Democrats will campaign hard on the coronavirus, emphasizing Biden’s willingness to compromise on other issues. Here's what day one of the Democratic National Convention tells viewers about the party’s case for Biden.
Eva Longoria, actress and Democratic organizer, opened the convention, outlining the convention’s defining point. “Every four years,” said Longoria, “we come together to reform our democracy. This year we’ve come to save it.” A group of teenagers from around the country then sang the national anthem in harmony, before viewers returned to Longoria. The coronavirus, each speaker highlighted, threatens every aspect of American life and democracy, making 2020 a uniquely important election. The speakers also addressed the Democratic solution to racial injustice and the COVID-19 induced economic downturn.
Longoria spoke to a small business owner, from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, who said “maybe if we came together on [the] issue [of COVID-19] alone, maybe as Americans, and being united, we can overcome.” Marley Diaz, a 15 year old literary activist, from West Orange, New Jersey, hopes to “go back” to school next year, to “be safe,” and “to be protected,” at school next year, and continue her activism in-person. A farmer from Valon, Pennsylvania, said Trump’s trademark “trade war” with China was “real stressful” and “truly devastating” to his business, the effects of COVID-19, he said, only compounded this harm.
To emphasize the key Democratic promise, Longoria spoke last to a school nurse from Texas. “All I can think about,” she said, “is keeping my kiddos safe.” In-person classes were “scary” for her and her students. “I will do whatever it takes to ensure that we are all ready to go back to school safe and healthy,” Joe Biden, she said, “will be the one to take us there.”
Biden’s pitch, represented by Day 1 of the Democratic National Convention, is safety in the midst of coronavirus, and partisanship. The Convention dedicated speaking time to a former Trump supporter. The voter “registered as a Democrat” because Trump has “zero platform” while Biden has a “detailed” platform. Later in the convention, viewers would be addressed by former Republican politicians: Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, Meg Whitman, Rep. Susan Molinari, and Gov. John Kasich.
The first time viewers saw Vice President Joe Biden live at the convention, Biden spoke to a group of mayors, the mother of Eric Garner, and a police chief, on racial justice. Biden said on racial justice we need to take into account “what everyone wants,” including “all the good cops out there.” Thankfully, he concluded, “there are more [good cops] than there are bad cops.”
Every Democratic speaker seemed to highlight this point: arguing that Biden’s platform is one which will unite police officers and racial justice advocates, Republicans and Democrats, and Biden and his primary challengers.
Speakers took a stronger approach on coronavirus. The first speaker on coronavirus told a powerful story, blaming her father’s death on the President’s coronavirus response. She introduced herself as “one of the many who has lost a loved one to COVID.” Kristin Uriquiza’s father had “faith in Donald Trump,” he even “voted for him.”
Her father “believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that coronavirus was under control, and going to disappear, that it was okay to end social distancing rules before it was safe, that if you had no underlying health conditions you’d probably be fine.” In late May, Uriquiza recounted, “my dad went to a karaoke bar with his friends. A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator, and after five agonizing days, he died alone in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand.” She described her father’s support for Trump as “his only preexisting condition,” he paid for that “with his life.”
Other Democratic voters described similarly moving encounters with the COVID-19 pandemic. A nurse watched “people die alone,” he described contracting COVID-19, and being “totally isolated,” not “knowing if you’re gonna wake up.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a state which saw an early COVID-19 outbreak, reiterated “our nation is in crisis.” New York’s outbreak, Cuomo said, was due to “the failure of a government that tried to deny the virus, then tried to ignore it, and then tried to politicize it.”
Beyond attributing personal blame to Donald Trump for specific losses of life, the convention painted the pandemic as an apolitical issue. Viewers watched a compilation of registered Republican voters call Biden “the man to get our lives back to normal.”
Former Gov. John Kasich encouraged his fellow Republicans to vote blue in 2020. “I’m sure there are Republicans and Independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” he said. “They fear Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that. Because I know the measure of the man, it’s reasonable, faithful, respectful, and you know no one pushes Joe around.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Biden’s former opponent, called Biden the “unity” candidate. Unity, she said, “isn’t about settling. It’s about striving for something more. It isn’t the end, it’s the means. It’s how we get stuff done. Unity is about reaching up toward a higher purpose.” Klobuchar said the day she ended her campaign for the Democratic nomination was “filled with great joy,” because “it was also the day I endorsed Joe Biden.”
“Joe ran for the same reasons I did,” Klobuchar said. “If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes of our politics, if you are tired of the noise and the nonsense. You have a home with me, and you have a home with Joe Biden.” Another primary challenger, Beto O’Rourke, called Biden “the kind of leader that brings others in.” Former challengers Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker, and Rep. Seth Moulton echoed this praise.
Perhaps most representative of the party’s unification around Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden’s biggest primary challenger, called for his supporters to vote for Biden, because “if Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we made will be in jeopardy.” Sanders said “the price of failure is just too great to imagine.” Trump’s “rejection” of science” demands progressives work with moderates “and even conservatives” to elect Biden. “The future of our democracy is at stake,” said Sanders. “The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama was the final speaker at day one of the convention. The story of America, Obama said, is the story of “folks who sacrificed and overcame so much in their own times because they wanted something more, something better for their kids. There’s a lot of beauty in that story.” Summarizing the thesis of tonight’s event, Obama warned “who we choose as our president in this election will determine whether or not we honor that struggle and chip away at that injustice, and keep alive the very possibility of finishing that work.”
Obama implored viewers to remember “one thing from my words tonight:” remember “if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will, if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
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