud.
“We have won so many times, at this point, in so many different ways. We’re just excited to keep on winning,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden's deputy chief of staff, shrugging off Trump’s challenges. “(Monday) obviously is a big day as it takes on a little bit more import than maybe traditionally it does.”
And after losing dozens of legal challenges on the state and federal level, Trump is expected to push forward with new litigation this week. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani says he expects five more lawsuits at the state level.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is set to hold a hearing Wednesday on election “irregularities.” Johnson has questioned why Congress wasn’t informed that the taxes of Biden’s son Hunter were under federal investigation during Trump’s impeachment trial last year.
The president was acquitted in a Senate trial that centered on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president and on whether he abused his office by seeking an investigation into the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company.
The younger Biden said in a statement last week that he just recently learned that he was under investigation. He also said he committed no wrongdoing.
O’Malley Dillon downplayed the notion that the investigation could hamper Biden’s ability to pursue his agenda.
“The president-elect himself has said this is not about his family or Donald Trump’s family,” she said. “It is about the American people’s families. And I think we’re going to continue to stay focused on the issues that are impacting their daily lives.”
Weissert reported from Washington.