Joe Biden's victory to become president-elect of the United States is an enormous relief to most Americans — especially to the more than 75 million of us who supported him — the most votes ever placed for a presidential ticket in the history of this country.
Biden's victory is a relief because we're tired of division and hate. We yearn for unity and to be proud once more of our country, our leaders and each other. Biden offers us that hope, and he is both willing and able to shoulder some of the burden of that heavy lift and worthy dream.
"I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn't see red states and blue states, only sees the United States. I'll work with all my heart to win the confidence of all of you," Biden told us in his victory speech Saturday evening. "I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation: the middle class. And to make America respected around the world again. And to unite us here at home. It's the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for that vision. And now the work of making that vision is real. It's a task, the task of our time."
By inspiring those votes — 4.2 million more than placed for incumbent President Donald Trump — Biden had in many ways already begun the task of bringing us together.
"I'm proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse coalition in history. Democrats, Republicans, independents, progressives, moderates, conservatives, young, old, urban, suburban, rural, gay, straight, transgender, white, Latino, Asian, Native American," he said.
Indeed, exit polls show that Biden won the presidency with large turnout among voters of color. He also won voters under 45, college graduates, women and independents. A large number of former Republicans joined in, forming groups like the Lincoln Project to endorse Biden and campaign against what they saw as an erratic, divisive and unreliable Trump.
True, a number of Trump supporters — even as Biden spoke — were protesting in some states, saying the election shouldn't have been called, despite overwhelming math showing Trump could not win.
But Biden reached out to those Trump supporters, too: "For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I've lost a couple of times myself. But now, let's give each other a chance. It's time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again. Listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans. This is the time to heal in America."
Putting the campaign behind him, Biden asked Americans: What is the will of the people? What is our mandate?
"I believe it's this," he asserted. "America has called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness. To marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time. The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure your family's health care. The battle to achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country. And the battle to save our planet by getting climate under control.
"The battle to restore decency, defend democracy and give everybody in this country a fair shot. That's all they're asking for. A fair shot.
"Folks, I'm a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I'll work as hard for those who didn't vote for me as those who did. Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now."
It's a tall order for political sides that really don't seem to want to play nice. But President-elect Biden threw down this gauntlet:
"Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another — it's not some mysterious force beyond our control. It's a decision, a choice we make. And if we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate. And I believe that this is part of the mandate given to us from the American people. They want us to cooperate in their interest. And that's the choice I'll make. And I'll call on Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, to make that choice with me.
"Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. And what presidents say in this battle matters. It's time for our better angels to prevail.
"I believe in the possibilities of this country. We're always looking ahead. Ahead to an America that is freer and more just. Ahead to an America that creates jobs with dignity and respect. Ahead to an America that cures diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's. Ahead to an America that never leaves anyone behind. Ahead to an America that never gives up, never gives in, this great nation."
Four years ago, the headline in this space was "Looking for hope in the Trump morning after."
It was third editorial we'd written for this page that night, after Donald Trump, though he didn't win the popular vote, edged his way to an Electoral College victory. Trump had found just enough people in those swing states who were willing to take a chance on a new face — albeit a face that had no problem at all picking fights and lying daily.
But we, like everyone else that night, hoped the office of president would make the new guy — the one who'd campaigned with racist, xenophobic and misogynistic tweets — into a real leader.
Trump's short victory speech that night was surprisingly cogent and gracious: "Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."
But with Trump, it proved to be a one-time thing. Hopes that Trump would "pivot" and grow into the office went unfulfilled. Instead, the office made him worse. And he made ordinary reliable Republicans — and Democrats — worse. Now he has refused to concede that he will only be a one-term president.
With Biden, we've heard a consistent message, and we find optimism in both his dream and his faith. To borrow again from his words Saturday:
"It's always been a bad bet to bet against America. We're good people. This is the United States of America. There's never been anything we've been not able to do when we've done it together. Let us be the nation that we know we can. A nation united, a nation strengthened. A nation healed."