Joe Biden delivered a sharp repudiation of Donald Trump and declared that the “will of the people had prevailed” in a speech that came shortly after the electoral college officially confirmed his victory.
It was “time to turn the page” on a presidential election that tested the resilience of American democracy, the president-elect said just moments after Hawaii cast the final four electoral college votes, clearing a milestone that all but ended Trump’s unprecedented attempt to overturn the results.
Biden hailed the presidential election and its uncharted aftermath as a triumph of American democracy and “one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country”.
The final tally – 306 to 232 electoral votes – followed a baseless campaign by the president to reverse the results of an election that saw historic turnout despite a pandemic. Trump lost not only in the electoral college but the popular vote, too – by nearly 7m.
Yet for weeks, the president has clung to meritless accusations of voter fraud in a slate of battleground states that delivered the victory to Biden. His refusal to concede has sowed doubt among his supporters about the integrity of the vote and undermined faith in the institutions of American governance.
In a speech delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said “our democracy – pushed, tested, threatened – proved to be resilient, true and strong”.
Biden, who will become the 46th president of the United States when he is sworn in on 20 January, continued: “We the people voted. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so, now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history – to unite, to heal.”
Since Biden entered the presidential race last year, he has cast the election as a “battle for the soul” of the nation. In his remarks on Monday night, Biden described his electoral college victory as a fulfilment of that mission and a rejection of Trump.
The president-elect called Trump’s assault on the democratic process “unconscionable” and assailed Republicans who embraced his unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud. He singled out the 17 state attorneys general and 126 members of Congress who he said helped legitimize a legal effort to throw out tens of millions of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia and “hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the electoral college, lost the popular vote and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse”. The supreme court rejected the lawsuit.
These officials, Biden said, adopted a position “so extreme that we’ve never seen it before – a position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law and refused to honor our constitution”.
Anticipating further resistance from Trump and his allies, Biden noted that the president and his campaign were “denied no course of action” and stressed that their efforts failed in states with Republican governors and in courts with Republican-appointed judges.
“They were heard,” he said. “And they were found to be without merit.”
Yet Trump continued to dispute the legitimacy of the election on Monday, claiming that the result was “RIGGED” due to “massive fraud”. Twitter moved quickly to label the pronouncements “disputed”. As California’s 55 electors cast their ballots for Biden, pushing him over the 270-vote threshold to win the White House, Trump announced on Twitter that his attorney general, Bill Barr, was resigning, effective 23 December.
Trump had recently lost patience with Barr, viewed as a loyalist who eagerly advanced the president’s political agenda, after the attorney general acknowledged that his department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
In a sign that Republicans were increasingly prepared to accept reality, some senators and members of Congress acknowledged the electoral college vote.
“The orderly transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy, and although I supported President Trump, the electoral college vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now president-elect,” the Republican senator Rob Portman, of Ohio, said in a statement.
Biden thanked the handful of Republican senators who have accepted the electoral college vote, after resisting his victory for weeks. Ever hopeful that four years of deep partisan division will yield a new era of bipartisanship, Biden said he was “convinced we can work together for the good of the nation”.
With the election all but finalized, he called on elected officials to turn to the “urgent work” of combating the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the US death toll surpassed more than 300,000, a grisly reminder on the same day Americans began receiving the first shots of a vaccine against the virus.
Though the path forward remains challenging, exacerbated by the divisions that persist, Biden said the electoral college vote should serve as a sign of hope for a weary nation.
He pointed to the election officials – many of them volunteers – who carried out their duties in the face of political pressure, threats of violence and, in some cases, an intervention from the president himself. Their unwavering commitment to the electoral process ensured that the “flame of democracy” was not extinguished, he said.
“They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law,” Biden said. “They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair. They saw it with their own eyes and they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.”