Democrats (and some Republicans) from around the country gathered virtually to make history last week. The 2020 Democratic National Convention was the first major party convention not held in person. Kamala Harris is the first person of color ever nominated by a major party for Vice President. And, for Joe Biden, 48 years of federal politics, coupled with three Presidential Campaigns over the span of nine cycles, finally culminated in his ability to say the words: “I accept this nomination for President of the United States of America.”
The Democratic Convention was anything but conventional. Originally planned for mid-July at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum, COVID-19 forced the party to replan their grand event. The convention, while technically anchored in Milwaukee, was delayed by a month, with Convention Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) calling the convention to order from Jackson, Biden, and Harris accepting their nominations from Wilmington, and other speakers, like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Jill Biden, speaking from varied parts of the country.
While the four nights of the convention all focused on different themes, they all seemed to center on one central idea: due to the moral and political failings of the Trump Administration, all Americans need to unite behind Joe Biden, even if they disagree with him on the policy.
Night One of the convention, held Monday, August 17, had a theme of “We the People. “That night’s speakers focused on the effects of COVID-19 on them, in their areas. Speakers included Gretchen Whitmer (Mich.) and Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.), governors of states hard hit by COVID-19, and Kristen Urquiza, who lost her father to COVID-19.
Fmr. Gov. John Kasich (Ohio), who ran the longest-lasting campaign against Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican Primaries, gave a speech, along with other top Republicans, portraying Trump as uniquely dangerous, with Kasich standing at a literal crossroads to demonstrate the choice America faced. Finally, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama both spoke on the idea that, regardless of politics, the reelection of Donald Trump would be disastrous, with Sanders saying, “Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs.”
Night Two (Tuesday, August 18) had a theme of “Leadership Matters.” This night featured many political leaders speaking on Joe Biden’s character, and his qualifications for President.
Speakers included: Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is poised to become Majority Leader if Democrats win control of the Senate this fall; 4 Star Gen. (Ret.) Colin Powell, who worked heavily under the administrations of George HW Bush and George W. Bush, yet endorsed Biden over Trump, specifically citing Trump’s lack of leadership in international affairs; Fmr. President Bill Clinton, who compared presidential elections to the world’s most important job interview, saying that Trump had shown that he cannot lead America, and should not be re-hired; and Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who spoke from her former high school classroom where she taught on how Joe Biden continuously worked, day in and day out, for his family and his children, including his deceased son Beau.
Night Two also featured the official vote on the nomination. The vote was done via roll call, with videos coming in from all around the country, across 57 states and territories. As a formality, Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) seconded the nomination of Biden, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) seconded that of Bernie Sanders. The vote was 3,558 for Biden to 1,151 for Sanders.
Night Three (Wednesday, August 19) centered around the theme of “A More Perfect Union,” with key leaders of the Democratic Party all speaking on the state of the country. Fmr. Sec. Hillary Clinton, who lost to President Trump in 2016 as the Democratic Nominee for President, warned that Trump has shown that he will ruin and destroy “our health, our jobs, even our lives, our leadership in the world and, yes, our Post Office.” Clinton also told listeners to vote in strong numbers, referencing how she won the Popular Vote by nearly 3 million, and still lost the Electoral College to Trump.
The end of the night saw Fmr. President Barack Obama speak prior to Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.). Obama insisted on speaking before Harris to symbolically pass the torch to her— from the first Black President to, potentially, the first Black Vice President. In his speech, Obama spoke of the constitutional norms violated by Trump. Obama seemingly attacked Trump for thinking he is above the law, enriching himself through the Presidency, and deploying American military onto the streets. Obama also praised his Vice President, Joe Biden, saying he would fight tooth and nail on issues like climate change, international dictatorship, terrorism, poverty, and disease.
Night Three concluded with Kamala Harris accepting the Democratic Nomination for Vice President— the first person of color to ever do so. In her speech, Harris mentioned previous women and minority activists who, without their dedication, she doubted she would be accepting the nomination. She also spoke of her Indian, immigrant mother, and on the effect, this election will have on history: “Years from now, this moment will have passed. And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”
The final night of the Convention (Thursday, August 20) was themed “America’s Promise.” While some other speakers were featured, the night was all about Joe Biden accepting the Presidential Nomination. In his speech, given just one mile from where he announced his first bid for President 33 years prior, Biden spoke little of policy and focused on what he believed to be the value of America, and what it can accomplish when working together.
“United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America. We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege,” Biden said. “While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did. That’s the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment.”
Overall, the four-day event was a statistical success for the Democratic Party. CNN reports that, over the four nights, 122 million views were accumulated between streaming and television, with Biden raising $70 million. For context, Biden raised just roughly $60 million throughout his entire candidacy in 2019.
Next week, the Republican National Convention will attempt to follow up the spectacle and fundraising giant of the Democratic Convention. The Republican Convention will begin Monday, with procedural activities in Charlotte. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will all be focused on speeches, with most speakers being symbolic of the Republican fight against political correctness. Those scheduled include a couple who threatened to shoot Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis.
At the Republican Convention, Vice President Pence will accept his nomination Wednesday at Fort McHenry (Md.), and President Trump will accept his Thursday at the White House. These speeches have raised concerns on Capitol Hill due to the Hatch Act, which, among other things, prohibits federal employees from campaigning on federal property. While Trump and Pence are, as President and Vice President, uniquely exempt from this provision, other federal employees helping Trump and Pence may be in direct violation of the law.
Regardless of how well the Republican National Convention goes next week, the Democratic National Convention is in the history books. In the span of four days, streaming records were broken, fundraising records were shattered, the first woman of color was nominated to a major party ticket, and Joe Biden, 37 years after first announcing his 1988 campaign for President, finally accepted his party’s nomination. With the first debate between Biden and Trump scheduled for September 29, and the Presidential Election itself being just two and a half months away, time is of the essence. If nothing else, Democrats used the four days this week they had very well.
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