‘All of us’: Biden appeals for unity, as Democrats underscore stakes on convention’s final night: ANALYSIS

When the moment came, Joe Biden met it with an appeal for unity.

August 21, 2020, 12:32 AM

It took him decades to get there -- and it took technological marvels to even create a there.

When the moment came, Joe Biden met it with an appeal for unity in a time of division. He accepted the presidential nomination and closed out a unique convention Thursday night by offering himself as part -- but just part -- of a solution to a wide range of national woes.

"While I'll be a Democratic candidate, I'll be an American president," the former vice president said in accepting the presidential nomination. "That's the job of the president -- to represent all of us, not just our base or our party."

Former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 20, 2020.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Biden's appeals were sobering as well as soaring, as he sought a counter to an era defined by anger, division and fear. He implored the all-virtual audience to "take this chance to heal, to reform, to unite."

Biden also laid out a detailed plan to address the COVID-19 crisis, laying blame on President Donald Trump for what he called an "unforgiveable" failure of leadership.

"Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation," Biden said. "He's failed to protect us."

The convention was intimate, funny and searing at various points. The final night at times felt like a letdown, with the highest-profile speakers having already gone and a whole lot of Biden biography to work through.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris celebrate along with their spouses after Biden accepted the nomination at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Aug. 20, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

But Biden's speech turned such sentiments around. He touched on the tumultuous events of the last few years -- Charlottesville, George Floyd, the economic collapse, the pandemic -- to marshal support for what he calls a "battle for the soul of the nation."

"America's ready," Biden said. "We can find the light once more."

Conventions typically showcase intraparty discord as much as they do unity, but this one was mostly drama-free. It was an achievement for Biden to have gotten through four nights of programming without much in the way of squabbling or controversy.

There are two main reasons for that: the virtual format, and the existence of Trump. And while most Democrats -- including Biden himself -- never made it to Wisconsin for the convention, Biden brought key messaging to the state, in the broadest sense of what it represents for his party.

Biden knows that Wisconsin and other key states will slip away from Democrats if they don't reach voters who shower after work, to borrow a phrase made popular in a seemingly long-ago Democratic debate.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang, during the final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Aug. 20, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidates from top left, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, and bottom row from left, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang, during the final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Aug. 20, 2020.
Democratic National Convention

Just as modern conventions consumed on Twitter but not directed at it, what looked like a grand Zoom call wasn't necessarily for the work-at-home set. The "Build Back Better" theme was reinforced by hard hats and union flags throughout the closing night.

"You guys built America -- not Wall Street," Biden said in a taped virtual conversation with union members.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said he wouldn't be where he was if not for his father getting a union job: "Together we work, together we rise."

The case against Trump got an airing too: "It didn't have to be this way," said former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, like Booker ran for the nomination against Biden this cycle. "Why the hell would we ever rehire Donald Trump for another four years?"

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Aug. 20, 2020.
Democratic National Convention

Bloomberg, whose billion-dollar investment in his own campaign couldn't buy him a ticket beyond Super Tuesday, got a prime speaking slot in the convention's final night. In any year with a live audience, Bloomberg could have expected jeers and even organized walkouts.

That sort of control of the messaging could mark one of the few upsides of the virtual format. It freed Biden to not just add to the case against Trump but to give the party and those it's seeking to reach some things to vote for.

When the speech ended, fireworks went off over Wilmington, Delaware, as Biden and his wife, Jill, put on masks to marvel at something unusual in the parking lot of the arena they emerged from: a crowd.

The Bidens were surely smiling under their masks. Yet, as the celebrations fade, the party faithful logged off from the first-ever virtual convention knowing that they may not feel this good about their chances from here. The Republicans get their chance next week.

This report was featured in the Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

Related Topics