The Democratic National Convention (DNC) runs from August 17th – August 20th. This article is part of a broader, MJPS Online series providing daily analysis of the DNC as it happens. Click here for the other components of the series.
Democratic National Convention, Day Three Recap
Under the theme “A More Perfect Union” – once again, taken directly from the preamble of the U.S. Constitution – the Democratic Party reconvened for the third night of this year’s convention. As has become custom, a politician from Wisconsin – this time, Governor Tony Evers – opened the night, as would have happened if the DNC had been held in Milwaukee, WI, like it was originally scheduled.
While the first two nights had mostly been focused on the contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s characters, the majority of the third night was centered around making a policy argument for the Biden-Harris ticket.
The first section of the night – “A More Perfect Society” – emphasized three major issues: gun control, climate change, and immigration. After a video narrated by Parkland survivor and gun control activist Emma González, two survivors of gun violence offered touching and personal testimonies. First, DeAndra Dycus, whose son was paralyzed by a stray bullet, called out Trump’s lack of interest in fighting gun violence, stating that “He doesn’t care. He didn’t care about the victims after Parkland, Las Vegas, or El Paso.” Then, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at an event in 2011, gave
an address in support of Biden. Giffords, who now suffers from aphasia, declared that the country was at a crossroads, saying that the options were letting “the shooting continue,” or act, and urged listeners to vote in November.
The focus then shifted to the issue of climate change, with a video address from New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Speaking from a field of solar panels, she praised Biden’s climate plan while criticizing Trump, claiming that the election was a way “to end two existential crises: The Trump presidency and the environmental annihilation he represents.” The Biden climate plan was explained in a video narrated by a union worker from Pennsylvania, and young activists also appeared to underscore the fact that climate change is an existential threat.
The last major policy issue highlighted on Wednesday was immigration. First, a daughter whose mother was deported by the Trump administration read a letter she wrote to the president. In the letter, Estela Juarez, whose father actually voted for Trump in 2016, tells the president that he “tore” their world apart. This was followed by an interview with an undocumented immigrant and her two daughters – one who qualifies for DACA and one U.S. citizen. Lucy, the only one eligible to vote, told the audience that she would vote “for my mother, my sister, and my daughters,” while Jessica, the DACA recipient, urged voters to choose someone who “will fix the broken immigration system, and commit to keeping families together.”
Following this policy-intensive section, the convention marked the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. To mark the occasion, two trailblazing Democratic women offered remarks. First, former Secretary of State and 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton urged voters to take nothing for granted, claiming that November could not be a “woulda coulda shoulda” type of election. She also drew on her personal experience and reminded listeners that it was possible to win more votes and lose, so it was essential to have numbers “so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.” Then, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first (and only) woman to serve in that role, was one of the first speakers during the convention to draw attention to Mitch McConnell’s efforts to block legislation in the Senate. Pelosi made the argument that Trump was not the only Republican standing in the way of better policies, but McConnell and other Republicans were also to blame. She also noted the fact that a record 105 women are currently serving in the House of Representatives, and that 90 of them are Democrats.
To conclude this segment focused on the importance of women in the Democratic Party, a video put the spotlight on Biden’s work against domestic violence, including his efforts to pass the Violence Against Women Act in the 1990s. This included testimonies from actress and activist Mariska Hargitay, CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Ruth Glenn, and Carly Dryden, a regional advisor for It’s On Us.
The second section of the evening – “A More Perfect Economy” – started off with remarks from Hilda Solis, who served as Secretary of Labour during the Obama administration. Solis, who worked with Biden for four years, praised his work as vice-president and his economic vision for the country. Solis also praised Kamala Harris’ work as Attorney General. In a video, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Rep. Cindy Axne met with small-business owners who have suffered under the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic and trade policies. To conclude this segment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, once a contender for the nomination herself, gave remarks praising Biden’s economic agenda, and explained in detail his childcare plan. She also issued a call to action, stating that it was important to “be in the fight to get Joe and Kamala elected,” and then “stay in the fight to get big things done.”
The third and last section of the night – “More Perfect Leadership” – featured the two headline speakers: former president Barack Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris. Obama, speaking from the American Revolution Museum in Philadelphia, offered a stark and sobering warning: the country’s democratic institutions are “threatened like never before.” Obama strongly criticized his successor, saying that Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.” He also praised Biden and his work as vice-president, claiming that Biden made Obama a better president and that he and Harris “actually care about every American.” He ended by reminding viewers that they were all “children of Americans who fought the good fight,” and that the success of continuing that work depended “entirely on the outcome of this election.” He urged everyone to vote “like never before” for the Biden-Harris ticket and for other candidates down the ballot to “leave no doubt about what this country we love stands for — today and for all our days to come.”
After an unusually blunt and sobering address by the man who campaigned on hope and change in 2008, Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first African-American and Asian-American woman to be on a major party ticket. After being introduced by her sister, niece, and step-daughter, Harris started off by noting that her ability to be making history was “a testament to the dedication of generations before me,” and specifically named trailblazers such as Mary Church Terrell, Mary Mcleod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, Constance Baker Motley, and Shirley Chisholm.
Harris spoke extensively of her late mother, and the impact of family on her life. She also addressed the deaths of black Americans in the last months, saying that “there is no vaccine for racism. We have got to do the work.” She touted Biden’s experience and his capacity to make a uniting and transformative president. She ended her history-making speech by asking everyone to “fight with confidence in ourselves, and a commitment to each other — to the America we know is possible, the America we love.”
After two strong but flawed nights, the Democrats finally hit their stride on the third night of the first-ever virtual convention. By contrasting Biden’s proposed policies on various issues with testimonies from regular Americans who have been negatively impacted by Trump’s actions, they were able to make the clear argument that four years of the Trump administration (along with complicit Republicans in Congress) has had a devastating impact on so many. Obama’s warning added to the urgency of voting for the Biden-Harris ticket by stating that the situation could get exponentially worse if Trump is re-elected. By highlighting Biden’s various plans and Harris’ historic selection as a contrast to this dire scenario, Democrats showed that better days are ahead, if only enough people fight and vote in November.
Edited by Asher Laws.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.