“Charlottesville, Virginia is home to one of the great documents in human history.” That’s the line former vice-president Joe Biden used to finally kick off his 2020 presidential campaign, in a video released early on Thursday morning. Though Biden reportedly scrapped plans to launch his campaign with a rally in Charlottesville at the last minute, his video remains focused on the violent white supremacist rally there in August 2017, which gave us one of the biggest lowlights of the Trump presidency so far: the president’s remark that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Biden spends the first half of the video recounting this “defining moment” in American history. “Very fine people on both sides?” Biden says. “With those words the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.”
This is perhaps the most direct attack on Trump in a presidential launch video, and it suggests Biden plans to underscore his front-runner status by focusing on the general election rather than the 20 or so Democrats he has to fend off to get there. With his Obama-esque logo, Biden is clearly leaning into the idea that voters can give themselves a do-over, and go back to the world as it was before the 2016 election.
“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time,” Biden says. “But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen … that’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for presidency of the United States.”
The 76-year-old, who launched the first of three presidential campaigns in 1987, is expected to hold his first public campaign event on Monday in Pittsburgh, where he will address union workers. On Thursday night, he’s set to attend a private fundraiser in Philadelphia organized by former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and other longtime supporters, according to the Wall Street Journal. That will be followed by a tour of early voting states in the coming weeks.