Highlights from the 2020 Democratic National Convention
United States of America – The 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC) laid the groundwork for the Biden-Harris campaign moving forward. Key leaders in the Democratic Party have weighed in on Joe Biden’s political ambitions, as well as his personal character, in endorsing him for 46th president of the United States. As this event was being organized, Biden officially became the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential campaign.
Night One (streamed on the CBS News website)
The theme of night one was very dark, and most content was focused on the current state of American society. Many videos produced by the DNC focused on the dismal state of American healthcare due to the pandemic, specifically on how individuals and their families have been impacted.
Speakers of the night, however, focused on Joe Biden as a political figure to unite the country.
The Democratic Party also attacked President Trump on the state of America’s economy, as well as police brutality against Black people.
The keynote address was delivered by Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States. With the longest speech of the night at 20 minutes, Obama focused on her knowledge of Joe Biden’s abilities as the former vice president to former president Barack Obama. In reference to Joe’s stuttering, Michelle Obama said, “Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own.”
Former Ohio governor John Kasich also spoke on the first night of the DNC. A Republican who ran against President Trump in the 2016 election, Kasich described America to be “at a crossroads” in history. During his speech, Kasich positioned himself at a physical ‘crossroads’ in the rural countryside of Ohio, with two gravel paths leading away from him, visually demonstrating his remarks. Kasich went on to say Joe Biden is “a man who can help us to see the humanity in each other.”
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stood in front of the newly christened “Black Lives Matter” plaza to attack President Trump for forcing D.C. police to move peaceful protestors out of the way so Trump could pose for a photo in front of a nearby church, Bible in hand.
Addressing the federal response to the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the federal government has been “dysfunctional and incompetent.” The next day, the New York Daily News announced Cuomo’s plans to write “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic”, a book covering his pandemic plans to flatten the curve.
Bernie Sanders, an Independent who ran for president in the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, also spoke at the DNC on night one. In his endorsement of Joe Biden for president, Sanders said, “We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it. This is not the time to withhold our votes in protest.”
Night Two (streamed from ABC News)
The theme of night two was Joe Biden as a man who connects with the American people. Continuing the idea from night one of Joe Biden as the unity candidate, with many speakers saying Joe Biden is the “man who meets this moment.”
Continuing on the theme of the pandemic, former president Bill Clinton said, “Covid hit us much harder than it had to…At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Right now, it’s a storm center.” He went on to say Biden is “a man with a mission to take responsibility, not shift the blame.”
A powerful story came from ALS patient Ady Barkan. Once able to talk a few years ago, as well as to campaign for a different healthcare system across the country, Barkan was unable to talk in his video on night two. As Barkan made eye contact with the camera, a machine speaking for him told viewers, “Each of us must be a hero for our communities.”
On the topic of national security, former Secretary of State John Kerry said Trump “writes love letters to dictators” and “our interests…can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump.” He also said “The only thing exceptional about the incoherent Donald Trump…[is that he] made our nation more isolated than ever before.” Kerry went on to say Biden’s “moral compass is always pointed in the right direction.”
ABC News correspondents discussed President Trump’s policy moves to date. Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl said Trump succeeded in eliminating Obamacare, but noted that Trump “replaced it with nothing”, and that in an election where healthcare is a major concern in the context of the pandemic, it will be vital for the Trump campaign to be strong in that area. Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran continued this point, saying that without a pandemic playbook Trump has just “lots of rhetoric, no plan.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, United States Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional district, endorsed Bernie Sanders for president on night two. She spoke of the progressive movement of the Sanders campaign in both his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids. Ocasio-Cortez asserted this movement as a “mass people’s movement”, and that it was a “historic grassroots campaign to reclaim our democracy.”
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Joe Biden, also spoke on night two, from the former classroom she taught in for decades, including in her time in the White House. Jill Biden used the idea of going back to school as a metaphor for the current state of the country. She also spoke of Joe Biden’s ability to keep their family together, even during the death of their son, and Joe will unite the country in a similar way. After the death of Beau, Jill Biden said Joe “…went back to work. That’s just how he is.”
To finish her speech, Jill Biden said, “It’s not in politicians or political parties or even in [Joe], it’s in the providence of God. His faith is in you, in us.”
Night Three (streamed on CNN)
The theme of night three focused on the Democratic voter as vital to the success of the Biden-Harris campaign, and the unity of the Democratic party. Many of night three’s speakers reflected a message of unity in speaking on many policy points, ranging from immigration to domestic violence. The party seemed to cover as many policy points as possible, to further strengthen the theme of unity as individual voters and a collective voting for Biden and Harris.
Many of the night’s official DNC videos expressed the sentiments of individual Americans who claimed to be distressed as a result of Trump’s presidency. Children in school spoke of the trauma behind school shooter drills, as well as being afraid of gun violence victims themselves. Eleven-year-old Estella spoke of her mother’s deportation from the country as a Mexican immigrant who was previously protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program under the Obama Administration. She said, ““You separated thousands of children from their parents and you put them in cages. Some of those kids are now orphans because of you.”
The Democratic Party also aired a video featuring self-proclaimed life-long Republicans who have committed to voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in November, as a result of what they perceive to be Trump’s failed presidency.
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers was the first speaker of the night and set the tone for unity: “What unites us is far, far greater than what divides us.” Evers continued, “I know we have a shared sense of purpose, that is to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris…they know especially during challenging times…the problems can only be solved by all of us, together.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who ran against President Trump as the Democratic Party nominee in 2016, spoke on night three about the urgency of the 2020 election. Speaking to the passage of time since Trump’s inauguration, Clinton said, “For four years, people have told me I didn’t realize how dangerous he was…look, this can’t be another ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’ election.” Clinton also covered a variety of policy issues in her speech, ranging from election fraud to the criminal justice system.
Elizabeth Warren, who terminated her run for president on Thursday, March 5, also spoke about policy issues that matter most to her. Known for her ability to have a plan for almost every policy point, she discussed Joe Biden’s plan to support union jobs, and to cancel some student loan debt. In an attack on President Trump, Warren said, “This [pandemic] crisis is bad, and it didn’t have to be this way. This crisis is on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enabled him. On November 3rd we will hold them all accountable.”
Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, gave his speech from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he informed viewers the Constitution was written during the founding of the United States. He said though the document was imperfect at the time, it was the “north star” for paving the way so that everyone would be legally able to vote: women, Black people, and others.
In a break from previous presidents, Obama made several jabs at Trump’s presidency; former presidents have not historically condemned the administrations following their own. Of Trump’s time in the Oval Office, Obama said, “I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might take some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office…but he never did. For close to four years now, he has shown no interest in putting in the work.” Obama also asserted the current state of politics as a “circus”, as well as a “conspiracy theory.” In closing out his speech, Obama referred to Republican attempts to manipulate the election by saying, “That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all…Do not let them take away your power.”
Closing out the night was Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, who officially accepted the nomination on night three of the DNC. Harris chose to focus her speech on her own individual story, as the daughter of two immigrant parents. She said that her life was only possible because of the American Dream – a man and a woman who believed the United States was a place for them to prosper. Harris also discussed family in two avenues – one that is chosen, and one that is blood-related; she asserted herself as a product of the people who have gotten her to where she is, today. In continuing the theme of unity in night three, Harris demanded justice for the murders of Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor, as well as others who were murdered in the name of racism. She said, “There is no vaccine for racism, we have got to do the work…none of us are free until all of us are free.” Harris also made sure to list minority races in America to demonstrate her commitment to a unified America.
Night Four (streamed on CNN)
The final night of the DNC continued to advance the narrative of Joe Biden as a man of the people, but the content specifically focused on the people. Individual stories were frequently told to paint a diverse picture of who can belong to the Democratic Party. Speakers also continued to attack President Trump’s tenure in the White House, and how the Biden/Harris ticket will “meet the moment,” a phrase frequently used throughout the evening.
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator, competed against Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination. In his speech to endorse Joe Biden, Booker said he “believes in the dreams of our ancestors”, despite these tough times. He also alluded to President Trump’s management of the economy in saying, “Working people are under attack. The wealth gap grows, the middle class sinks.” Yet Booker focused on unity at the end of his speech, with “We will rise.”
He later led a roundtable video call with others who were in the running to become the Democratic nominee for the 2020 election, such as Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang. Each person shared their favorite memories of Joe, and how Joe is an empathetic person. Warren spoke to his character in his speech after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and as Vice President at the time Biden used his speech to connect with the public through loss and grief.
Others shared how they felt seen and heard by Biden. 13-year-old Brayden Harrington, who has a stutter, gave a speech about Biden’s support for Harrington’s learning to overcome his stutter. As a stutterer himself, Biden told Harrington the key is to practice, so Harrington showed viewers how he marked his speech to avoid any severe stuttering. Eva, a Polish, Puerto Rican, and Black woman spoke to her embodiment of the ‘melting pot of America’, and that Joe Biden values diversity.
The Democratic Party also brought in a military family to speak about the difficulties of staying connected when one is deployed. Jill Biden also spoke to Joe’s “track record of helping military families”, and said that when one is deployed, “the entire family serves as well.”
In a rare move, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy came to speak at this year’s DNC. Rarely do people from the scientific and medical communities get involved in politics, Murthy said, “[but] what we’re missing is leadership. We need a leader who works with states…a leadership who inspires us to practice distancing and wearing masks…That’s why I’m here tonight, not for politics or for party…”. He also endorsed Biden by saying he is “the man I trust to look out for my family.”
Towards the end of the final evening of the DNC, the Democratic Party featured Joe Biden’s family; his son Hunter Biden and daughter Ashley Biden, as well has his granddaughters. Joe’s son and daughter spoke of Joe as a resilient, tough man who has endured a lot in his life; they mentioned Joe’s loss of his first wife Neila, his other daughter Naomi, and later his son Beau. Biden’s granddaughters Finnegan, Naomi, Maisy, and Natalie said Joe calls them every day, and that his favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla.
To conclude the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden delivered a speech focused almost entirely on unity. Biden said of his vision as president, “If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness. It’s time for us, we the people, to come together, and make no mistake, united we can overcome…”. He also used a popular phrase throughout the DNC to describe President Trump as “[fanning] the flames of hate.” Biden also said though he was running as a Democrat, he would act as an “American president”, because the president’s job is to “represent all of us, not just our base party…this must be an American moment.”
Image credit: Nolandalla.com
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- ABC News Coverage (08/18)
- CNN News Coverage (08/19)
- CNN News Coverage (08/20)
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