Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made a forceful plea for national unity on Tuesday as he took aim at “extremist White supremacist groups menacing our communities.”
In a 22-minute address at the historic Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – where more than 150 years ago the defeat of the Confederate Army by Union forces was the turning point in the Civil War and helped preserve the nation – Biden warned of “unrelenting partisan warfare” and he urged a revival of “a spirit of bipartisanship.”
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Taking aim at President Trump without mentioning the president by name, Biden charged that America’s “paid a high price” for partisan disputes as the nation combats the coronavirus pandemic. He pleaded to “end the politics” and instead “follow the science.”
Standing at Gettysburg, the former vice president pointed to President Abraham Lincoln, who “taught us this – a house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth…Today again we are a house divided. But that my friends can no longer be.”
Biden warned that “we are facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have too bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the shoals of anger and hate and division. As we stand here today, a century and a half later after Gettysburg, we should consider again what can happen when equal justice is denied, when anger and violence and division are left unchecked.”
Biden painted a picture of the country – flattened by the pandemic and coping with months of nationwide protests over racial inequity – as “a dangerous place.”
“Our trust in each other is ebbing, hope seems elusive.,” Biden said. “Too many Americans see our public life not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total unrelenting partisan warfare. Instead of treating the other party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy.”
The former vice president urged that “this must end.”
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And he re-emphasized his year and a half long pitch “to revive a spirit of bipartisanship in this country, a spirit of being able to work with one another.”
Biden added: “When I say that – and I’ve been saying it for two years now – I’m accused of being naïve. I’m told maybe that’s the way things used to work Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore. Well, I’m here to say they can. And they must if we’re going to get anything done.”
Biden spotlighted that “there is something bigger going on in the nation than just our broken politics, something darker, something more dangerous. I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion.” And he argued that “too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them. We must seek not to build walls, but bridges. We must seek not to have our fists clenched but our arms open. We must seek not to tear each other apart, but to come together.”
The former vice president vowed that “I will send a clear, unequivocal message to the nation. There is no place for hate in America. It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It will be given no safe harbor.”
Pointing to the unrest in the nation’s cities, Biden re-emphasized that “I believe in law and order. I have never supported defunding the police.” But he added that “I do not believe we have to choose between law and order and racial justice in America. We can have both.”
He stressed that “we have no need for armed militias roaming America’s streets, and we should have no tolerance for extremist White supremacist groups menacing our communities.”
Once again indirectly taking aim at Trump, Biden emphasized that “if you say we have no need to face racial injustice in this country, you haven’t opened your eyes to the truth in America.”
Biden highlighted that “we cannot — and will not — allow extremists and White supremacists to overturn the America of Lincoln and Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. To overturn the America that has welcomed immigrants from distant shores. To overturn the America that’s been a haven and a home for everyone no matter their background.”
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The Trump campaign took aim at Biden, tweeting that “The idea that Biden is a unifier is a joke” as they pointed some past controversial comments by the former vice president. A vocal group of Trump supporters were lined along the road as Biden entered the historical battlefield site.
The former vice president also spotlighted the more than 210,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.
“We have paid a high price for allowing the deep divisions in this country to impact how we have dealt with the coronavirus. 210,000 Americans dead and the numbers climbing. It’s estimated that nearly another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives by the end of the year. Enough. No more,” Biden said. “Let’s set the partisanship aside. Let’s end the politics. Let’s follow the science. Wearing a mask isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation.”
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Biden’s campaign announced the former vice president was tested again on Tuesday for COVID-19, and that the test came back negative.
The former vice president’s stop in Gettysburg was his latest trip to Pennsylvania, a crucial general election battleground state. The state had been carried by Democrats in presidential elections for a quarter century before Trump narrowly edged Hillary Clinton in 2016 to win Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.
An average of the latest public opinion polls in the state compiled by Real Clear Politics indicates Biden with a 6.5 point advantage over the president.