Joe Biden strikes an emotional chord to woo voters

The Democratic candidate centred much of his convention presence around the defining moments of tragedy in his life

Joe Biden struck a sombre yet defiant tone as he accepted the Democratic Party's nomination to run for president at a time when America is mired in crises, touting his ability to help the nation grieve.

The convention stood out from previous years for more reasons than that it was held online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The four-day virtual gathering featured a majority of women in the line-up of speakers, and the themes addressed by the guest speakers and the top candidates, Mr Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris, revealed the Democratic Party moving in a more progressive direction with its agenda, while trying to woo voters through emotional appeals.

Mr Biden centred much of his convention appearances around the defining moments of tragic loss in his life, likening his grief to the suffering many Americans are experiencing as a result of crises in the country.

“The worst pandemic in over 100 years, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the most compelling call for racial justice since the sixties, and the undeniable realities and just accelerating threats of climate change” made up what Mr Biden called “the perfect storm” facing America.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness,” he said.

The former vice president used his acceptance speech to address the loved ones of the nearly 175,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

“I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it,” he said, addressing the personal losses suffered by his own family when his first wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident, leaving him a single father of two sons. Later in life, his 46-year-old son Beau passed away from brain cancer.

Before Mr Biden took the podium for his career-defining speech, the convention aired a pre-recorded video featuring a memorial to his son Beau.

“I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose,” said Mr Biden.

The word empathy reigned throughout many of the speeches at the convention, with emotional endorsements made by a number of guest speakers, including former president Barack Obama.

“What I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief,” said Mr Obama, with whom Mr Biden served as vice president for eight years.

The convention showed that a central theme of the Biden campaign, which promised to help Americans “find the light once more”, is overcoming grief and tragedy, as he hopes to persuade voters through emotions, over hard policies. Mr Biden is using his personal losses advantageously to appeal to voters during a time when every day sees more Americans killed by the coronavirus, and when the death of George Floyd sparked a national reckoning on racism.

The theme was echoed by Senator Harris, who said in her acceptance speech, “We are a nation that's grieving. Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy. And yes, the loss of certainty.”

The messaging stands as a stark contrast to Republican Donald Trump’s usual rhetoric, which often focuses on boosting his own self-described achievements and attacking his rivals.