The DNC Gave America The Unifying Vision It’s Crying Out For

In an America enduring the divisive Trump Admin and adversity of coronavirus, Biden's Democratic Party unveiled a hopeful vision for America.
From left: Dr. Jill Biden, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff (CSPAN)

From left: Dr. Jill Biden, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris, and Doug Emhoff (CSPAN)

Every four years, America’s political parties gather to formally nominate their candidates for president and vice president of the United States. These events provide them with an opportunity to solidify their base, rally their party behind them, and, ideally, win over voters from all sides of the political spectrum, including the all-important independent voters. For the Democratic Party in 2020, when it’s claimed that America is more polarized now than at any time since the civil war in the 1860s, the objective could be summed up in one word: Unity.

The Democratic Party set out its plan to bring the country together, with a key theme being unveiled on each evening of the convention: ‘We the People’, ‘Leadership Matters’, ‘A More Perfect Union’, and ‘America’s Promise’, all under the overarching vision of ‘Uniting America’. That schedule allowed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, as well as their allies, to lay out their agenda and to show how they will work not just for those who vote for them, but will fight for America’s future.

With figures from all sections of their party, together with independents, former Republicans, current Republicans, and ordinary Americans with a story to tell, all making the case for Joe Biden’s candidacy, the Democratic Party didn’t just hit the mark, they scored a home run.

The idiom ‘come out of the gate running’ was something that the Democratic Party took to heart on the first night of the convention, taking the Trump administration to task over both the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the attempts to hamper mail-in voting, whilst also talking about the importance of addressing racial injustice and reaching out to America’s working class. Senator Bernie Sanders delivered the most unifying speech he’s given thus far and urged progressives to rally around Joe Biden. The night closed with a climactic speech by Michelle Obama.

For someone who claims to have no interest in taking up political office, the former First Lady displayed an impressive political talent. In fact, excluding the speeches from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama’s speech was possibly the moment of the week. She used her time in the spotlight to succinctly and powerfully eviscerate Donald Trump’s presidency, delivering a speech that wouldn’t have looked out of place as the Democratic Party’s response to the State of the Union address. Speaking for almost 20 minutes, Obama chimed with people on a personal level, highlighting how, in her view, rallying behind Joe Biden isn’t just a political choice or a debate between left and right. She reminded viewers that, as Biden says, the election is a “fight for the soul of the nation”, asserting that the vote in November will be about regaining the character on which America was built, as a welcoming and united nation that works for all Americans, not just for the select few.

The ‘We the People’ theme for the first evening of the convention wasn’t a stunt, as might be attempted by some political parties and politicians. It was a meaningful statement, reflected in the level of representation that occurred from the opening moment, with the national anthem as the soundtrack as citizens were featured from the 50 states, as well as representatives of the five US territories.

Proper representation is key in ensuring that the next administration addresses the issues that are important to all Americans. Without these voices being heard, concerns from climate change to healthcare, will continue to be kicked into the long grass instead of being tackled head-on. The people who need support now can’t wait another 4 years. They need action from their political leaders now. That’s why it is so crucial that the Democratic Party is giving these people a platform on national TV.

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Any presidential election ultimately comes down to a contest between the two figures at the top of their respective tickets: in this case, Joe Biden and Donald Trump. For this reason, the second night’s theme, being ‘Leadership Matters’, was important. Throughout Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump and his allies have attempted to undermine the former Vice President by claiming that he isn’t able to lead the nation. Conversely, Biden’s team has argued that Trump has repeatedly failed over the last 3.5 years to rise to the challenge of being president.

Michelle Obama touched on this during her opening night speech by stating that: “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head.”.

During the second evening, speaker after speaker criticized Trump and his administration for their failures, such as their apparent inability to control the coronavirus outbreak through to the problems that have been sparked by Trump’s ineptness on the international stage.

This culminated in Dr. Jill Biden, an educator and the wife of the Democratic nominee, taking the primetime spot, despite not being a traditional politician, to offer a striking contrast between Donald Trump and her husband. Delivering her speech in a classroom, Dr. Biden managed to draw a line between the issues her students and their families are facing right now, as their lives are stalled by the current health crisis, and the difficulties that her husband has had to overcome in his personal life. Dr. Biden showed that, because of the personal experiences that they’ve had, she and her husband have empathy for others in challenging circumstances and truly care about finding a positive resolution for them. This poses quite a stark contrast between Dr. Biden and the current First Lady, Melania Trump, who, at the height of the family separation policy, as her husband’s administration was locking young migrant children in cages, infamously wore a jacket with the slogan: ‘I really don’t care. Do U?’

This idea of effective, compassionate leadership was further reflected when retired four-star General Colin Powell took the stage to offer his glowing praise of Joe Biden’s proven track record on foreign affairs. The Republican former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs endorsed the Democratic nominee and highlighted how, as the father of a son who served his country, Biden knows how to “take care of our troops in the same way he would his own family”. This was further supported by a video from Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Senator John McCain, who reminded Americans of the close friendship Biden and McCain had, despite serving on opposite sides of the aisle, and how the pair had worked together, setting aside their political differences, in America’s national interest.

The third evening of the Democratic National Convention aimed to promote the theme’s
more perfect union’ and, as Americans heard from leading figures within the party, they did just that. Three years of a Trump presidency has seen those in the White House push an anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, anti-progress agenda, repealing legislation and aggressively taking America back to days past. As an alternative, the Democratic Party presented an image of what America could be like with real leadership in office that truly puts America first.

With the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment fresh in people’s minds, the DNC sent a clear message of representation to voters by having some of the party’s most senior female figures speak to the nation. From Senator Elizabeth Warren to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and, of course, Senator Kamala Harris, the line up reflected the decades of activism from women across America, fighting for equal rights. As Pelosi said “when women succeed, America succeeds and, so, we are unleashing the full power of women to take our rightful place in every part of our national life.”

Whether exploring a range of policy priorities that Americans have been crying out for, from gun control to action on climate change to affordable healthcare, or hearing from figures who embody what America could’ve been if Trump hadn’t taken office, night three of the convention stressed what is at stake in this election. With America struggling, unemployment skyrocketing, a healthcare crisis exploding, an eviction crisis threatening to leave 40 million homeless, and the ever-present threat of climate change disrupting and displacing people’s lives, the Democrats committed to making meaningful and positive policy changes.

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President Barack Obama addressed the country for his much-anticipated speech from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The location was symbolic in underscoring the key theme of his speech: That Democracy is at stake in this election. While Obama could have used his time to solely focus on giving a scathing rebuke of the Trump administration, he instead chose to put aside his usual upbeat rhetoric and issue a serious and cautious warning to Americans about the damage that he believes will occur to their democratic institutions if Trump is re-elected.

It’s a concern that Democrats raised ahead of the 2016 election and it’s one that has proven to be warranted. During his first term and, particularly over the last few months, Trump has attempted to erode voting rights and push America in a more authoritarian direction, as polls indicate he is losing his grip on power. Obama seized on this to deliver a rallying cry to all citizens, particularly young people, that they need to get out and vote in large numbers on 3rd November. For a country that was founded on a revolution that fought for political representation, there is no more powerful message.

Senator Kamala Harris took the podium to deliver a history-making speech, as the first
African American and South Asian woman on a presidential ticket, with her comments
highlighting the pressing issues faced by America today. She was given a difficult task, having to follow former President Barack Obama, but she excelled beyond what anyone could have imagined. The story that Harris has to tell is one that, at this moment, is an important statement. The daughter of immigrants, she graduated college and has fought to climb the ranks of politics. She truly embodies what the American dream means.

That was on display in her speech, as she highlighted what her mother taught her, “to be conscious and compassionate about the struggles of all people”. As she said: “Public service is a noble cause and the fight for justice is a shared responsibility.”. If anyone wondered why Biden picked her as his running mate, it wasn’t just her undoubted political qualifications; it was that she embodies everything that the Trump campaign isn’t and everything that America
aspires to be.

Across each evening of the event, while the speeches were effective, one of the most
powerful elements was how the Democratic National Convention allocated time to hear from ordinary citizens, cognizant of those who have been begging Washington D.C. to listen to their concerns and rescue them from the challenges they’re facing on a day-to-day basis. From the Amtrak workers who talked about how Joe Biden took time to talk to them during his daily commute while in the Senate, to the 13-year-old boy who discussed how the former Vice President had helped him to work on overcoming his stutter, it was clear through all of these stories that Joe Biden recognizes that to help people you have to hear them.

It is hard to imagine the current occupant of the White House taking the time to talk with and help people who have a real need for support. Instead of helping people, Trump mocks them, such as the disabled reporter who was targeted by him during a campaign rally. Compassion and empathy are often underrated qualities but, by possessing them, Biden is able to tap into
what average Americans need from their elected officials in a way that his opponent is
seeming psychologically incapable of doing.

The four-day event culminated in Joe Biden’s speech on a night that was designed to
promote the vision of ‘America’s promise’. Not once during his speech did the Democratic nominee utter Donald Trump’s name but, referring to him only as “the current president”, he portrayed him as a man who is egotistical and only concerned about advancing his own aims regardless of the cost or impact for others. Biden could have decided to be an overtly partisan individual, but he took the high road, delivering a speech that the majority of Americans would largely agree with, identifying key issues that need to be addressed and providing solutions for them.

When Biden completed his speech, he received praise from all sections of his party, as well as from independents and even conservative commentators, such as Chris Wallace, all of whom recognized that he had just delivered something that was “enormously effective”. Even George W. Bush’s right-hand man, Karl Rove, called the speech “excellent”, and Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, said it “beat expectations”. In fact, instead of it appearing as a traditional convention acceptance speech, Biden’s remarks seemed more suited to a presidential address, filling the leadership void that has existed since January 20 th 2016. When the Trump campaign did attempt to refute the speech, they had nothing to say about the policies raised in it, because they could not do so without alienating voters, returning instead to the petty and ridiculous attacks on Biden’s character.

In a career-defining speech, Biden met the moment, crushed all of the criticisms that claimed he’s not fit to lead, showed what America would look like under his leadership, and laid out how he would heal the divide the Trump administration has created across the nation. At a convention that was designed to promote a unifying message that all Americans can get behind, Biden summed it up best with one line: “While I’ll be a Democratic candidate, I’ll be an American President.”. The race for the White House is very definitely on.

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Opinion // Democratic National Convention / Democratic Party / Donald Trump / Joe Biden / Kamala Harris