Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Thursday that the violent demonstrations involving white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 were a decisive factor in his decision to run this November.
“We saw white supremacists alongside Nazi flags, and the president tells us that there are ‘fine people on both sides,’” Biden recalled, quoting from President Donald Trump’s answer to a media question on the events in Charlottesville at the time.
“That’s not who we are,” Biden declared during a Zoom call on Thursday afternoon with more than 6,000 US Jewish supporters ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
“Together, we can stamp out bigotry and antisemitism,” Biden pledged.
Reflecting on the Jewish High Holy Day season that begins on Friday, Biden said its traditions “remind us that we can find purpose in pain.”
Biden also shared one of his favorite quotes — the late Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s maxim that “faith sees best in the dark” — as he accused Trump of “appealing to our dark side.”
Arguing that keeping silent in the face of injustice “is complicity,” Biden recalled a family visit to the site of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. He remarked on the contrast between the camp’s grim interior and the pleasant houses on its perimeter inhabited by people who saw the atrocities being committed and remained silent.
“We have to step up and speak out,” Biden said.
The reflective address largely avoided policy issues, although Biden underscored his commitment “to secure peace by remaining a steadfast ally of Israel.”
Wishing Jews a sweet new year, Biden exhorted his backers to prepare for the final stretch of the campaign.
“Shanah Tovah, let’s get it done,” he said. “This has to be a better year.”