Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So Here we are and we’re covering the Democratic National Convention courtesy of the Washington Post.
The 2020 Democratic National Convention began Monday which was technically supposed to be held in Milwaukee, but due to Covid-19 concerns the convention went virtual. Here is the takeways from the event.
- Michelle Obama let’s it be known “it is what it is” and the “Let’s go high when they go low” is more elaborated on.
Four years ago, Michelle Obama who was a first lady at the time offered one of the most stirring speeches of the Democratic Convention. On Monday though, she offered a more political indictment not just of President Trump, but of the movement he has led.
“Right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another,” Obama said. “They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value. They see people shouting in grocery stores unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business, just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good and winning is everything.”
Obama also alluded to a line from her 2016 speech “When they go low, we go high” which has at times seems to offend Democrats who want a more forceful approach to winning elections.
“But let’s be clear, going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty,” Obama said. “Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping in class on our way to that mountaintop. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God.”
“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” Obama said. “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.”
- Still a divide between Moderate and Progressive Democrats.
One of the casualties of holding a convention virtually as with campaigning virtually is spontaneity. Conventions were already glorified coronations and scripted partisan rallies, and that’s even more the case now.
But that also makes some of the chosen messages more interesting. And one of them was reinforced a couple times Monday night: Biden won’t go hard left.
“I’m sure there are Republicans and independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat; they fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind,” former Ohio governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate John Kasich said. “I don’t believe that, because I know the measure of the man reasonable, faithful, respectful. And you know, no one pushes Joe around.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) seemed to bring up the idea that Biden, while perhaps not liberals’ ideal, would be someone liberals can work with. He even, perhaps most strikingly, pitched Biden’s health care plan, despite attacking it vociferously during the 2020 primaries.
“As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates and yes, with conservatives, to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat,” Sanders said.
Earlier in the night, the brother of George Floyd, who was killed while pleading for air as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on him, ask for a moment of silence to commemorate those who have died as a result of police misconduct.
“It is up to us to carry on the fight for justice,” Philonise Floyd said, without making an overt call for support of Biden. “Our actions will be their legacies.”
In a two hour format, organizers sought to showcase a united front in support of presumptive Democratic nominee Biden, who appeared frequently in the program through speaking clips, still photos and prerecorded video. Borrowing heavily from the tropes of live cable television, he hosted a brief roundtable discussion with civil rights activists, including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in police custody in New York in 2014.
The programming had mixed live speeches and prerecorded set pieces, including a Zoom style singing of the national anthem, musical performances and clips from virtual campaign events. There were also interviews or video reflections from a wide variety of people explaining how their lives have been affected by the health and financial crises of the Trump era, as well as cameos by Democratic stars like soccer player Megan Rapinoe, activist Ady Barkin, Virginia lawmaker and transgender rights activist Danica Roem, and Khizr Khan, whose son was killed while serving in the Army in Iraq in 2004 and who was attacked by Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The evening was hosted by actress Eva Longoria Baston, a Texas native best known for her role in the television series “Desperate Housewives.”
Before Democrats beamed into the virtual convention from locations across the country, Trump responded by traveling to Minnesota, a Democratic state he nearly won in 2016, and Wisconsin, where the Democratic convention was supposed to have been held before the viral outbreak shuttered events in Milwaukee.
There was a heavy focus on the protests that have erupted since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the calls to address the nation’s systemic racism. Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) recounted how the Trump administration forcibly removed peaceful protesters from outside the White House so he could stage a “photo op” in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, an incident Obama would later condemn.
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Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention.
The Democratic National Convention continued on Tuesday night. Former vice president Joe Biden was formally nominated for the presidency.
Below are some takeaways from the evening’s proceedings.
- The baiting of Trump
The Democratic National Convention has thus far felt as much a messaging operation to bait President Trump. On Monday night, Michelle Obama led that effort, calling into question Trump’s fitness for office. Her use of Trump’s “it is what it is” comments about the coronavirus death toll has been repeated often at the convention, and her speech drew several rebukes from Trump on Tuesday morning.
Tuesday night’s session, that latter effort continued apace. Speaker after speaker cast Trump as uninterested in being a good president, woefully unprepared and out of his depth. And the digs cut to the core of Trump’s self cultivated image as a tough guy world leader who commands respect.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.NY) said that Trump “hid in a bunker as Americans were tear-gassed” in Lafayette Square outside the White House a story Trump has disputed despite multiple outlets confirming it.
“When this president goes overseas, it isn’t a goodwill mission; it’s a blooper reel,” former secretary of state and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry said. “He breaks up with our allies and writes love letters to dictators. America deserves a president who has looked up to, not laughed at.”
For the second straight night, the convention featured an appearance from Gold Star parent Khizr Khan, whom Trump attacked during the 2016 convention, suggesting his Muslim wife wasn’t allowed to speak alongside him.
Another person who appeared Tuesday night were Sally Yates, the acting attorney general whom Trump fired; Marie Yovanovitch, the former Ukraine ambassador whose removal was detailed during the impeachment hearings; and even Biden’s son Hunter Biden, whom Republicans have in many ways sought to run against as if he were on the ticket in 2020. Bill Clinton said Trump was a great president for people who want entertainment but not leadership.
Much of it fit with the overarching messaging of the convention, but it also seemed intended to get Trump’s goat. The Biden campaign has largely allowed Trump to be the focal point of the 2020 campaign, and he has often obliged, to his detriment in polls. That continued Tuesday morning, when he stepped on his pardon of Susan B. Anthony by hitting back at Michelle Obama.
Trump also suggested early Tuesday night that he was indeed watching the proceedings.
“Tell the Dems that we have more Cases because we do FAR more Testing than any other Country!” Trump said, repeating a false claim he’s made many times before.
- An unusually compelling roll call
There are few things about a virtual convention so far. One of them arrived Tuesday: the roll call.
Here is usually a pretty boring process involving representatives from each state announcing how many delegates have gone for each candidate. Tuesday brought an opportunity for a more compelling trip around the country (and to seven territories). Each state got a chance to display a scene and offer a message it wanted to emphasize.
The representatives from Oklahoma and Texas took the opportunity to point to tragedies, in Tulsa a century ago and El Paso last year. Those from Puerto Rico and other territories emphasized that they were U.S. citizens too. Tennessee noted that it was the deciding state on giving women the right to vote. Wisconsin noted that it was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment.
Rhode Island even pitched itself as the “calamari comeback state,” as it displayed its appetizing delight (Rhode Island-style, naturally).
You know we’re all at home and Perhaps it’s because we’re all mostly confined to our homes and to our communities, but it provided some variety and worked better than the same representatives shouting into a packed convention hall.
- A new era, with a bit part for the Clintons
Bill Clinton has been speaking at every Democratic National Convention since 1980 a streak of 10 conventions before Tuesday night. But for his 11th, the former president found himself in an unusual spot: a brief opening act.
Clinton spoke for about five minutes around 9:30 p.m. Eastern time in a strikingly brief address for a man known for delivering lengthy stemwinders that often last longer than convention organizers would like more than 40 minutes in 2016 and around 50 minutes in 2012. In his remarks, which followed a tape of fellow former president Jimmy Carter, Clinton attacked Trump for being preoccupied with personal grievances.
“If you want a president who defines the job as spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man,” Clinton said. “Denying, distracting and demeaning works great if you’re trying to entertain or inflame. But in a real crisis, it collapses like a house of cards.”
Bill Clinton has spoken at every Democratic National Convention since 1980 a streak of 10 conventions before Tuesday night. But for his 11th, the former president found himself in an unusual spot: a brief opening act.
Part of the brief address was due to the necessary changes in format, in which speeches like Clinton’s are mostly taped. But the early, almost perfunctory appearance was also a striking departure from where the Democratic Party has been for the last 32 years.
The Clintons have found themselves increasingly on the outs with the modern Democratic Party, in part due to the #MeToo movement and in part due to the disappointment of the 2016 election. But it was still a remarkable bit part and a reflection of the moment for what has been the first family of Democratic politics for most of the last three decades.
4. The audacity of disrespect + An act of Defiance = Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez nominates throwing major shade by nominating Bernie Sanders.
The 30 year old first term congresswoman learned last week that she was given only a minute to address this year’s virtual Democratic National Convention. Her response, quoting the poetry of Benjamin E. Mays, was a social media bat signal to her Yorktown, N.Y., second grade teacher, Mai Jacobs, who taught Ocasio-Cortez to memorize and recite poetry from an early age.
The exchange was just a reminder that one of the most talented political communicators in either party was given just a minute to speak at the most consequential Democratic convention in memory.
“I only have a minute, sixty seconds in it,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted last Wednesday. “Forced upon me, I did not choose it. But I know that I must use it. Give account if I abuse it. Suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute. But Eternity is in it.”
While seconding the nomination for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president, Ocasio-Cortez again planted her flag firmly in the progressive wing of her party by emphasizing the power and energy not of a political campaign, but a people’s movement that “seeks to recognize and repair the wounds of racial injustice, colonization, misogyny and homophobia.”
She pulled no punches, noting the movement “realizes the unsustainable brutality of an economy that rewards explosive inequalities of wealth for the few at the expense of long term stability for the many.”
Day 3. Of the Democratic National Convention.
Here are some takeaways from the third night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.
1. Obama’s big break with history
Trump built his political career by using Obama as a bad person, which as the lead public face of the racist birther movement. Despite this, Obama in 2016 initially offered Trump the kind of well wishes we expect during a peaceful transfer of power. He even called their post election conversation “excellent” and professed to be “encouraged” by it.
But on Wednesday night, Obama was done trying to keep a safe face, and departing from traditional post presidential protocol. While Obama has increasingly criticized Trump, on Wednesday he went further.
In his speech, Obama said that the man he hoped would rise to the task had utterly failed and didn’t really even try.
“He never did,” Obama said. “For close to four years now, he’s 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 but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves. “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever.”
Barack Obama also suggested that Trump used law enforcement as political pawns and averted “facts and science and logic” in favor of “just making stuff up.”
“None of this should be controversial,” Obama said, before alluding to his 2004 convention speech: “These shouldn’t be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They’re American principles. But at this moment, this president and those who enable him have shown they don’t believe in these things.”
The former president spent most of his speech on the kind of high-minded rhetoric that characterized his 2004 speech and on vouching for his former vice president. But his decision to go so hard on Trump was surely one he arrived at after years of Trump laying waste to so many of the other norms of American politics. Democrats have trodden uneasily around just how much to go down that path themselves, and that made this a significant moment.
2. Sidelining the left wing insurgency
Around the time the convention began Monday, a quarrel broke out between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.N.Y.) and former Ohio governor John Kasich (R). Kasich, who would speak that night, had suggested that Ocasio-Cortez’s role in the modern Democratic Party was overstated, and she hit back hard. For a party that has largely tamped down tensions between its left wing and the establishment since Biden emerged as its nominee, it threatened to be an unhappy sideshow.
It’s been ‘Kumbaya ever since.
Elizabeth Warren spoke on Wednesday. But there has been almost no real dissension expressed. Sanders even offered an enthusiastic endorsement of Biden’s health care plan, which he had attacked in the 2020 primaries.
3. Kamala Harris is nominated for vice president.
Democrats on Wednesday night formally nominated Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA.) as Joe Biden’s vice-presidential nominee, making her the first woman of color on a major-party ticket, while the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, issued an extraordinary rebuke of his successor, President Trump.
Wednesday night’s acceptance speech was an opportunity for Harris to redefine herself after her 2020 primary campaign flamed out early and at a time in which she’s not just vital to Democrats 2020 hopes, but is set up to be their standard-bearer in future presidential elections.
Harris speech gained controversy; especially this line, “I know a predator when I see one,” and “There is no vaccine for racism.”
Harris later described racial injustice as a “virus,” likening it to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This virus, it has no eyes, and yet it knows exactly how we see each other and how we treat each other,” Harris said. “And let’s be clear: There is no vaccine for racism.”
The speech was short on direct attacks on Trump the traditional role of a running mate. But it seemed to pave a path for doing so next.