In a forceful and unusually blunt speech, Joe Biden made it clear Monday night that he was the country’s next president, and it was time for Donald Trump to abandon his increasingly futile attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
At times coughing and sounding hoarse because of “a little bit of a cold,” the president-elect marked the official Electoral College vote early that day—one that confirmed he had won the presidency over Donald Trump by a margin of 306 to 232—by claiming an irrefutable stake to a job he will formally assume on Jan. 20. “In this battle for the soul of America,” Biden said, “democracy prevailed.”
“Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself,” the president-elect said, speaking from a near-empty Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. “And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.” He pointed out that the country had given him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris 81 million votes, adding that that amounted to “more votes than any ticket has received in the history of America.”
Biden also praised the millions of Americans who participated in the 2020 election, despite the challenge of doing so in the middle of a pandemic, and who knew that the process was a fair and equitable one. “One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was that everyday Americans, our friends and our neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, demonstrating absolute courage, they showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law,” Biden said. “They did their duty in the face of the pandemic. And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew is not true.”
But in celebrating his victory, Biden also sharply criticized the man he defeated, calling his attacks on the electoral process “unconscionable” and saying that it was time for Trump to give up a baseless fight that every single court has so far dismissed, often in withering terms.
“The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results,” Biden said. “They were heard. And they were found to be without merit.” The president-elect added: “Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results. He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues. President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take.”
Now, Biden said, the courts had spoken (including the Supreme Court, which, as Biden noted, “unanimously” rejected legal actions brought by the Trump team twice) and it was time “to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.”
Earlier in the day, when the Electoral College voting took place, heightened security was arranged in several states, with some state electors even meeting in an undisclosed location because of threats of violence. The results will be sent to Washington and tallied in a Jan. 6 joint session of Congress over which Vice President Mike Pence will preside.
In his speech, Biden recalled the moment when, as the outgoing vice president himself, he presided over the formal vote that recognized the election of Trump and Pence, and reiterated the importance of a peaceful transfer of power.
“Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept. But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution,” the president-elect said. “Four years ago, when I was a sitting vice president of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump. I did my job.”
He added, “That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.”