MILWAUKEE – On August 19th, 2020, Democrats held their third national convention online. The convention opened on the topic of gun control and showed parents of gun violence victims and transitioned to climate change activists and hope for green energy. Singer Billie Ellish said a speech and sang a song, which was followed by a discussion of immigration and woman’s rights.
Among the speakers during the woman’s rights topic was Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
After that, Former President Barack Obama gave an unconventional but encouraging speech in the halls of Philadelphia. The President opened his speech with a remembrance of history, “I’m in Philadelphia, where our Constitution was drafted and signed…embedded in this document was a North Star that would guide future generations; a system of representative government — a democracy — through which we could better realize our highest ideals.”
In doing this, Obama reminded listeners that there should be a present fight for the preservation of democracy and the reintroduction of the ideal government.
He concluded the paragraph with, “Through civil war and bitter struggles, we improved this Constitution to include the voices of those who’d once been left out. And gradually, we made this country more just, more equal, and more free.”
With this statement, Obama reminded the millions of at-home listeners the true meaning of America. He stated that it is the struggle and fight for justice, equality, and freedom for all that defines the American effort.
He then attacked President Trump, “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”
The intention behind this heavy quotation was to paint Trump as an inadequate and reckless leader. He attacked Trump on his COVID-19 response, economic policies, and foreign relations in one sentence. In doing this, he sets up the alternative to Trump: Joe Biden.
Obama stated, “What I quickly came to admire about him Biden) is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief. Joe’s a man who learned — early on — to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: “No one’s better than you, Joe, but you’re better than nobody.”
Through this, Obama’s description of Biden did not showcase his potential policies or administration but expands upon his character. Like his wife, Obama focused more on empathy rather than policy description and displayed Biden as a moral contrast to Trump.
He also mentioned his support of Harris as his Vice President, “But more than anything, what I know about Joe and Kamala is that they actually care about every American. And they care deeply about this democracy.”
He went on to scathingly remark on Trump removing people to take a picture, “They understand that in this democracy, the Commander-in-Chief doesn’t use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil.”
However, the end of the speech was the most notable because he talks to the rising generation, “To the young people who led us this summer, telling us we need to be better — in so many ways, you are this country’s dreams fulfilled. Earlier generations had to be persuaded that everyone has equal worth. For you, it’s a given — a conviction.”
This quotation highlighted the way various political commentators commonly perceive Obama as a President: a transformative figure of hope. In his speeches and conferences, he always talked about hope and potential in the political systems or general communities. Within this speech, he constantly criticized the status quo and the current administration but stated there is an innate power among the youth’s capacity to transform the system through voting.
He concluded with, ”And what I want you to know is that for all its messiness and frustrations, your system of self-government can be harnessed to help you realize those convictions. You can give our democracy new meaning. You can take it to a better place. You’re the missing ingredient — the ones who will decide whether or not America becomes the country that fully lives up to its creed.”
This is the encouraging part of the entire speech. His appeal to younger voters is profoundly effective because it recognized how paramount voting is for future leaders. In reality, President Obama encouraged the younger generations to redefine democracy
To add on, throughout the entire speech, Obama focused on one word: democracy. Using the word eighteen times, he tried to reinforce the importance of an honest election and insinuated Trump’s attempt to undermine that “honest election.” In bringing up Biden’s character, he is able to praise his VP and attack Trump at the same time.
This portion of the speech was unconventional in the sense that it was decisive and advanced further political bifurcation. Some call the harsh statements of Trump necessary for the Democratic electoral victory, while others call it untraditionally polarizing.
After the speech was over, the DNC transitioned into an introduction into Senator Kamala Harris’s life. They focused on her upbringing as the daughter of minorities and focused on her reputation.
Like Obama, Senator Harris began her nomination acceptance speech with historical events that tie with her racial background, “This week marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. And we celebrate the women who fought for that right. Yet so many of the Black women who helped secure that victory were still prohibited from voting, long after its ratification. But they were undeterred. Without fanfare or recognition, they organized, testified, rallied, marched, and fought—not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table.”
She then uses her talk of racial equality to transition to her family. She further expands upon the failures of the Trump Presidency and then contrasts Biden with Trump. She described Joe as a family man who understands hardship and how a better America can come from his administration.
This convention was better than the first one but worse than the second. The biggest problem I had with this convention was the fact that it barely covered issues that many voters deeply care about, such as gun control and climate change. Even when they talked about gun control and climate change, they did not even showcase climate scientists to discuss climate change, or political analysts to discuss a gun buyback.
This trend of bringing in various people to tell their personal accounts might get the vote of a few but it will not be appealing to the many who are worried about the threat of climate change. While there was a mention of green energy, they did not talk about cost, implementation, or even general policy description. This is a problem because these national conventions are a platform for respected parties to show why they should be voted over the other party.
However, this night was about Harris accepting her nomination. She was supposed to give an earth-shattering speech about how this historical and pivotal election and will define the future of this nation.
She did not.
The speech itself was not the problem, but her delivery of that speech. What made Obama such a memorable speaker was the fact he was able to change his tone with such ease, put emphasis on particular sections of the speech, and use dramatic body language to advance his argument. When it came to Harris, she underperformed, especially since she followed Obama’s speech.
She did not feel passionate about the principles written in the script and seemed monotone when discussing our future. While tonight was supposed to be her big night, Harris did not exceed any prior expectations and remains an unconvincing candidate.