(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden celebrated his victory in the 2020 presidential election with a speech Monday evening about the sacred democratic values of America and how his opponent’s efforts to overturn the will of American voters only served to reveal the strength and resiliency of institutional democracy.
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago,” Biden said. “And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic — or an abuse of power — can extinguish that flame.”
The speech came after the Electoral College cast their votes confirming Biden received 306 electoral votes, comfortably exceeding the 270 needed to win the White House.
California cast its 55 votes — the most in the union — at around 3:15 p.m., securing the victory for Biden and punctuating a day with heightened security and an unusual amount of attention on a procedure that is largely formal and predetermined.
But President Donald Trump has continued to assail the 2020 election as one corrupted by widespread fraud, which if revealed would put him back in the White House for a second term.
He has provided scant to no evidence for his assertions despite multiple opportunities to do so in both federal and state courts. Trump’s claims of electoral fraud have emboldened his supporters and made Biden supporters anxious, but Monday’s vote means what Trump says about the election is of little consequence.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said. “We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact.”
Biden has avoided sharply criticizing Trump and his tactics since it became clear he would win the White House in the days after the election, preferring to call for unity and promising to represent Republican constituents as well as Democrats as president.
But Monday evening saw Biden forcibly repudiate Trump’s tactics as well as those of other Republicans who attempted to subvert the electoral outcome.
“It’s a position so extreme, we’ve never seen it before,” Biden said.
He said Trump had ample opportunity to pursue his claims and court and came up empty repeatedly.
“There were dozens of legal challenges, they were heard again and again, and each time they were heard, they were found to be without merit,” Biden said.
He also defended the election workers, who worked through a pandemic — often as volunteers — only to be accused of committing the largest scale electoral fraud in the history of the nation.
“I hope we never again see the threats and abuse to our election officials,” the president-elect said. “It was unconscionable.”
But Biden did tack to his more conciliatory self toward the end of the speech, saying the nation needs to move forward.
“Now it is time to turn the page, to unite, to heal,” Biden said. “As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans. I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did.”
Biden gave the speech from The Queen, a theater in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where he has been giving speeches since the transition process began in earnest over the past couple of weeks.
Biden said focusing on the past will only hamper the efforts of his new administration to concentrate on the task at hand, particularly as it applies to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is urgent work in front of all of us,” the president-elect said. “Getting the pandemic under control to getting the nation vaccinated against this virus. Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.”
Trump said little Monday after the Electoral College cemented his defeat, tweeting out that he has accepted the resignation of Attorney General William Barr. Barr incurred Trump’s ire this month when he said the U.S. Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread fraud to the extent it would affect the outcome of the election.
Biden has chosen not to antagonize Trump, even giving his Republican colleagues latitude to deny the outcome for reasons of political expediency.
But in Monday’s speech, he made clear he has little tolerance for Trump’s attempts to undermine the election.
“If anyone didn’t know it before, we know it now: what beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this — democracy,” Biden said. “In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them.”
Several Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill — including Senators Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — have already acknowledged Biden’s win. But others have been more reticent.
However, more and more senators appear to be coming around.
“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,” said Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio.