US President-elect Joe Biden has promised to unite Americans and seek to heal divisions after what he called a "convincing" victory over Donald Trump.
"This is the time to heal in America," an ebullient Biden told supporters at an outdoor rally in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware.
"I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify," Biden said, drawing a sharp contrast to nearly four polarising years of Trump.
Acknowledging the disappointment of Trump supporters, Biden said of them: "They are not our enemies. They are Americans."
"Let this era of demonisation in America begin to end here," Biden said.
"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," Biden said.
Barack Obama's vice president paid particular tribute to the African-American community, pointing to its role in selecting him as the Democratic nominee to challenge Trump.
Biden was visibly upbeat as he addressed the socially distanced crowd, racing to the podium after an introduction by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own."
"Folks, the people of this nation have spoken. They've delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory," Biden said.
His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed processing. Biden crossed the winning threshold of 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Trump refused to concede, threatening further legal action on ballot counting.
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanising a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy.
The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.
Biden's victory was a repudiation of Trump’s divisive leadership and the president-elect now inherits a deeply polarised nation grappling with foundational questions of racial justice and economic fairness while in the grips of a virus that has killed more than 236,000 Americans and reshaped the norms of everyday life.
Harris makes history
Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the US faces a reckoning on racial justice.
The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Harris introduced Biden “as a president for all Americans” who would look to bridge a nation riven with partisanship and nodded to the historic nature of her ascension to the vice presidency.
“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before," Harris said. “You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth ... you ushered in a new day for America.”
Biden vows robust pandemic response as US sees weekend high
Biden vowed to name a group of top scientists to his coronavirus task force Monday – as the United States registered a weekend record of new daily cases.
After three days of record highs, 122,075 new cases were recorded over 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University, a record in itself for a weekend.
Another 991 deaths were added to the fast-growing toll of victims, which now stands at 237,016.
"On Monday I will name a group of leading scientists and experts as transition advisors to help take the Biden-Harris plan and convert it int o an actual blueprint that will start on January 20, 2021," Biden told supporters.
The pledge came in his first speech since being projected as the winner of the presidential election, signaling that he plans to prioritize the pandemic from the outset.
The US is the world's hardest hit country in terms of deaths and total infections, which now stand at more than 9.8 million.
The outbreak has been surging for weeks in almost every part of the country, with the Midwest suffering the worst effects.
Cases are expected to surge further as the country moves into winter and people switch to socialising indoors, prime conditions for spreading the virus.
Trump refuses to concede
Departing from longstanding democratic tradition and signaling a potentially turbulent transfer of power, he issued a combative statement saying his campaign would take unspecified legal actions.
And he followed up with a bombastic, all-caps tweet in which he falsely declared, “I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES.” Twitter immediately flagged it as misleading.
Trump has pointed to delays in processing the vote in some states to allege with no evidence that there was fraud and to argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
He was golfing at his Virginia country club when he lost the race. He stayed out for hours, stopping to congratulate a bride as he left, and his motorcade returned to the White House to a cacophony of shouts, taunts and unfriendly hand gestures.
In Wilmington, Delaware, near the stage that, until Saturday night, had stood empty since it was erected to celebrate on Election Night, people cheered and pumped their fists as the news that the presidential race had been called for the state’s former senator arrived on their cellphones.
Across the country, there were parties and prayer. In New York City, spontaneous block parties broke out. People ran out of their buildings, banging on pots. They danced and high-fived with strangers amid honking horns. Among the loudest cheers were those for passing US Postal Service trucks.
People streamed into Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, near where Trump had ordered the clearing of protesters in June, waving signs and taking cellphone pictures.
In Lansing, Michigan, Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter demonstrators filled the Capitol steps.
The lyrics to “Amazing Grace” began to echo through the crowd, and Trump supporters laid their hands on a counter protester, and prayed.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic.
With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
Trump’s refusal to concede has no legal implications. But it could add to the incoming administration’s challenge of bringing the country together after a bitter election.
Throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, arguing without evidence that the election could be marred by fraud.
The nation has a long history of presidential candidates peacefully accepting the outcome of elections, dating back to 1800, when John Adams conceded to his rival Thomas Jefferson.
Biden received congratulations from dozens of world leaders, and his former boss, President Barack Obama, saluted him in a statement, declaring the nation was “fortunate that Joe’s got what it takes to be President and already carries himself that way.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill were giving Trump and his campaign space to consider all their legal options. It was a precarious balance for Trump’s allies as they try to be supportive of the president – and avoid risking further fallout – but face the reality of the vote count.
On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not yet made any public statements – either congratulating Biden or joining Trump’s complaints.
But retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is close to McConnell, said, “After counting every valid vote and allowing courts to resolve disputes, it is important to respect and promptly accept the result.”
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies.
It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions.
The president defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself.
Trump was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.
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