• Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

The 7 Takeaways From The 2020 DNC

WILMINGTON, Del. — After nearly five decades in national politics and in his third run at the presidency, Joseph R. Biden Jr. accepted his party’s nomination on Thursday with one of the most forceful speeches of his career — given to a dark and empty room here, save for a smattering of journalists who watched him live as he addressed the nation by camera.

It was a final, surreal scene in an extraordinary virtual Democratic convention week that showcased a party unified around Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris — even as sharp differences remain below the surface.

Here are seven key takeaways from an unprecedented gathering:

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‘With Great Honor and Humility, I Accept This Nomination,’ Biden Says

Joseph R. Biden Jr. accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

I’m a proud Democrat, and I’ll be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election. So it’s with great honor and humility I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America. What we know about this president is if he’s given four more years, he’ll be what he’s been for the last four years: a president who takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators and fans the flames of hate and division. He’ll wake up every day believing the job is all about him, never about you. Is that the America you want? For you, your family, your children? This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme. With passion and purpose, let us begin — you and I together, one nation, under God, united in our love for America, united in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. And light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission. May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight, as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle we will win, and we’ll do it together, I promise you.

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Joseph R. Biden Jr. accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Biden is not his party’s smoothest or most electrifying speaker, and President Trump and other Republicans have spent months mocking his record of verbal missteps (despite the president’s own long record of falsehoods and gaffes). But on Thursday, Mr. Biden delivered his sharpest, most powerful address of the campaign, the kind of speech many even in his own party doubted his ability to give.

He was by turns optimistic about America’s potential, and sober about the problems that lie ahead, challenging the caricature of a stumbling orator the Trump campaign has concocted — and benefiting from the low bar his political opponents had set.

It was evidence that in moments that have really mattered — whether it was securing endorsements from rivals ahead of Super Tuesday or accepting the nomination — Mr. Biden is capable of performing under pressure. But that is an ability that will be tested again and again in the homestretch of the campaign.

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‘Let’s Fight With Conviction,’ Harris Says, Accepting Nomination

Senator Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the vice presidency, making her the first Black woman and the first Indian-American woman on a national ticket for a major party.

I accept your nomination for vice president of the United States of America. Joe and I believe that we can build that beloved community, one that is strong and decent, just and kind, one in which we can all see ourselves. That’s the vision that our parents and grandparents fought for, the vision that made my own life possible, the vision that makes the American promise, for all its complexities and imperfections, a promise worth fighting for. So make no mistake: The road ahead is not easy. We may stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. In this election, we have a chance to change the course of history. We’re all in this fight: you, me and Joe, together. What an awesome responsibility. What an awesome privilege. So let’s fight with conviction. Let’s fight with hope. Let’s fight with confidence in ourselves and a commitment to each other, to the America we know is possible.

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Senator Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the vice presidency, making her the first Black woman and the first Indian-American woman on a national ticket for a major party.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Ms. Harris, a California senator and former state attorney general, made history Wednesday when she accepted the vice-presidential nod, making her the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated to a national ticket of a major party. Her prominent presence throughout the convention and her discussion of her own story in deeply personal terms underscored the generational and racial diversity she brings to the ticket, two factors in her ability so far to energize Democrats as Mr. Biden’s running mate.

The campaign hopes that her vibrant speaking style and her personal and political background will help her connect in particular with Latino and African-American voters and deepen Mr. Biden’s appeal among moderate white suburbanites. Like Mr. Biden, however, Ms. Harris hails from the establishment wing of the party, and it is not clear that she will help Mr. Biden win over the most liberal activists who have long been skeptical of his candidacy.

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Presidency Is ‘One More Reality Show’ to Trump, Obama Says

Barack Obama criticized President Trump in his comments at the Democratic National Convention, saying Mr. Trump had shown “no interest” in using the office to help anyone but “himself and his friends.”

Tonight I want to talk as plainly as I can about the stakes in this election — because what we do these next 76 days will echo through generations to come. I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope for the sake of our country that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did. For close to four years now, he has shown no interest in putting in the work, no interest in finding common ground, no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends, no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves. Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job, because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down, if that’s what it takes for them to win. So we have to get busy building it up — by pouring all our efforts into these 76 days and by voting like never before: for Joe and Kamala and candidates up and down the ticket, so that we leave no doubt about what this country that we love stands for.

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Barack Obama criticized President Trump in his comments at the Democratic National Convention, saying Mr. Trump had shown “no interest” in using the office to help anyone but “himself and his friends.”CreditCredit…Democratic National Convention

Former President Barack Obama, typically known for his cool, even demeanor, delivered an unusually passionate, caustic attack on his successor in the White House as he described the stakes of the election in stark and chilling terms. This presidential contest, Mr. Obama made clear, is not about typical partisan warfare — it is about the continuation of American democracy as we know it, he argued, issuing what many Democrats saw as a stirring call to action.

“Do not let them take away your power,” he urged. “Do not let them take away your democracy.”

Michelle Obama, the former first lady, added her own lacerating attack, calling Mr. Trump “the wrong president for our country” and urging Americans to make plans to vote.

The speeches were clear distillations of the Democratic argument that this campaign is a national emergency, and Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden’s most important validator, cast his vice president as a steady and decent leader for dire times.

From the very beginning of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign, his message has been simple: America’s deepest problems cannot begin to be resolved until Mr. Trump is defeated, and Mr. Biden — for reasons of experience, character and conciliatory instincts — is just the person to beat him. It was a pitch rooted more in political calculus rather than in sweeping policy ambitions or a radically new vision for the nation, and many Democrats questioned whether that argument would be sufficiently inspiring.

But by this week, it was clear that even Mr. Biden’s ideological opposites within the party — including Senator Bernie Sanders, the avatar of the progressive movement — had embraced Mr. Biden’s case for focusing on building the biggest possible coalition to beat Mr. Trump, policy differences aside. In a speech that pleased a broad cross-section of the Democratic Party, Mr. Sanders cast the election as a battle against authoritarianism and pledged that he would “work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation” — in keeping with Mr. Biden’s framing of the election as a unique crisis.

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Joe Biden ‘Does It for You,’ Jill Biden Says

Jill Biden told the Democratic National Convention about her husband’s strong faith and purpose and the means of healing in hardship.

I hear it from so many of you: the frustration of parents juggling work while they support their children’s learning, or are afraid that their kids might get sick from school. The concern of every person working without enough protection. The despair in the lines that stretch out before food banks. We found that love holds a family together. Love makes us flexible and resilient. It allows us to become more than ourselves, together. And though it can’t protect us from the sorrows of life, it gives us refuge, a home. How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding and with small acts of kindness, with bravery, with unwavering faith. He does it for you: Joe’s purpose has always driven him forward. His strength of will is unstoppable and his faith is unshakable, because it’s not in politicians or political parties or even in himself. It’s in the providence of God. His faith is in you.

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Jill Biden told the Democratic National Convention about her husband’s strong faith and purpose and the means of healing in hardship.

Despite serving for eight years as second lady while Mr. Biden was vice president, Jill Biden has not been especially well known on the national stage. This week Dr. Biden, an English professor by trade, reintroduced herself as an educator who is intimately familiar with the grave fears many American parents are experiencing in this moment.

Speaking from a classroom where she once taught, Dr. Biden appealed directly to families who are worried about their children’s futures at a time of uncertainty over what the school year will look like. She sought to connect those concerns to the priorities Mr. Biden would pursue, and she indicated that the campaign understands that full recovery from the problems of the pandemic cannot happen until the needs of working parents are addressed.

Democrats hold sharply divergent views on the policy and political questions facing the party, including how to expand health insurance coverage, how to regulate Wall Street and Big Technology, and how much to value bipartisanship. But this week saw little policy debate beyond a broad embrace of matters such as combating climate change and gun violence, welcoming immigrants and improving access to health care. Over all, the number of tributes to Mr. Biden’s character far outpaced any details about his governing agenda.

Democrats appear united in their focus on defeating Mr. Trump, but how long will that last? And while that was the message pressed by party leaders at the convention, will it be embraced by liberal activists at the grass-roots level who have long been unenthusiastic about Mr. Biden?

Even as Democrats spent the week moving to unify the party around Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, the convention plainly prioritized outreach to moderate voters who may not identify as Democrats but are disillusioned by Mr. Trump’s stewardship of the Republican Party.

From videos featuring Republican figures like former Gov. John Kasich of Ohio to Mr. Biden’s insistence that the election was “not a partisan moment” but an “American moment,” Democrats pushed the message of country over party at every turn.

The critical test for Mr. Biden coming out of the convention will be: How many undecided voters heard and warmed to that message?