Friday, June 21, 2024

WORLD | 22-08-2020 10:31

Biden accepts Democratic nomination – now Trump awaits

Former vice-president pledges to end 'darkness' in speech closing a very peculiar Democratic convention; Obama uses address to issue scathing criticism of Trump, saying he is a threat to US democracy.

A unified party, an on-point Joe Biden and his rising-star running mate were among the key takeaways from the Democratic National Convention, which drew on party nobility  while showcasing the next generation.

The four-night affair drew millions of likely voters to, due to the coronavirus pandemic, an untested format: an all-virtual mix of live and pre-recorded content serving as both a lengthy political TV ad and a mirror on America. 

United front

"It's time for us, for we the people, to come together," Biden, 77, said in his flagship speech. And the sometimes fractious Democrats did, backing up their nominee while seeking to make the election a referendum on Donald Trump's presidency.

An ugly floor revolt and walkout by progressive Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016 marred the nomination of Hillary Clinton. This week's convention aired no such dirty laundry, with the party – including most of the two dozen other rivals for the nomination – now squarely behind establishment figure Biden and against Trump.

Sanders, again the runner up in 2020, made a personal appeal to his and other candidates' supporters, urging them to unite against the threat of a second Trump term.

Biden ups game

Long criticised for lacking energy and a crisp message, Biden rose to the occasion during his acceptance speech Thursday. Pledging to "draw on the best of us" if elected, he made the case for a Biden administration that will "overcome this season of darkness in America." 

For months Republicans have painted Biden as a candidate struggling to deliver a rousing speech, but even contributors on Fox News, one of Trump's favourite channels, acknowledged Biden blew a hole in that characterisation. Biden gave "probably the best speech of his life," said Dana Perino, White House press secretary under George W Bush. "He had pace, rhythm, energy, emotion and delivery."

Harris impresses

Kamala Harris, 55, made history by becoming the nation's first woman of color on a major political party ticket. 

Eight months after ending her own presidential bid, the US senator and daughter of immigrants adroitly reintroduced herself to voters with a speech mixing optimism and pointed criticism of Trump. She denounced the racial injustice roiling the nation – and, indirectly, of the president accused by Democrats of stoking divisions.

"Let's be clear, there is no vaccine for racism," she said, one of several lines that signalled she will be a potent force against Trump in the 10 weeks before the election.

Obama attacks

Half-assault on his successor, half-appeal for a protection of the nation's vulnerable democracy, Barack Obama's address Wednesday night showed why he remains so popular with Democrats.

It was an unprecedented rebuke of a sitting president by a predecessor, with the former president warning that the Trump administration “has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win.”

Obama said he had initially held out hope that Trump would grow into the job of president — but he has now concluded that Trump not only hasn't, he simply can't. Instead, he said the Republican leader has focused on using the presidency to benefit his friends and family and turned the nation's most powerful office into “one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

Trump, who appeared to be watching in real time, predictably responded with all-caps tweets. 

Next generation

Given that Biden sees himself as a transitional figure to the next generation of party leaders, it was important for the convention to showcase young Democrats.

They did, with appearances by 30-year-old congressional sensation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and with a Tuesday night keynote delivered not by a single rising star but 17 of them. A cleverly produced mash-up video featuring members of Congress across the country won plaudits for presenting a cross-cultural, ideologically diverse but united front in support of Biden.

Shortly before Biden spoke Thursday, former rival Pete Buttigieg – 38 years young, openly gay, and an Afghanistan war veteran – addressed the convention to urge viewers to "imagine what 2030 could look like" with a diverse Democratic coalition.


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