The Democratic National Convention on Tuesday showcased the party’s elder statesmen, up-and-coming political stars and delegates from colorful locations across the country all pressing to make Joe Biden the next US president.
Here are five takeaways from the second night of the convention:
A tentative truce
The Democratic Party’s moderates and progressives have declared a truce to establish a unified front against President Donald Trump. But it may last only as long as Biden’s presidential campaign, win or lose.
That was made apparent in a short address by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive force within the party. In a symbolic nominating speech for Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden’s final primary rival, she said millions “are looking for deep systemic solutions to our crises of mass evictions, unemployment and lack of healthcare.”
<p “width=420″ lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, an educator, spoke at the #DNC2020 about how they rebuilt a family after profound loss – and how he will rebuild a pandemic-battered country https://t.co/1ZUKfrMfxh pic.twitter.com/O175suCuI3— Reuters (@Reuters) August 19, 2020
Ocasio-Cortez has said she will vote for Biden in November and reiterated her support for the nominee on Twitter late on Tuesday. But her speech may have stirred hard feelings among some on the Democratic left after Biden’s win over Sanders and his decision to bypass a liberal such as Senator Elizabeth Warren for his running mate in favor of like-minded Senator Kamala Harris.
The die, or in this case the votes, have been cast. Biden is the nominee, and the decision by the party to feature several Republicans at this week’s convention suggests he is more interested in courting moderates right now than appeasing liberals.
But Ocasio-Cortez and her allies are watching closely – and keeping score.
Roll-call road trip
If the Democratic convention reverts to normal in four years with an in-person gathering, the one element viewers may miss most will be the virtual roll call that formally handed Biden the party’s nomination.
A diverse group of delegates from each state stood before local backdrops and recited delegate counts for Biden and Sanders in a manner that felt like a quick, coronavirus-safe road trip with some humorous and sobering reminders of the nation’s history.
In Oklahoma, delegates spoke from Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood, where the worst US race massacre happened in 1921.
A legislator in Rhode Island dubbed it the “calamari comeback state” thanks to its Democratic governor’s policies for the restaurant and fishing industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Bob Casey spoke in front of Biden’s boyhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Khizr Khan, announcing Virginia’s delegate count, condemned the leadership of Trump, whom Khan sparred with after he lost his son in the Iraq War.
Cozzie Watkins, a 69-year-old nurse from North Carolina, announced that her state’s delegates had put Biden over the top to officially become the nominee. He finished with 3,558 delegates.
Suffering and resilience
In a year when lives and livelihoods have been upended by the pandemic, Jill Biden closed out Tuesday night by serving as an ambassador to all the American families in pain.
She detailed her family’s slate of unimaginable losses, then shared their story of recovery and resilience.
Joe Biden has credited Jill for rebuilding his family after his first wife and young daughter died in a car accident. His older son, Beau, succumbed to brain cancer in 2015.
The backdrop for Jill Biden’s speech on Tuesday was sober. She stood in an empty classroom, a poignant reminder of the schools that sit shuttered because of COVID-19 but also of the losses many families have suffered during the pandemic.
When Joe Biden joined his wife at the end of her live remarks, the evening’s program ended on an upbeat note. But like so many moments during this unusual convention, it was mixed with a tinge of sadness, a fitting coda for a difficult year.
A crowded keynote
The keynote speech that opened Tuesday’s program featured 17 voices, a departure from a tradition that most famously anointed Barack Obama as a rising Democratic star at the 2004 convention.
That speech, in which Obama argued there was no true Red-Blue divide in the country, paved the way for the largely post-partisan presidential campaign he tried to run in 2008.
The previous two keynote speakers, Warren and Julian Castro, then the mayor of San Antonio, also later ran for president.
This time around, the party said it wanted to accommodate as many young Democratic officeholders as possible given the time constraints of the virtual convention.
But the slot of “rising star” may have already been filled at this convention – either by Ocasio-Cortez or Harris, who speaks on Wednesday.
An ironic model
Jimmy Carter and Trump could not be more different people, but there was a certain irony to the former Democratic president speaking at the virtual convention.
Carter’s tenure as president from 1977 to 1981 is the model that Democrats hope now fits the Republican Trump, a single term marked by economic turmoil and a loss of US standing in the world.
The two men faced sharply different crises in their fourth year in office – Carter with the Iran hostage drama and Trump with the coronavirus. Democrats hope that the end result in 2020 will be the same – voters picking someone new.
Carter was followed on Tuesday night by former President Bill Clinton, who won a second term despite a shaky first. He ran for re-election in 1996 against a much-older nominee, Senator Bob Dole, then 73.
Clinton is now 74. Biden, whose nomination Clinton touted, is 77 and would be the oldest person to become US president if he is elected on Nov. 3.
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