A summary of the 2020 DEMOCRATIC PARTY NATIONAL CONVENTION
Sunday, August 23, 2020
by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
Well, as things turned out, the 48th quadrennial National Convention of the Democratic Party of the United States was both a virtual videoconference and a telethon-- even, at times, something of an infomercial. But, considering that everything associated with it was via remote telecommunication, the technical aspects of it went very well: some hiccups here and there, to be sure- a cue either "stepped on" or missed (something that has occasionally happened to me when I've been a guest- via telephone- on radio!), an occasional blank or frozen feed; but a fear that the broadcasting of the proceedings might turn out all too "glitchy" (especially the virtual Roll Call of the States on the second night) proved unfounded. From the purely technological perspective (yes, I'm that geeky!), it will be most interesting to compare how the Republicans will do things this coming week in what are such unique circumstances as are imposed by COVID-19...
but on here with an account of what was actually done and said, on behalf of the Democrats, over these four nights:
The first session- on the evening of Monday 17 August 2020- began promptly at 9 PM Eastern Time US [0100 GMT, 18 Aug]with actress Eva Longoria in studio out of Los Angeles introducing the theme of the Convention- 'We, the People'- which was followed by a video presentation of numerous people- including many of those who would be speaking during the course of this unique, virtual Convention- reciting sections of the Preamble to the United States Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish thus Constitution for the United States of America.
After this, Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Permanent Chair of this Convention (as it were), gaveled it into order remotely, which was followed by grandchildren of former Vice President Joe Biden virtually reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and then children from the several States and Territories of the United States singing the National Anthem- all remotely, of course- and setting up, for those watching, what the rest of the proceedings would pretty much be like. Reverend Gabriel Saguero, head of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, gave the Invocation remotely and then it went back to Ms. Longoria to explain that the COVID-19 Pandemic had forced this Convention to be done this way and yet hoping that those watching would, nonetheless, "listen, to be inspired to act and vote".
She started off by asking, via video, four ordinary people- a small businessman, and a farmer, from Pennsylvania; a high school student from New Jersey; and a schoolteacher from Texas "How are you doing?"- and they each spoke of the challenges the pandemic had brought about, as well as how they were handling them as best they could. When asked, by Ms. Longoria, "Do you believe better days are ahead?", they all answered in the affirmative (albeit some more enthusiastically than others).
The first formal speaker of the evening was Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, who actually represents Milwaukee- where this Convention was originally supposed to be held- and who noted that the Native American Indian name for that city was said to translate as "gathering place besides the waters"; that, even though this Convention had to gather virtually, it yet "gather[ed] in unity". "What better way to gather", she opined, "than all across the country?".
This was followed by a video montage of recent events in the United States featuring- by way of a soundtrack- Bruce Springsteen's The Rising (which would also appear as "bumper music" between segments at various times throughout all four nights), itself followed by someone who had voted for President Trump in 2016 explaining why he would not be doing so in 2020.
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser then came on- via video- to give a few remarks about the Black Lives Matter Plaza she had authorized in her city before introducing the brothers of George Floyd, whose death while in the custody of police in Minneapolis earlier this year had led to the series of protests in major cities in recent months. A Moment of Silence for Mr. Floyd was observed- virtually, of course- followed by a video performance by Leon Bridges of his song Sweeter (written shortly after Mr. Floyd's death, much in the same way Bruce Springsteen's The Rising had been written in response to the events of 9/11).
Next came video of the Democratic Party presumptive nominee himself, former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to several people via videoconferencing- among them, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, and NAACP head Derrick Johnson- about potential responses/solutions to Racial Injustice. The final speaker was Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner- who, like George Floyd, had died while surrounded by police on Staten Island in New York six years ago now (full disclosure: I spent a part of my childhood on Staten Island and, in fact, had often ridden my bicycle on the very sidewalk where Mr. Garner would die a half century or so later-- REB-A).
This was followed by Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, repeating the mantra he first said before the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary earlier this year that, arguably, saved Vice President Biden's presidential campaign and launched him towards the nomination he would claim later in the week: "We know Joe... Joe knows us". A video of a former Marine Corps officer explaining his support of Biden for President now served as the transition from a discussion of Racial Justice to one about the COVID-19 Pandemic itself.
The first speaker on this topic was Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York who noted, of his own State, that "we went through hell, but we learned much". Claiming that the divisiveness of President Trump's rhetoric hampered the Federal response to the virus, he went on to opine that "Trump did not create the division... the division created Trump" and, in addition, thereby allowed the Trump Administration to "try to deny... then try to ignore... then try to politicize the virus". Cuomo's remarks were followed by a video of a young woman whose father, a Trump supporter in Arizona, died of COVID-19 (5 days after being put on a ventilator).
Olympian (in Women's Soccer) Megan Rapinoe then spoke to four people, via videoconferencing, who were first responders in the midst of the Pandemic about their respective experiences, after which Sara Gideon- the Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senator from Maine- appeared, via video, to introduce Maggie Rogers singing her song Back in my Body. There was then a video of several teachers, from across the country, speaking about their respective concerns over reopening of schools this Fall in the wake of the continuing presence of COVID-19.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan then followed, noting that the auto industry (a key sector of the Economy in her State) had manufactured much of the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for first responders all across the country and arguing that this was the same industry saved from collapse by the Obama/Biden Administration in the wake of the Great Recession back in 2009. After this, a video (in black in white) honoring the many who have died from COVID-19 (and ending with the words 'IN MEMORIAM' was shown).
Ms. Longoria then introduced the next segment of the evening's program: notable Republicans who will be supporting Joe Biden, and not Donald Trump, for President in 2020: there were short video segments from former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman (who had run unsuccessfully for Governor of California in 2010), and former Congresswoman Susan Molinari of Staten Island, NY, who introduced the next speaker, former Ohio Governor (and unsuccessful candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination) John Kasich.
Governor Kasich was seen literally standing at a crossroads as he intoned "America is at a crossroads". "In normal times", Kasich noted, "something like this"- a Republican speaking before a Democratic National Convention- "would never happen, but these are not normal times", further arguing that "Joe Biden is a man for our times" as why Kasich would, despite partisan (and even ideological) differences with the former Vice President, be supporting Biden over President Trump. This presentation was followed by a video of ordinary Republicans indicating they would be voting for Biden over Trump.
The next speaker was Senator Doug Jones of Alabama who served as the transition to the Convention turning to talking about the importance of the Post Office (become a "hot button" political issue within recent weeks, due to accusations of machinations, by the Trump Administration and it's Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, potentially hampering Mail-in Balloting in relation to this year's General Election). In this regard, Ms. Longoria introduced Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada talking, from her home, primarily about the lawsuit brought against her State, by the Trump Administration, seeking to keep it from implementing mail-in voting to the full (despite the several States of the American Union being the constitutional conductor of all elections, Federal as well as State, including the "appointment" of Presidential Electors "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct" [per Article II, Clause 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution]).
After this, Senator Amy Klobuchar- one time contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination- spoke from St. Paul, Minnesota and then introduced a video of herself, along with other former 2020 presidential contenders (Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Seth Moulton, Beto O'Rourke, Tom Steyer, and Andrew Yang) speaking, sequentially, of their endorsing Joe Biden after having suspended their own respective campaigns. This was followed by a video featuring (primarily) Gregg Weaver, a conductor on Amtrak during the more than four decades Joe Biden- as a United States Senator- commuted to and from his home in Delaware to Washington, DC on a daily basis: Weaver himself opining that "the average guy is important to" Biden.
The next speaker was Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another erstwhile challenger to Joe Biden during this year's Primaries (as he was to Hillary Clinton back in 2016): condemning "Greed, Oligarchy, and Bigotry", Sanders argued that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned-- Trump golfs". In this year's election, the Vermont Independent declaimed: "The future of our Democracy is at stake; the future of our Economy is at stake; the future of our Planet is at stake!". Then followed a video of ordinary people expressing why they were for Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.
The featured speaker of the evening (delivering, essentially, what would be the Keynote Address at a more ordinary Convention, even though it was not officially such [a "different kind of Keynote" was, in fact, scheduled for the following night]) was former First Lady Michelle Obama, her remarks videotaped aforehand:
"Good evening", she began. "It's a hard time, and everyone is feeling it in different ways... but I am here tonight because I love this country with all my heart, and it pains me to see so many people hurting". "I am one of a handful of people living today who have seen, firsthand, the immense weight and awesome power of the Presidency", Mrs. Obama noted. "The job is hard: it requires clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and History, a moral compass, and an ability to listen-- and an abiding belief that each of the 330 million lives in this country has meaning and worth... you simply cannot fake your way through this job: being President doesn't change who you are; it reveals who you are. Well, a Presidential Election can reveal who we are, too".
"Donald Trump is the wrong President for our country", the former First Lady opined. "He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head-- he cannot meet this moment; he simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is."
Eva Longoria came back on- once again from a studio in L.A. after Mrs. Obama had finished speaking- to close out this night's proceedings, after which a video of Billy Porter performing For What It's Worth (with its songwriter Stephen Stills on guitar) was presented, followed by a quick review of "highlights" of the evening. Thereafter, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Young, head of the National Baptist Convention, gave the Benediction, and Convention Permanent Chair Thompson gaveled the virtual proceedings into Recess until the following evening at 11:12 PM Eastern Time US [0312 GMT, 18 Aug].
Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee kicked off the second night of this virtual Convention at 8:50 PM Eastern Time US [0050 GMT, 19 Aug]: noting "these are not conventional times" (thus his own city was unable to host what would have otherwise been its first ever National Party Convention), he gaveled the second session of Tuesday 18 August 2020 to order. After this, Permanent Chair Bennie Thompson called on the co-chairs of the three Standing Committees (Credentials, Rules & By-Laws, and Platform) to give their reports (remotely, of course): the most interesting part of this was when Rules & By-Laws Committee co-chair Barney Frank (former Congressman from Massachusetts) indicated that, for 2024, there would be a push- on the part of the Democrats- towards eliminating Caucus/Convention-based delegate selection/pledging in favor of Primaries across the board (it will be interesting to see if the Republicans should agree).
There was a short break at 9 PM [0100 GMT] before the main portion of the evening's program got underway with a video of various people reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Then came a video showing highlights of Keynote Addresses before previous Democratic Conventions: the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye in 1968; the late Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in 1976; the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo in 1984; the late Texas State Treasurer (and, later, the Lone Star State's Governor) Ann Richards in 1988; then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama in 2004; then-San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro (later President Obama's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) in 2012.
This all preceded what was described as "a different kind of Keynote"- virtual appearances by various Democratic state legislators and other state officers, members of Congress, county officials, and mayors explaining "Why We Ran" and collectively opining that "We're Fighting For Joe, and Joes' Fighting For Us... And When Joe's on Your Side, You Win". Stacey Abrams, unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Georgia two years ago, closed out this segment, herself opining that "We know Joe Biden... we need Joe Biden... We stand with Joe Biden... so let's get it done!"
This time, actress and musician Tracee Ellis Ross was the moderator from the studio in Los Angeles in which Eva Longoria had stood the night before, and she introduced a short video of Joe Biden on the hustings in Philadelphia, which was followed by an appearance by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates- remote from Atlanta- who claimed that President Trump "treats our country like it's his family business". A video of ordinary people talking about their issues with Trump Administration policies led into an appearance by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, speaking remotely from the Brooklyn waterfront, who opined that "a President should never say 'It is what it is'", arguing that "Donald Trump has quit on you".
There was then a short video (introduced, again, by Ms. Ellis Ross) featuring Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and her son Jack Schlossberg, followed by audio of both former First Lady Roslaynn Carter and former President Jimmy Carter leading into a remote appearance- from Chappaqua, NY- by former President Bill Clinton, who contrasted Trump's "Blame, Bullying, and Belittling" with Biden's "Build Back Better" slogan. Ms. Ellis Ross thereafter appeared again to introduce the run-up to the Roll Call of the States re: Presidential Nomination.
First, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez made a remote appearance from Milwaukee, after which Permanent Chair Thompson began the formal proceedings for nominating a Democratic Party Presidential candidate for 2020 by calling on Nominating, and Seconding, Speeches for the two candidates for the nomination who had filed formal nominating papers with the Convention: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and, of course, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bob King, former president of the United Auto Workers (full disclosure: I was a member of the UAW for a few years back in the early 1980s-- REB-A), nominated Senator Sanders, and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seconded. Then Jacquelyn Brittany, a security officer/elevator operator for the New York Times nominated former Vice President Biden, followed by seconding by both Delaware Senator Chris Coons (who currently holds the Senate seat Biden had once long held) and Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester.
After this, Democratic National Committee Secretary Jason Rae- remotely from Milwaukee- moderated what would be a virtual Roll Call of the States, with each delegation's vote announced remotely (most via prerecorded video, though a few States- most notably Joe Biden's Home State of Delaware, which had to be so- were 'live'). The results of this Roll Call are in the chart immediately below:
After this Roll Call was completed, Joe and Jill Biden were seen in their home in Wilmington, Delaware with balloons and confetti while Kool & the Gang's Celebration played and delegates- remotely- cheered and clapped. After a time, Permanent Chair Thompson officially announced Biden as the Party's presidential nominee and invited him to give an Acceptance Speech come Thursday; Biden appeared on screen to thank, not only Thompson, but all those participating in this virtual Convention. Then Ms. Ellis Ross was back to introduce a segment on Health Care.
It started with a video of Joe Biden videoconferencing with five people who benefited from 'Obamacare', followed by short videos of ordinary persons dealing with various medical problems (if not their own, those of members of their own family) and how having affordable health insurance was important to them. The next speaker, via video, was Ady Barkan, an ALS patient and activist who speaks with the aid of a machine along the same lines as that once used by the late physicist Stephen Hawking.
Next, Ms. Ellis Ross was back to introduce a segment on Foreign Policy and National Security which began with a video from a retired Marine (my Marine Corps friends regularly remind me there is no such thing as a "former Marine"!) talking about the oath he took to "support and defend the Constitution" and its importance, thereafter followed by remarks from former Secretary of State (and unsuccessful 2004 Democratic candidate for President) John Kerry- remote from Boston.
There was now video from various former foreign policy, national security, intelligence and military officials (including former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, himself a former Republican Senator from Nebraska) discussing, what was in their own views, the contrasts between President Trump's and Joe Biden's respective approaches to National Security. This led into an appearance- remotely- by former Secretary of State (and former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Colin Powell, itself followed by a video primarily narrated by Cindy McCain, widow of the unsuccessful 2008 Republican candidate for President John McCain, about what was described as "an Unlikely Friendship" between Senator McCain and Joe Biden and describing Joe Biden's willingness, and ability, to work across the aisle while both served together in the United States Senate.
A video about Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nominee, next led into an appearance from Dr. Biden- remotely from the Delaware high school in which she once taught English. "I have always loved the sounds of a classroom", she began, "the quiet that sparks with possibility just before students shuffle in, the murmur of ideas bouncing back and forth as we explore the world together, the laughter and tiny moments of surprise you find in materials you've taught a million times". "But this quiet is heavy", she opined. "You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways: there's no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors, the rooms are dark as the bright young faces that should fill them are now confined to boxes on a computer screen".
"How do you make a broken family whole?", she asked rhetorically (after recounting how she had to do just that when she became Joe Biden's second wife). "The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding, and with small acts of kindness- with bravery, with unwavering faith. You show up for each other, in big ways and small ways, again and again... we have shown that the heart of this Nation still beats with kindness and courage: that's the soul of America Joe Biden is fighting for now".
"Yes, so many classrooms are quiet right now", she noted, "the playgrounds are still-- but, if you listen closely, you can hear the sparks of change in the air. Across this country, educators, parents, first responders, Americans of all walks of life are putting their shoulders back, fighting for each other: we haven't given up, we just need leadership worthy of our Nation, worthy of you-- honest leadership to bring us back together, to recover from this pandemic, and prepare for whatever else is next; leadership to reimagine what our Nation will be-- that's Joe!"
After Dr. Biden had finished, she was joined by the man who identified himself as "Jill Biden's husband" who- talking to the camera- said "Thank you for watching, and we'll see you soon" while the Five Stairsteps' Ooh Child provided the 'soundtrack'. Ms. Ellis Ross then closed the evening by introducing John Legend who next performed his song Never Break, after which- as was the case the night before- a quick review of "highlights" of the evening was shown. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC Mariann Edgar Budde gave the Benediction, after which Permanent Chair Thompson remotely gaveled the virtual Convention into Recess at 11:12 PM Eastern Time US [0312 GMT, 19 Aug].
At 8:55 PM Eastern Time US on Wednesday 19 August [0055 GMT, 20 Aug], Permanent Chair Bennie Thompson gaveled the 3rd night of the virtual Democratic Convention into session with an admonition to "get this show started!", after which Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, remote from Milwaukee, spoke and noted that "the problems we face can only be solved by all of us together". His remarks were followed by a repeat of a video, shown on a previous night, of various everyday Republicans explaining why they would be supporting Joe Biden instead of President Trump in 2020.
After a video of various people remotely reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Senator Kamala Harris of California (introducing herself as "Kamala"), standing alongside the steps up to the stage from which she would be accepting her (technically, still presumed at this moment) nomination as the Democratic Party's 2020 candidate for Vice President of the United States later that same evening, talking about the importance of voting this Fall. Then followed actress Kerry Washington- in the same L.A. studio used by moderators on the previous two evenings- introducing the theme of the evening: 'A MORE PERFECT UNION': "The voice we need... is yours... You are the We" [in 'We, the People'], she declaimed.
The first issue addressed during this evening's proceedings was Gun Control, started off with a video of people talking about loved ones they had lost to gun violence, and footage of protestors marching against same, followed by a video featuring DaAndra Dycus, the mother of a teenager who was shot and disabled during a birthday party he was attending. After a video introducing her, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, herself the victim of an assassination attempt that killed innocent bystanders, spoke: "I struggle to speak, but I have not lost my voice", she said.
After a video illustrating now-presidential nominee Joe Biden's empathy with ordinary citizens, the evening's program turned to the issue of Climate Change and, following a video featuring various people talking about this issue, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico appeared remote from in front of a solar panel "farm" outside Albuquerque, claiming that two existential "threats" are "the Trump Presidency and the environmental annihilation he represents". Her remarks were followed by a video featuring young climate activists.
Ms. Washington next introduced Billie Eilish performing her song My Future, after which Ms. Washington introduced the next topic- Immigration Reform: there was a video of a young girl reading a letter she penned to President Trump about her mother (the wife of a US Marine) deported back to Mexico, followed by a video of a family, the matriarch of which is undocumented, itself followed by a video with its narration being an excerpt from a speech on Immigration Reform Barack Obama once gave while President. The segment ended with a video by Prince Royce performing Stand by Me, partially in Spanish.
The next issue dealt with was Women's Rights, introduced by Ms. Washington, after which former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (the unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate in 2016) spoke remotely from Chappaqua, NY. Ms. Washington next introduced a video leading into remarks- remote from San Francisco- by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Ms. Washington then introduced a video featuring victims of domestic violence who became activists, plus actress Mariska Hargitay of the television drama Law and Order: SVU, itself followed by a video about Joe Biden, as a United States Senator, holding hearings on, and then working hard for the adoption of, the Violence Against Women Act back in the early 1990s.
The Economy became the next topic, as former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis spoke remotely. This was followed by a video featuring small businessmen and family farmers dealing with the adverse economic impacts upon them resulting from the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus. The next speaker was Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (erstwhile challenger to Joe Biden for this year's presidential nomination) appearing from a shuttered day care facility in Springfield, Mass. and claiming that the Trump Administration "gives bailouts to billionaires and kicks dirt in the faces of everyone else". "COVID-19 was Trump's biggest test, and he failed miserably", she opined, adding that "this crisis is on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enabled him".
Ms. Washington next introduced a video of President Barack Obama presenting then-Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the Nation's highest civilian honor) which then led into former President Obama himself speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. "I want to talk, as plainly as I can, about the stakes in this election", the former President said, "because what we do, these next 76 days, will echo through generations to come... The one constitutional office elected by all of the people is the Presidency", he intoned. "So, at a minimum, we should expect a President to feel a sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of all 330 million of us, regardless of what we look like, how we worship, who we love, how much money we have-- or who we voted for".
Former President Obama claimed that President Trump "has shown no interest in putting in the work, no interest in finding common ground, no interest in using the awesome power of his Office to help anyone but himself and his friends, no interest in treating the Presidency as anything more than but one more reality show he can use to get the attention he craves: Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job, because he can't". In contrast, Obama opined, Joe Biden has "resilience, born of too much struggle... empathy, born of too much grief". "For eight years Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision", Obama went on. "He made me a better President, and he has the character and experience to make us a better country".
Obama argued that both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris believe that "no one, including the President, is above the Law; and that no public official, including the President, should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters"... "none of this should be controversial: these shouldn't be Republican principles, or Democratic principles, they are American principles-- but, at this moment, this President- and those who enable him- have shown they don't believe in these things". "Here's the thing: no single American can fix this country alone", he opined, "not even a President. Democracy was never meant to be transactional... it requires an active, and informed, citizenry... here's the point: this President, and those in power- those who benefit from keeping things the way they are- they are counting on your cynicism.... that is how a democracy withers, until it is no democracy at all- and we cannot let that happen. Do not let them take away your power, do not let them take away your democracy."
"What we do echoes through generations", the former President added. "Whatever our backgrounds, we are all the children of Americans who fought the good fight... they knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth and yet, instead of giving up, they joined together and they said 'Somehow, some way, we are going to make this work: we are going to bring those words in our Founding Documents to life'. I have seen that same spirit rising these past few years... Americans, of all races, joining together to declare- in the face of injustice, and brutality at the hands of the state- that Black lives matter: no more, but no less."
"To the young people who led us this summer, telling us we need to be better", Obama went on: "in so many ways, you are this country's dreams fulfilled. Earlier generations had to be persuaded that everyone has equal worth: for you, it's a given- a conviction. And what I want you to know is that- for all its messiness, and frustrations- your system of Self-Government can be harnessed to help you realize those convictions, for all of us: you can give our democracy new meaning; you can take it to a better place-- you're the missing ingredient, the ones who will decide whether or not America becomes the country that fully lives up to its creed. That work will continue long after this election, but any chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election."
"Stay safe, God bless", the former President concluded.
Now came the climax of the evening: the formal nomination of Senator Kamala Harris of California as the Party's Vice-Presidential candidate this time round, and her subsequent speech in acceptance of said nomination. Permanent Chair Bennie Thompson- again remotely from Jackson, Mississippi- declared that, per Party rules, first the presidential nominee selected by the Convention (Joe Biden, who had gained a majority of the delegate votes on Roll Call the night before) would name his choice for Vice-President, after which other names might still be submitted for the post; however, if only one candidate is so formally nominated, "the Chair is authorized to declare the nominee the Democratic candidate for Vice President"-- and so, with a single bang of Congressman Thompson's gavel, Senator Harris was now officially the 2020 Democratic Party's vice-presidential candidate.
This was followed by a video featuring members of her family (her stepdaughter, her sister, and her niece) talking about her, after which Senator Harris gave her acceptance speech remotely from Wilmington, Delaware- the hometown of her running mate, presidential candidate Joe Biden:
"Greetings, America", the California Senator began. "It is truly an honor to be speaking with you tonight. That I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me: women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all". "At every step of the way, I've been guided by the words I spoke from the first time I stood in a courtroom [as a prosecutor] 'Kamala Harris, for the People'", she noted. "I have fought for children, and survivors of sexual assault; I've fought against trans-national criminal organizations-- I took on the biggest banks, and took down one of the largest for-profit colleges. I know a predator when I see one".
After formally accepting her nomination for Vice President, she stated that "I do so committed to the values [her mother] taught me, to the word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight". Noting that the United States is "a country where we may not agree on every detail", she further opined that "we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity, and respect: a country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges and celebrate our triumphs together".
"Today, that country feels distant", she argued. "If you're a parent struggling with your child's remote learning, or a teacher struggling on the other side of that screen, you know what we're doing right now is not working; and we are a nation that is grieving, grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunity, the loss of normalcy and, yes, the loss of certainty. And, while this virus touches us all, we got to be honest: it is not an equal opportunity offender-- Black, Latino, and indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately, and this is not a coincidence: it is the effect of Structural Racism." "This virus", Harris opined, "it has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other, and how we treat each other-- and, let's be clear, there is no vaccine for Racism: we've got to do the work".
"None of us are free, until all of us are free", she said. "So, we're at an inflection point: the constant chaos leaves us adrift; the incompetence makes us feel afraid; the callousness makes us feel alone: it's a lot! And here's the thing: we can do better, and deserve so much more. We must elect a President who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work-- a President who will bring all of us together... to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden!".
"Make no mistake: the road ahead is not easy", she noted. "We may stumble, we may fall short-- but I pledge to you: we will act boldly, and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths, and we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us... There's something happening all across our country: it's not about Joe, or me-- it's about you, and it's about us".
"I am inspired", the Senator continued, "by a new generation: you are pushing us to realize the ideals of our Nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love-- you are patriots who remind us that to love our country is to fight for the ideals of our country... so, let's fight with conviction, let's fight with hope, let's fight with confidence in ourselves and a commitment to each other, to the America we know is possible, the America we love... thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America".
After she had finished speaking, there was video board showing many persons- remotely, of course- applauding, after which the newly minted vice-presidential hopeful was joined on stage, first, by Joe Biden himself (appropriately social distancing from her), followed by their respective spouses, Douglas Emhoff in Senator Harris's case and, of course, Dr. Jill Biden. Once this was done, and the four had departed the stage, Ms. Washington furnished some closing remarks from the moderator's studio in Los Angeles before introducing singer Jennifer Hudson performing A Change Is Gonna Come.
Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (who had succeeded longtime participant in Conventions of both Parties, Archbishop Demetrios- himself retired a little over a year ago now) gave the virtual Benediction, after which Permanent Chair Thompson gaveled the Convention into Recess at 11:20 PM Eastern Time US [0320 GMT, 20 Aug].
The final night of the Democrats' virtual National Convention- on Thursday 20 August 2020- began at 8:50 PM Eastern Time US [0050 GMT, 21 Aug] with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez- remotely from Milwaukee- summarizing the Convention so far. Noting the unusual nature of the Convention, he pointed out that "we've heard from people who are not even running for anything!" (a reference to the many remote, and video, appearances by non-politicians and non-Party functionaries). For his part, Perez promised that the Democratic Party would, during the ensuing General Election campaign, "take no precinct, no state, no vote for granted".
This was followed by a video starting off with President John F. Kennedy's famous pledge to send Americans to the Moon and safely bring them home within a decade, which then led into an account of Joe Biden's heading the effort, known as 'Cancer Moon Shot', to try and find a cure for cancer once and for all. DNC Chair Perez then was back briefly before introducing California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking- remotely from his home State- about the recent wildfires caused by dry lightning strikes: "Mother Nature has now joined this conversation about Climate Change", he opined. Next came a video titled 'This Time Next Year' which featured various people- including many who had already spoken before this Convention- opining about where they hoped the country would be by mid-August 2021 (in their collective opinion, hopefully with Joe Biden in the White House). Finally, Andrew Yang- another of Joe Biden's erstwhile challengers- spoke remotely from New York City.
Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus was now to be the moderator for this final night of the Convention, appearing in the same studio in Los Angeles used by the previous three moderators. She introduced a video of a child reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (to the delight of the adults [off camera] around him), followed by the National Anthem sung via videoconference by the Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks), after which Sister Simone Campbell, head of NETWORK (known colloquially as "Nuns on the Bus") offered an Invocation.
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware next spoke remotely from home about Joe Biden's faith, opining that the Democratic presidential nominee's "faith is strong, personal, and private", which was followed by a video showing Biden, during a Town Hall earlier in the campaign, answering a question from the pastor of Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina (in which a mass shooting took place five years ago: an event that- again, full disclosure- indirectly led to my writing one of my commentaries for this website) about his faith- during which Biden cited a dictum of religious philosopher Søren Kierkegaard that "faith sees best in the dark".
Ms. Louis-Dreyfus then introduced Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who, after speaking remotely, herself was followed by a video about the recently deceased Congressman John Lewis, highlighting his career as a Civil Rights activist and a Congressman. Then came a performance by John Legend and Common of their song Glory. Ms. Louis-Dreyfus next introduced presidential historian Jon Meacham who opined that "We would rather hear the trumpets than face the tragedies".
Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico next spoke remotely from indigenous land outside of Albuquerque, which was followed by a video of older people expressing their concerns over what the Trump Administration had lately been doing as regards the US Postal Service and how it would adversely affect more than just mail-in balloting. Comedian Sarah Cooper appeared via video, first doing her lip-syncing of President Trump speaking at his rallies, followed by her speaking on her own behalf about making sure to know how to cast one's vote. Then Secretaries of State Alex Padilla and Jocelyn Benson of, respectively, California and Michigan appeared "together" remotely to talk about the same subject.
The next remote speaker was Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey (who had also unsuccessfully challenged Biden for the nomination), and he was followed by video of Joe Biden videoconferencing with four union workers: an auto worker, a firefighter, a bus driver, and an electrical worker. Former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy next spoke remotely, followed- from Milwaukee- by Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. After more video of Joe Biden on the hustings in Philadelphia, World War II and Korean War veteran Edward Good, a lifelong Republican, a longtime member of the National Rifle Association and someone who had voted for President Trump in 2016 explained, in a video, why he would not be voting for the President in 2020. His remarks were followed by a video of another Republican, at home, explaining why he, too, would be voting for Biden this time round.
There was now video of a couple, a Marine and his wife, explaining the effects of frequent deployment on Military Families and how Joe and Jill Biden have been supportive of the families of those who so serve the Nation. This led, in turn, to an appearance by Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, remotely from Washington DC. After a video of the Democratic nominee's late son, Beau Biden, speaking before an earlier National Convention and then-President Obama eulogizing Beau Biden at his funeral, Ms. Louis-Dreyfus came back on to speak about her own diagnosis of cancer and how Joe Biden had been one of the first to call her upon hearing of this.
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (another of Biden's former challengers) spoke remotely from the very place at which he and his husband had been wed. There was then video of a videoconference involving seven former rivals of Biden's for the nomination: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang- one more or less moderated by Senator Booker- talking about their behind-the-scenes personal interactions with Biden during the long stretch of Democratic Party debates going back more than a year now. This was followed by a remote appearance- from Colorado- by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (yet one more former challenger to Biden's ultimately successful bid for the Party's presidential nomination).
Ms. Louis-Dreyfus next introduced a remote appearance by a 13-year old boy from New Hampshire named Brayden Harrington who has, as once had (and, to at least some extent, still has) Joe Biden himself, a stuttering problem. He was followed by a video of a rabbi in Delaware who related how then-Senator Biden unexpectedly showed up at a Shiva call (Shiva being, in Jewish tradition, the period of mourning following a funeral and burial, during which the mourner receives family and friends) for a woman who had given his first campaign for the United States Senate back in 1972 less than 20 dollars as a gesture of respect for someone who had been, thereby, at least partially responsible for his even being in the Senate.
After this there was video of Joe Biden's granddaughters talking about their grandfather, itself followed by video of pro basketball star Stephan Curry and his wife, along with their two daughters, talking about the upcoming presidential election (thereby, at times rather humorously, providing something of a child's perspective on the whole thing). Ms. Louis-Dreyfus then was back to introduce a video of Biden's two living children, Hunter and Ashley, talking about their father, followed by video of the late Beau Biden speaking at another earlier Democratic Convention, all of which led into a video about the Democratic presidential nominee's own background and biography.
Once this was done, Joe Biden himself alone took the stage inside the Chase Center on the Riverfront in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware and began his Acceptance Speech:
The newly-minted Democratic presidential nominee opened with a quote from Civil Rights activist Ella Baker: "Give people light, and they will find the way", after which he opined that "the current President has cloaked America in darkness for much too long" before promising that "if you entrust me with the Presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst... we'll choose Hope over Fear, Facts over Fiction, Fairness over Privilege". After formally accepting his Party's nomination, he said that "I will be a Democratic candidate, but I will be an American President... that's the job of an American 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".
While referencing the challenges once faced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he took office back in the early 1930s, Biden noted that FDR had been "stricken by a disease- stricken by a virus!". "No generation knows what History will ask of it; all we can ever know is if we're ready when that moment arrives, and now History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced: four historic crises, all at the same time- the perfect storm".
He went on to claim that, in the coming election, "character is on the ballot; compassion is on the ballot; decency, science, democracy- they're all on the ballot. Who we are as a nation, what we stand for; more importantly: who we want to be-- that's all on the ballot". Opining that "no rhetoric is needed-- just judge this President on the facts"; and, as for President Trump, Biden claimed that "if he's given four more years, he'll be what he's been for the last four years: a President who takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fans the flames of hate and division".
"We will never get our economy back on track", Biden stated, "we will never get our kids safely back in school, we will never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus". Trump, on the other hand, "keeps telling us the virus will disappear; he keeps waiting for a miracle-- well, I've got news for him: no miracle is coming!". By contrast, Biden would "take the muzzle off our experts, so the public gets the information they need and deserve: honest, unvarnished truth! They can handle it... Our current President has failed in his most basic duty to the Nation: he's failed to protect us-- he's failed to protect America and, my fellow Americans, that is unforgiveable."
"As President, I'll make you a promise", Biden next declaimed: "I'll protect America-- I'll defend us from every attack, seen and unseen: always, without exception, every time". As for Climate Change (but one of those four major threats he earlier said we now face), he noted that "it's not only a crisis-- it's an enormous opportunity: an opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy, and create millions of new, good paying jobs in the process". As for Entitlement Programs, he opined that "Social Security is a sacred obligation, a sacred promise made [those who are now senior citizens] paid for. The current President is threatening to break that promise: he's proposing to eliminate a tax that pays for almost half the Social Security, without any way of making up for that lost revenue, resulting in cuts: I will not let that happen! If I'm your President, we're going to protect Social Security and Medicare-- you have my word!".
Biden went on to say that his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, is "a powerful voice for this nation: her story is the American story... no one's been tougher on calling out the Administration on its extremism, its failure to follow the Law, its failure to simply tell the truth". As for his own wife, he said that "no man deserves one great love in his life, let alone two-- but I've known two"; he further noted that his second wife Jill Biden "put our family back together... an unstoppable force... she was a great Second Lady, and I know she'll be a great First Lady for this nation: she loves this country so much. And I'll always have the strength that can only come from family".
"History has thrust one more urgent task on us", the former Vice President opined. "Will we be the generation that finally wipes out the stain of Racism from our national character? I believe we're up to it: I believe we're ready... My father taught us that Silence was Complicity, and I can never remain silent or complicit... I said that we were in a battle for the soul of this Nation, and we are... You know, American History tells us that it's been in our darkest moments that we've made our greatest progress, that we found the light. In this dark moment, I believe we're poised to make great progress again, and can find the light once more... I've always believed that you can define America in one word: Possibilities; the defining feature of America: everything is possible-- that, in America, everyone, and I mean everyone, should be given an opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God-given ability will take them. We can never lose that".
"Are you ready?", Biden asked. "I believe we are! This is a great nation: we're a good, and decent, people-- for Lord's sake, this is the United States of America: there has never been anything we've been unable to accomplish when we've done it together... this is our moment to make Hope and History rhyme-- with passion and purpose, let us begin: you and I together-- one nation, under God... for Love is more powerful than Hate; Hope is more powerful than Fear; and Light is more powerful than Dark: this is our moment, this is our mission... as Love, and Hope, and Light join in the battle for the soul of the nation; and this is a battle we will win, and we'll do it together, I promise you! Thank you, and may God bless you, and may God protect our troops. Good night".
Once he had so finished speaking, his wife Dr. Jill Biden joined him and they both waved towards a screen of remote supporters applauding, and were soon joined by Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff (each couple appropriately social distancing, of course). The Bidens and the Harris-Emhoffs then left the arena, as they put on their masks, to go to an outside stage, in front of which was a parking lot filled with vehicles with their lights flashing, their drivers honking their horns, their passengers leaning out of the windows waving American flags and/or Biden-Harris dooryard signs (as my own Massachusetts-born grandmother would have called them) while a fireworks display went off nearby (in lieu of the usual sea of balloons and many strings of confetti).
Once the celebration was over, Benediction was said by three clerics, each representing one of the great Abrahamic monotheistic religions: Rabbi Lauren Berkun of Shalom Hartman Institute- remote from Aventura, Florida; Rev. Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York City who is also a consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications; and, also from New York City, Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood. After this, Permanent Convention Chair Bennie Thompson- as all through these virtual proceedings, remotely from Jackson, Mississippi- declared the 48th quadrennial Democratic Party National Convention adjourned sine die at 11:29 PM Eastern Time US [0329 GMT, 21 Aug].
COMING NEXT: the Republicans