Highlights From Night 3: Democratic Leaders Zero In On Trump
The third night of the convention is over, and the Democratic Party’s ticket is formally set — with Kamala Harris officially nominated as Joe Biden’s vice presidential running mate.
In her acceptance speech, Harris hammered home the importance of supporting Biden in November, referring to President Trump’s time in the White House as a “failure of leadership.”
“Years from now, this moment will have passed,” Harris said, speaking from Wilmington, Del. “And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them … not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”
Many of Trump’s biggest Democratic opponents took the virtual convention stage tonight — continuing to tout the party’s policy agendas while simultaneously taking direct aim at the president himself. Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren all delivered remarks.
Former President Barack Obama delivered a forceful rebuke of Trump and urged people to vote.
“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,” Obama said.
Thursday will mark the final night of the convention, when Biden is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination.
For analysis and post-convention recaps this week, subscribe to The NPR Politics Podcast.↑ Back to top
Kamala Harris Urges America To Fight For A New Vision
Kamala Harris, the first woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket, evoked the history-making nature of her nomination and called on the country to fight for the “America we know is possible.”
“That I’m speaking here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me — women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty and justice for all,” she said from a Wilmington, Del., convention hall that was largely empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. A pool report said about 30 people were in the room.
In her remarks, Harris acknowledged the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, but she added that women of color remained disenfranchised for long after.
She named a long list of female activists and advocates of color, including suffragist Mary Church Terrell, freedom rider Diane Nash and politician Shirley Chisholm. “These women inspired us to pick up the torch and fight on,” Harris said. “As Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”
Harris, the junior senator from California and only the second Black woman in the Senate, won her seat in 2016 and arrived in Washington the same month as President Trump. Californians twice elected her their state’s attorney general after she served as San Francisco’s district attorney.
In Washington, D.C., Harris has built a reputation for her sharp questioning of Trump administration officials during hearings on Capitol Hill.
Though Harris has appeared with Joe Biden in Wilmington over the past week, tonight’s speech served as her most prominent introduction to voters.
Harris also wove her personal story into the address, including her upbringing as the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, as well as the formative years she spent at Howard University in Washington. She added her mother’s name to her list of trailblazing women of color.
“My mother instilled in my sister Maya and me the values that would chart the course of our lives,” Harris said. “She raised us to be strong Black women and to know and be proud of our Indian heritage. She taught us to put family first, the family you’re born into and the family you choose.”
Harris ran for president this cycle on the slogan “Kamala Harris: For the People,” a nod to her career as a prosecutor, but dropped out late last year after struggling to find a consistent message and gain traction in the early states. She later endorsed Biden. The campaign’s addition of Harris also acknowledges the important role of Black women to the Democratic Party.
Harris unpacked the current moment of crises on multiple fronts: the coronavirus pandemic, the economic collapse and the country’s reckoning with racial injustice.
The vision of “a beloved community where all are welcomed” feels “distant,” she said.
“And we are a nation that’s grieving. Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy. And, yes, the loss of certainty.”
She also spoke about health disparities amid the pandemic as an effect of structural racism. “And let’s be clear — there is no vaccine for racism,” she said. “We’ve gotta do the work.”
The speech was laced with criticism of President Trump.
“Donald Trump’s failure of leadership costs lives and livelihoods,” she said.
Harris described her running mate, Biden, as the president the country needs right now.
“We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work,” she said, “a president who will bring all of us together — Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous — to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden.”
In a statement, the Trump campaign said Harris is wrong for America and “ready to use Biden as an empty vessel for her far-left agenda.”
Harris was clear about the stakes of this election, asking viewers to imagine what it will be like to look back on this moment decades from now.
“Years from now, this moment will have passed,” she said. “And our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: Where were you when the stakes were so high? They will ask us, what was it like? And we will tell them. We will tell them not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did.”
Harris was joined on the stage by her husband and the Bidens as a small crowd clapped from the mostly empty convention hall.↑ Back to top
Trump Fires Back During Obama Speech
President Trump greeted his political foes tonight with a series of posts on Twitter reacting in real time as former President Barack Obama was speaking.
Trump had welcomed the return of Obama and Hillary Clinton, his 2016 opponent, earlier in the day with a promise that he would see them on the “field of battle.” True enough, Trump posted during Obama’s speech about the surveillance conducted by U.S. authorities on Trump’s camp during the early stages of the Russia investigation.
American investigators trying to find out more about Russia’s attack on the 2016 election sought information about whether anyone in Trump’s camp was involved. Subsequent reports have revealed that Trump’s campaign chairman for part of 2016, Paul Manafort, was giving internal polling data to a man linked with Russia’s military intelligence agency.
Other people in Trump’s camp, including adviser Roger Stone, were trying to make connections with those involved with the Russian interference, which Trump and his team welcomed and encouraged. Ultimately, however, the Justice Department did not charge anyone based on alleged collusion with the Russian election interference.
Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller declared in his report that he was not clearing Trump of wrongdoing and that he had not attempted to bring an indictment of the president in part because Justice Department rules forbade that. Trump and supporters called the outcome of the Russia imbroglio a vindication and have since sought to cast it as an abuse of power by the FBI and Justice Department — and Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The president’s post on Twitter is framed with that view of the story, and he and Republicans are expected to continue tying Biden to what they call abuses of power for the balance of this election season. Trump also posted a video on Wednesday criticizing what it called Obama’s and Biden’s unwillingness to accept the transfer of power from 2016 to 2017.
Trump’s second post tonight was about Obama’s reported coolness toward a Biden presidential bid.
In other words, Trump is asking: Why did Obama reportedly resist the idea of Biden being the Democrats’ nominee before, only for him to give a speech at tonight’s virtual DNC endorsing his former vice president?
Trump continued his political analysis with another post that recalled the onetime tension between Biden and his newly official running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris. The president observed that Harris had taken a shot at Biden during an earlier primary debate and appeared to question how the two could so easily overlook those comments in order to go on and join up for the party’s marquee ticket.
In Blistering Attack, Obama Takes Down Trump As Threat To Democracy
Shortly before he left office, then-President Barack Obama said he didn’t plan to criticize his successor unless he felt it was critical to “core questions about our values and ideals.”
“I want to be respectful of the office,” Obama said, explaining he wanted to give Donald Trump the chance to govern “without somebody popping off in every instance.” And for the most part, he has held his tongue and veiled his criticism even as Trump worked to dismantle each of Obama’s signature policies.
On Wednesday, Obama put aside that approach and let loose with a blistering attack, saying he wanted to “talk as plainly as I can about the stakes in this election” and arguing that another Trump win would threaten American democracy.
“I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously,” Obama said. “But he never did.”
“He’s 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,” Obama said.
Obama painted Trump as standing with dictators, tarnishing the international standing of the country and using members of the military “as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil” — a reference to Trump’s use of the National Guard to break up protests against racism this summer.
He criticized Trump for his attacks on the media and on political opponents — and accused him of using his office for personal financial gain. “No public official — including the president — should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters,” Obama said.
Obama blamed Trump for allowing the coronavirus to spiral out of control.
“Our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up,” Obama said.↑ Back to top
‘Don’t Let Them Take Away Your Democracy’: Obama Urges Voter Turnout
Former President Barack Obama tonight implored Americans not to sit out the Nov. 3 election, urging the country to “keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.”
Speaking in support of his former vice president, Joe Biden, Obama painted the general election as a critical moment for generations current and future, but he spoke optimistically about what he described as young voters’ opportunity to build a better, more equitable democracy.
“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. 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,” Obama said from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. “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.”
Democrats have hoped to harness Obama’s still-high popularity within their party to help encourage high voter turnout for the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket, particularly as the party faces concerns about turnout after 2016’s loss and pressures to adopt a more left-leaning platform.
Addressing those voters who may feel left out of the process or otherwise uninspired to vote, Obama said: “This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism.”
He added: “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life and the lives of the people you love.”
“That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all. We can’t let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy.”↑ Back to top
Kamala Harris’ Officially Nominated As Biden’s Running Mate
The convention has formally nominated California Sen. Kamala Harris tonight as the Democratic nominee for vice president. Harris makes history as the third woman and both the first Black and first Asian American person to be nominated as vice president by a major party.
Harris was elected to the Senate in 2016, after previously serving as California’s attorney general and San Francisco’s district attorney.
As attorney general, Harris worked directly with Beau Biden, the late son of Joe Biden and then the attorney general of Delaware. Joe Biden has frequently referenced his son’s relationship with Harris.
The senator has spoken often of her family — notably highlighting that both her parents took part in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. Harris’ mother was an immigrant from India, earning a Ph.D. in endocrinology and working as a scientist. Her father moved to the U.S. from Jamaica and taught at Stanford University.
Harris is married to Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer based out of Los Angeles. The California senator is a stepmother to Emhoff’s two children, Ella and Cole. In Harris’ speech the day after Biden announced her as his running mate, she spoke of her relationship to her children, who call her “Momala.”
“I’ve had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly vice president will be great. But ‘Momala’ will always be the one that means the most,” she said.↑ Back to top
UnidosUS: ‘Meaningful Outreach Is Essential’
Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, deputy vice president of policy advocacy and legislative affairs for Latino civil rights organization UnidosUS, tells NPR’s Noel King that the coronavirus pandemic has shifted policy priorities, though wages, immigrant rights and addressing discrimination remain top of mind.
“In 2019, the top issues for the community were jobs, health care and immigration, and as with many of our fellow Americans, response to COVID has overwhelmed most priorities.”
Many Latino voters broke for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary, and Martínez-de-Castro says there is more work to be done. UnidosUS released a survey this week that found only 24% of registered Latino voters heard from campaigns about voting in November.
“What we have always said is that candidates matter, their positions matter and meaningful outreach is essential,” she says.
Follow NPR’s special audio coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.↑ Back to top
Obama, Tonight’s Keynote Speaker, Owed Success To An Earlier DNC
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, political conventions took place in big arenas in sometimes politically relevant cities where party members crammed together for a multiday colloquium.
Tonight’s keynote speaker, former President Barack Obama, got his big break in the Democratic Party at one such old-fashioned convention deep in the Beforetime. In the year 2004, he was an Illinois state senator seeking to move up to the big show in Washington, and Democrats tapped him to address the convention at which they nominated Sen. John Kerry to take on President George W. Bush.
Things didn’t turn out well for Kerry, who appeared in this year’s Democratic convention last night, but Obama’s address made him the talk of national politics and proved to be the springboard from which he vaulted implausibly into the presidency a mere four years later. Here’s the address he delivered then.
The fullness of history has revealed, however, that — as NPR member Oregon Public Broadcasting later put it — Obama’s “overnight success” was a year in the making. The now-historic two-term first Black U.S. president started out as a local Chicago politician considered a bad speaker who “sucked the life out of the room.”
So, as the story now goes, Obama practiced. He practiced and practiced and practiced — a rare convention speaker to walk through his remarks not once, but twice, but thrice, as people involved now remember. In the end, as Democrats ultimately agreed, he not only nailed the speech but secured his place at the top of the party.↑ Back to top
Biden’s ‘Bromance’ With Obama Lasted 8 Years In White House And Yielded Medal Of Freedom
President Obama didn’t only give his onetime primary rival Joe Biden a job as vice president — he also awarded him the nation’s highest civilian award: the Medal of Freedom.
Created by President John F. Kennedy, the Medal of Freedom allows presidents wide discretion in recognizing significant Americans or others with the attention commanded by the presidency and the venue afforded by the White House. Recipients often reveal as much about the presidents awarding the medals as the wearers themselves: President George W. Bush gave one to PBS children’s host Fred Rogers; President Trump bestowed one upon golf legend Tiger Woods.
In 2017, at the end of their eight years in the White House, Obama surprised Biden with the medal. The men played up the jokes about their “bromance” and the closeness they’d achieved over two terms. But the subtext to the ceremony, as with many previous Medals of Freedom, was clear: Biden, it appeared, was at the end of his career.
Obama reportedly tried to discourage Biden from running for president in 2016 — and, although apparently not only for that reason, Biden didn’t. The road was clear for that year’s contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. By the time of the Medal of Freedom ceremony on Jan. 12, 2017, Donald Trump had won, the Obama era was drawing to a close and it may have appeared that Obama’s recognition of his friend and partner was the end of the Biden story.
Fate, however, did not bring down the curtain on Biden’s political career. Notwithstanding his earlier failed attempts at the presidency and his age — Biden would be 78 by the time of his inauguration in early 2021 if he were elected, the oldest person ever to assume the presidency — the former vice president and Medal of Freedom laureate got into the Democratic field this year after all. This week he was anointed as the Democratic Party’s nominee and is getting an encomium from his former boss, Obama, whom Biden hopes to succeed in his own right.↑ Back to top
Warren Says The Country Needs Biden’s Child Care Plan
In remarks tonight, Elizabeth Warren touted Joe Biden’s plans on child care and disparaged President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential candidate spoke from the Springfield Early Childhood Education Center, a facility in a majority-minority city in her state that’s been closed since March because of the pandemic.
Warren made universal child care a central tenet in her primary campaign, and last month Biden released details of his own plan to provide more affordable child care, as he acknowledged the country was in a "child care emergency" made worse because of the pandemic.
“[I]nfrastructure helps us all because it keeps our economy going,” Warren said. “It’s time to recognize that child care is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation — it’s infrastructure for families.”
Warren, who’s known for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Great Recession, has long been praised within Democratic circles for her bold economic ideas. She is seen as a leader in progressive circles, and her words tonight could lend additional credibility to the Democratic ticket among young voters who had been hoping she would be chosen as Biden’s running mate.
Warren and Biden have often been viewed as ideological contrasts within the Democratic Party, but people who know them well say they’ve developed a fondness and respect for one another. And when Warren dropped out of the presidential race, Biden quickly adopted her bankruptcy plan.
She also hammered Trump for his handling of the pandemic.
“This crisis is bad, and didn’t have to be this way,” she said. “This crisis is on Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him. On Nov. 3, we hold them all accountable.”
With reporting by NPR deputy political editor Benjamin Swasey↑ Back to top
Despite Awkward Debate Moment, Biden Found Unique Bond With Harris
As the California senator accepts the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nomination tonight, the Kamala Harris/Joe Biden moment that may first come to mind for many is an awkward one — Harris attacking Biden for opposing federal busing mandates in the 1970s in a viral debate moment that began with Harris saying that she didn’t believe Biden was a racist.
As the vice presidential selection process played out, and Biden allies voiced concerns about that moment in the press, Biden made it clear he didn’t hold a grudge against Harris for campaigning to win.
And in their first joint appearance last week, Biden and Harris both emphasized the fact they have known each other for years.
In fact, before that confrontation, Biden and Harris had posed alongside each other when they found themselves on the same Amtrak train, and in other moments on the campaign trail.
“In the midst of the Great Recession, Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day, sometimes multiple times a day, working together to win back billions of dollars for homeowners from the big banks of the nation that were foreclosing on people’s homes,” Harris said last week in her first speech after Biden tapped her as vice president.
Harris went on to praise both Beau, who died in 2015, and Biden, as Biden sat off to the side in a high-backed chair, smiling.
Biden, who values personal relationships more than many other politicians, said last week that that initial bond left a big impression on him. “I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work,” he said. “And that mattered a lot to me, to be honest with you, as I made this decision.”
What also likely mattered to Biden: the fact that he and Harris share a pragmatic, sometimes slightly cautious, approach to politics, and both often work to govern through consensus and coalition-building.
Ever since he locked up the Democratic presidential nomination in April, Biden had said he was looking for the same type of trust with his running mate, and potential vice president, that he had with former President Barack Obama.
Despite that high-profile dustup on a debate stage, Biden thinks he’s found one with Harris.
“I told [Obama] I wanted to be the last person in the room before he made important decisions,” Biden said last week as he introduced Harris. “That’s what I asked Kamala. I asked Kamala to be the last voice in the room. To always tell me the truth, which she will, challenge my assumptions if she disagrees. Ask the hard questions, because that’s the way we make the best decisions for the American people.”↑ Back to top
Rep. Jim Clyburn Responds To Criticisms Of DNC, Dem Ticket
Rep. Jim Clyburn shot down criticisms that the Democratic ticket and the party’s convention are not progressive enough, saying that while Democrats had done their best, it would be impossible to please every faction of the party.
The South Carolina Democrat pointed to criticisms of vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris’ record and accusations that the Democratic Party has repeatedly taken the Black vote for granted.
“Here’s a man who just put a woman of color on the ticket with him, and still people are criticizing. ‘Well, she’s not progressive enough.’ Come on, give me a break. She’s a graduate of an HBCU. She’s a member of an African American sorority. She has been living this life all of her life, and now she’s not progressive enough? Give me a break,” Clyburn said in NPR’s special coverage of the Democratic National Convention tonight.
A number of progressives have criticized establishment Democrats, particularly since the start of the convention, of pandering to centrists and Republicans, as opposed to adopting a more liberal view as championed by a younger generation of Democratic voters.
Still, Clyburn said that Democrats had worked to meet as many demands of the party as they could.
“I’ve been around this business a long time, and every year, no matter what you do, somebody will find something to disagree with. And so you just have to go and do the best you possibly can. Try to cover all your bases. And no matter how hard you try, you’re going to meet with some criticism. I always tell young people especially, if you show me a person who has never been criticized, I will show you one that’s never done anything,” Clyburn said.
In his own address to the convention on Monday, Clyburn said Joe Biden “sees unifying people as a requirement of the job.”↑ Back to top
Even Above Policy, Dems’ Big Message: Vote
After three nights of this year’s unusual, virtual Democratic National Convention, big themes now are clearly in focus. The party loathes the sitting incumbent perhaps as much as any party out of power ever has. It wants to advertise how diverse it says its leaders and members are. And perhaps above all, it wants its audience to turn out and vote.
Former first lady Michelle Obama wore a necklace on Monday that spelled out “VOTE.” Speaker after speaker after speaker has talked about the importance of turning out and has emphasized the need to protect the Postal Service from reductions in throughput that Democrats fear could constrain the delivery of ballots.
And former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tonight picked up a theme also sounded outside the convention by leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Democrats need to vote in numbers so overwhelming that there can be no ambiguity that, they argue, President Trump might be able to exploit to try to stay in office.
Trump has sought to play up what he calls the prospects for fraud, rigging or other chicanery in the election this year and repeats that he won’t necessarily accept the results of the race if he believes they don’t favor him.
Clinton said that since the last election, she has heard from people who did not vote and didn’t consider it necessary — which she said they now regret, given what Democrats call the many problems Trump has caused. And Clinton alluded to her own experience as the presidential nominee in 2016, when she won more votes than Trump but nonetheless lost the presidency to him in the Electoral College.
“Don’t forget: Joe and Kamala can win by 3 million votes and still lose — take it from me,” Clinton said. “We need numbers so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”↑ Back to top
Pelosi Stresses Fight Against Trump And Power Of Women
As the first female elected speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi likes to say she broke the marble ceiling. And during her tenure, she has made adding more women and diverse lawmakers to the House Democratic Caucus a top priority.
The 80-year-old California Democrat made history again in 2019 when she was elected speaker again — the first speaker to return to the post for the second time since 1955. While some in her party questioned whether it was time for a change, after Pelosi led the electoral effort to pick up 41 seats, she easily regained the gavel and has gained high marks for her ability to take on President Trump.
She spoke tonight about that experience.
“As speaker of the House, I’ve seen firsthand Donald Trump’s disrespect for facts, for working families and for women in particular — disrespect written into his policies toward our health and our rights — not just his conduct. But we know what he doesn’t: that when women succeed, America succeeds.”
Wearing white to symbolize the suffragette movement, Pelosi touted the power of women and said that Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, a fellow Democrat from her hometown of San Francisco, would be “a witness to the women of this nation that our voices will be heard.”
This evening’s speech marked her 15th time at a Democratic convention. She attended her first one in 1952 with her parents; her father served as mayor of Baltimore.
Pelosi has tangled very publicly with the president, and at times their White House meetings turned into standoffs. After a meeting in December 2018, when Pelosi directly challenged the president as live television cameras rolled, she emerged with a fashionable coat and put on her large black sunglasses — triggering a meme that quickly went viral.
Pelosi has a long history of working with Joe Biden. She was speaker when he became vice president in 2009 — when Congress had a full plate of bills to address in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. She then led the effort to craft the Affordable Care Act in 2009 — the issue that led to Democrats losing the majority in 2010.
Although that law was unpopular when it was first implemented, and the program experienced problems rolling out, as more Americans enrolled for coverage it became a political asset. Democrats’ vow to protect the program became a central reason they won back the House majority in the 2018 midterms.
Like Biden, Pelosi does not back a “Medicare for All” approach and instead has said she wants to expand Obamacare to include a public option.↑ Back to top
‘It Takes A Village’: Hillary Clinton Issues Plea To Vote
Four years ago, it was Hillary Clinton at center stage leading her party’s ticket. Now she’s back at the DNC, once again wearing a suit in suffragist white and delivering a cautionary tale. Clinton says that over the past four years, people have come up to her saying they should have voted, or didn’t realize how much was at stake. And she implored Democrats not to make that mistake again.
“Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line, because they are,” Clinton said. “We need numbers overwhelming so Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”
In a direct reference to her own loss to Donald Trump, she told viewers: “Joe and Kamala can win by 3 million votes and still lose, take it from me.”
She praised first responders, front-line health care workers and grocery store employees, neighbors who checked on each other. “Because it still takes a village,” Clinton said, borrowing a phrase from her bestselling book from the 1990s.
Clinton was unsparing in her assessment of President Trump’s performance in office. “I wish Donald Trump knew how to be a president, because America needs a president right now,” she said.
Clinton was the first female major party nominee, and in 2016 she won the popular vote but lost to Donald Trump in the Electoral College. Since then, she has occasionally returned to public life to promote books and a documentary, stirring headlines and a little controversy. Some have complained that she just needs to go away, prompting questions of a double standard since there weren’t loud cries for John McCain, Mitt Romney or John Kerry to hide after their losses. Kerry spoke briefly to the convention last night.↑ Back to top
Convention Highlights 100 Years Since Women’s Suffrage
Women in politics are a big theme tonight, as America this week celebrates 100 years since women earned the constitutional right to vote.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will speak, leading up to the acceptance speech by vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
A record number of women also now serve in Congress and have run for election this year.
Sixty women, a record number, have run for Senate seats, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. That’s up from 53 in 2018.
House races have seen 583 female candidates, blowing out the 2018 record of 476.
About 60% of the female candidates who have run for Congress this year are Democrats.
In gubernatorial races, 11 women have run this year — higher than the six who ran in 2016 (the most recent year with a comparable number of races).↑ Back to top
Standing Next To Solar Arrays, New Mexico Governor Touts Biden’s Climate Goals
In brief remarks focused on climate change policy, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham backed Joe Biden’s environmental goals.
“We have the chance this November to end two existential crises: the Trump presidency and the environmental annihilation he represents,” Lujan Grisham, who stood in a field of solar arrays, said. “We have the chance this November to attack the climate crisis, invest in green 21st-century jobs and embrace the clean energy revolution [that] our country, our young people are crying out for, and the leadership the rest of the world is waiting for. The choice is clear: The choice is Joe Biden.”
A month ago, Biden released an updated climate plan — this one a $2 trillion blueprint on an accelerated timeline that calls for getting the U.S. to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 2050 and, before that, a carbon-free power sector by 2035.
The plan also pledges to generate millions of jobs in the transit, building construction, agriculture and auto industries by transitioning to more environmentally friendly technology and infrastructure. Additionally, it calls for the creation of an Environmental and Climate Justice Division as part of the Department of Justice. Read more about the plan here.
Aspects of Biden’s plan notably align with the more progressive branch of the Democratic Party, and the unveiling of his new vision followed recommendations issued by a joint policy task force established by Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. That climate task force was co-chaired by former Secretary of State John Kerry and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.↑ Back to top
Eilish, Royce, Hudson: The Wednesday Night Set List
Tonight’s programming features three musical acts from different genres.
Pop star Billie Eilish will perform first. Eilish, 18, swept the 2020 Grammys, racking up five awards, including best new artist, album of the year and song of the year. 2020 also marks the first time Eilish will be voting in a presidential election.
Later in the convention, Latin singer and songwriter Prince Royce will perform. Royce is known for his cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” in which he sings in both English and Spanish.
R&B singer and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson will be the final performer of the evening. Hudson has used her powerful vocals to advocate for Democratic causes in the past, notably performing at the March For Our Lives protest in 2018.
Performances from The Chicks and both Common and John Legend will take place on the final night of the convention.↑ Back to top
Kerry Washington Urges ‘Fight For A More Perfect Union’
Actress Kerry Washington opened the third night of the Democratic National Convention by recalling the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, words she memorized in middle school — how “We the People” are called to “form a more perfect Union.”
"No one is perfect. Nothing is,” said Washington, a Democratic activist who campaigned for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and spoke at the 2012 Democratic convention.
“We fight for a more perfect union because we are fighting for the soul of this country and our lives, and right now that fight is real,” she said.
She also mentioned her eighth-grade constitutional law class, prompting a shocked response from her former teacher:
Washington, the third in a series of celebrity hosts for the DNC, is perhaps best known for playing White House fixer Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal, a political thriller that ran for seven seasons.
She also starred in HBO’s Confirmation, a movie about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ 1991 nomination hearings. Joe Biden, then head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, presided over those hearings — an episode of his career that has dogged him.
Biden had a private conversation with Hill last year, before he launched his campaign, to express what his campaign called “regret” for her grueling experience. Hill told The New York Times that she was unsatisfied with the call.
Washington, a founding member of the Time’s Up organization fighting sexual harassment, told NPR this year that she sees Hill as a hero. “Anita Hill transformed society. She changed the shape of Congress and gave us language for sexual harassment — really transformed our cultural practices in this country,” Washington said.↑ Back to top
Survivors Of Gun Violence Call For Swift Action
The first segment of Wednesday’s DNC schedule is focusing on ending the U.S. gun violence epidemic, and includes remarks from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a 2011 meeting with constituents, and DeAndra Dycus, whose teenage son was paralyzed by a stray bullet in 2014.
“One shot changed our lives forever,” Dycus said of the shooting of her now-19-year-old son, DeAndre Knox.
“President Trump — he doesn’t care … I want a president who cares about our pain and grief. A president who will take on the gun lobby to ban assault weapons and close the loopholes to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Joe Biden has taken on the NRA twice and won, and he will do it again as president,” Dycus said.
“Confronted by despair, I’ve summoned hope. Confronted by paralysis and aphasia, I responded with grit and determination,” Giffords said.
“We can let the shooting continue, or we can act. We can protect our families, our future. We can vote,” she said. “We can be on the right side of history. We must elect Joe Biden. He was there for me. He’ll be there for you too. Join us in this fight. Vote, vote, vote.”
Giffords’ and Dycus’ remarks, and their intimate familiarity with gun violence, emphasize the spotlight Democrats hope to shine on more tightly regulating U.S. gun ownership under a new administration.
Ending gun violence in the United States is one of the cores of the 2020 Democratic platform, and both nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have said that if elected, they would utilize executive powers to strengthen gun safety laws.
Dycus, in an interview with People magazine, said that she wants to be a voice for her son, who at 13 was left unable to speak by the shooting, and all survivors of gun violence.
Giffords, since the 2011 assassination attempt, has become a vocal advocate for gun safety and lends her name to an anti-gun-violence organization.
Young Activists Lead Discussions On Climate Change, Gun Violence
After two convention nights heavy on veteran Democrats like Bill Clinton and John Kerry, some young activists are getting screen time early tonight.
The programming features conversations on gun violence and climate change — two issues in particular that have galvanized the youngest generations of voters.
A video of Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of a mass shooting, teed off a section of remarks on gun violence. Gonzalez is one of the co-founders of March For Our Lives, the youth-driven organization that spurred national gun control demonstrations following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
A segment on climate change features three young activists from around the United States. During the primary, Joe Biden drew criticism from some young progressives for not going far enough in his climate policy. This summer, after a joint task force with Bernie Sanders appointees recommended a slew of climate policies, Biden unveiled a more aggressive $2 trillion climate change blueprint.
“Climate change is impacting us now and it’s robbing my generation of a future,” said California climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor. “For young people my age, every aspect of our lives, from where we go to school, to what kind of careers we’ll have, to whether or not we can raise a family, depends on us taking climate change seriously right now. Joe Biden won’t solve this crisis in four years. No one can. But he will put us back on track, so that my generation can have a fighting chance. I’m asking you to join us. Don’t let our future go up in flames.”
Leading up to this week’s virtual convention, some young delegates criticized the convention’s lack of generational diversity and campaign messaging too reliant on a return to normalcy.
“We are in such a critical state as young people where we are watching climate change erode the shorelines down here in Florida,” Joseph Mullen, an 18-year-old Sanders delegate who founded the Young Delegates Coalition, told NPR. “We are watching our peers and fellow students be killed in school because of gun violence. These are urgent catastrophes in our country. These are things that are impending, right in front of our faces. And to me, it feels like we don’t have the time to say we’re going to go back to the old model of politics.”↑ Back to top
Kamala Harris In The Spotlight
Voters have gotten glimpses of Kamala Harris the vice presidential candidate over the last week or so — during a joint appearance with Joe Biden last week, at a fundraiser, in a People magazine interview. But tonight is Harris’ biggest stage yet. She briefly opened the evening talking about voting and will speak later in the evening.
She called for everyone to have a voting plan amid what she called “obstacles, misinformation and folks making it harder for you to cast your ballot.”
“We need to ask ourselves, why don’t they want us to vote? Why is there so much effort to silence our voices? The answer is because when we vote, things change. When we vote, things get better.”
“Right now, we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons,” Harris will say in her keynote speech, according to the remarks as prepared for delivery and released by the campaign. “Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose.”
Harris is the junior senator from California, elected in 2016 after serving as California’s attorney general and, before that, as San Francisco’s district attorney. In Washington, Harris became known for effectively grilling witnesses during congressional testimony, most notably during the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Harris ran for president this cycle but dropped out before the Iowa caucuses.
In Wilmington, Del., Harris is expected to reintroduce the country to her personal story as the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. She will also make the case for her running mate, Joe Biden.
“[I am] committed to the values [my mother] taught me, to the word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight, and to a vision passed on through generations of Americans — one that Joe Biden shares,” Harris will say, according to the released excerpts. “A vision of our nation as a beloved community where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from or who we love.
“A country where we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect. A country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges and celebrate our triumphs. Together. Today, that country feels distant. Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.”
Read more about Kamala Harris:↑ Back to top
It’s The Night To Get Fired Up. Can Democrats Do That Virtually?
The first virtual political convention has so far succeeded on a couple of points. The production has been nearly flawless, and the roll-call vote Tuesday night proved that reinvention could make some customs much better — and more appetizing, thanks to Rhode Island.
But tonight might be the political stress test for the new format, forged from necessity.
The first night was focused on President Trump, capped by Michelle Obama’s intimate and effective plea for voters to get motivated and vote him out. The second night was about defining Joe Biden, with a headliner who has better credentials than anyone to do that — his wife, Jill.
Tonight is about making sure Democrats are fired up and ready to go, with Barack Obama himself trying to bring back the intensity in the Democratic Party that got him elected twice.
Leading up to Kamala Harris’ big moment as the first woman of color to accept the vice presidential nomination of a major party, the night is full of high-wattage speakers who can excite Democratic die-hards like few others. Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Obama are Harris’ opening acts.
And the night will focus on issues that most stir up passions on the left, including for younger Democrats who have felt somewhat left out of the programming so far: gun violence prevention, climate change, immigration and gender equality.
If convention organizers have one job, it’s getting party faithful dug in for the home stretch. Tonight may provide the clearest sign of whether Democrats are pulling it off.↑ Back to top
FACT CHECK: Is Calamari Really Rhode Island’s Official State Appetizer?
If you’ve heard more about calamari today than you did, say, in the past decade, you’d be forgiven.
The fried squid dish ended up being a fan favorite during the roll-call vote on the Democratic convention’s second night of programming, when Rhode Island state Rep. Joseph McNamara appeared next to a chef brandishing a plate of the appetizer. McNamara proudly declared Rhode Island “the calamari comeback state.”
Needless to say, images of the moment went viral and prompted some questions. Namely, is the fried treat really an official state appetizer?
Well, Megan Hamlin-Black, Rhode Island’s state librarian, says yes.
“Rhode Island does have an official state appetizer,” she explained on All Things Considered. “It’s Rhode Island General Law Section 42-419, state appetizer, and it says: ‘Calamari is hereby designated as the official state appetizer for the state.’ ”
The law was passed in June 2014.
And the biggest proponent of the calamari law? None other than McNamara himself.
But calamari is certainly not without controversy, with many Rhode Islanders citing their preference for clam-centered dishes.
“At the time, believe it or not, there was quite a bit of criticism,” McNamara said. “But the truth of the matter is, we are situated geographically right in the middle of the Atlantic squid migration.”
In the end, it appears there’s some agreement that it was the right call.
When calamari became the official state appetizer, the president of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance said, “Squid is to Rhode Island what the potato is to Idaho.”
So there you go.↑ Back to top
Obama: Trump Treats Presidency As ‘One More Reality Show’
Since leaving the Oval Office, former President Barack Obama has mainly chosen to avoid directly criticizing his successor. But tonight, he plans to pull no punches on President Trump in a speech for the Democratic National Convention.
Obama will say that Trump failed to take the office seriously and is not up to the job, according to excerpts released ahead of his live keynote remarks.
“He’s 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,” Obama is set to say.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama will say, going on to pin the blame on Trump for the 170,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus and millions more who have lost their jobs.
The excerpts were released shortly before Trump took questions from reporters at the White House. Asked for his reaction, Trump said Obama “did not do a good job,” particularly on the economy. “They did such a bad job that I stand before you as president,” Trump said.
Obama will revive a theme from his time in office, urging people to take responsibility, do their part and cast a ballot in November for Joe Biden. “Here’s the thing: No single American can fix this country alone,” Obama is set to say, taking aim at Trump’s promise in 2016 to the Republican National Convention that “I alone can fix it.”
Obama will describe Biden as someone who became a friend and “brother” during their years together in the White House.
“What I quickly came to admire about him 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, but you’re better than nobody,’ " Obama will say.↑ Back to top
Trump, While Attacking Mail Voting, Casts Mail Ballot Again
President Trump cast a vote-by-mail ballot in Florida this week after months of questioning the security of the voting method, and in doing so he returned his ballot to election officials using a technique many Republicans say should be illegal.
The way Trump voted shows how he’s had to walk a fine line — and often tweak his language around voting — to adjust for political realities and his own behavior.
Trump submitted his Florida primary ballot by giving it to a third party to return, a spokesperson for the Palm Beach elections supervisor confirmed to NPR on Wednesday. Republicans often derisively refer to sending in a ballot this way as “ballot harvesting,” and it’s something Trump himself has been critical of.
Read more here.↑ Back to top
Former Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent Endorses Biden
Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and a vocal critic of President Trump, has endorsed Joe Biden for president.
“At the end of the day, this isn’t about right or left; it’s not about ideology,” Dent said in an interview Wednesday with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “For me, it’s about right or wrong, stability versus instability, security versus insecurity, you know, normal versus abnormal.”
Dent, a moderate, represented a Lehigh Valley-based district from 2005 to 2018. He chaired the House Ethics Committee from 2015 to 2017.
In 2017, Dent announced he would not seek reelection; the following year he resigned before his term officially ended.
He told NPR shortly after he announced his plan to leave Congress that he was frustrated with increasing partisanship.
"There are groups out there that profit off of this type of instability and uncertainty and chaos. And they put a lot of pressure on members of Congress," Dent said. "I would tell you there are members in — both political parties right now have some very serious challenges. They’re being pushed into some bad directions. And we need to have a stronger voice from the center of the political spectrum."
This month, Dent penned an op-ed for CNN on Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate, writing, “Harris represents a fresh face and possesses a next generational appeal that Biden does not. Democrats can fall in love with Harris much like they did with previously successful young Democrats, like John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Let’s face it, she’ll give Biden a needed boost in the enthusiasm department.”
With his endorsement, Dent joins a chorus of Republicans who have moved away from Trump and chosen to back Biden. Several of those Republicans have had feature roles at this week’s Democratic convention, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cindy McCain, the widow of former Arizona Sen. John McCain.
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel dismissed GOP officials who have come out in support of the Biden-Harris ticket, calling them “never Trumpers.”↑ Back to top
Harris Takes Center Stage Tonight. Here’s Why Biden Picked Her
It was only last week that Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his running mate. Tonight, Harris will take (virtual) center stage.
For Harris, tonight’s address will mark the pinnacle of a political career that found its roots at Howard University, before she rose to San Francisco district attorney, then California attorney general and finally U.S. senator in 2017.
The Harris pick was historic. She is only the third woman and first Black and first Asian American candidate to be nominated for vice president by a major political party.
But as NPR’s senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro points out, there’s more than history at play in her nomination.
For one, Harris could be pivotal in helping to turn out a key bloc for Democrats in November: Black voters.
“Because of his choice,” he writes, “it’s possible Black voters will turn out at levels needed for Biden to win in key states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and elsewhere.”
The pick also shows that Biden is willing to listen to those who have disagreed with him or, in the case of Harris during the Democratic debates, even attacked him.
President Trump sought to seize on Harris’ past criticism of Biden’s record, but the president has struggled to settle on an effective line of attack against her. He has called her “mean” and “nasty” and questioned her heritage, returning to some racist “birther” tropes.
Her record as a prosecutor and her scathing questioning of witnesses during Senate hearings likely also have the Biden campaign hopeful that she will be a tough opponent for Vice President Pence during the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7.
Read more here.↑ Back to top
How Howard University Shaped Kamala Harris’ Political Path
During Tuesday night’s virtual roll call, Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ husband, posted a picture of his wife donning her Howard University sweatshirt.
Tonight, Harris will reintroduce herself to the American public — not as a California senator or presidential candidate on the campaign trail, but as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee.
Her path to this point, as NPR’s Juana Summers reports, was paved with experiences stemming from her time as a student at Howard.
Harris chose to attend Howard, one of the nation’s premier historically Black educational institutions, with the goal of becoming a lawyer.
“When it came to college, I wanted to get off on the right foot,” she wrote in her book, The Truths We Hold. “And what better place to do that, I thought, than at Thurgood Marshall’s alma mater?”
Harris immersed herself in Black culture at school, pledging Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s oldest Black sorority, and attending protests against apartheid. Harris has described Howard as a “place where you didn’t have to be confined to the box of another person’s choosing” and where students were not just told “we had the capacity to be great; we were challenged to live up to that potential.”
And when Harris announced she would run for president, she faced reporters as a candidate for the first time on Howard’s campus. She called the university “one of the most important aspects of my life.”
“It is where I first ran for my first elected office, which was freshman class representative of the Liberal Arts Student Council, so this is where it all began,” Harris said.
Read more here.↑ Back to top
Young Democrats Wonder Whether Party Is Prioritizing Nostalgia Over The Future
The second night of the Democratic National Convention began with a montage of younger elected leaders — 17 of the party’s "rising stars" delivering a joint keynote from around the country.
But the convention’s first two nights also prominently featured speakers more reminiscent of bygone political eras than the current one, like Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Colin Powell, Cindy McCain and Caroline Kennedy. That lineup has made some young people wonder whether the party is emphasizing nostalgia over the kind of forward-focused vision for the country most likely to entice younger voters.
When convention organizers unveiled the speaker list last week, a group representing more than 200 convention delegates under age 35 wrote an open letter calling for more generational diversity in the program.
Joseph Mullen, an 18-year-old Sanders delegate from Florida who founded the Young Delegates Coalition to bolster the voices of millennial (ages 24-39) and Gen Z (ages 18-23) delegates in the party, says it’s not just a question of representation. Appeals for a return to normalcy fall flat with many young voters.
"We are in such a critical state as young people where we are watching climate change erode the shorelines down here in Florida," Mullen says. "We are watching our peers and fellow students be killed in school because of gun violence. These are urgent catastrophes in our country. These are things that are impending, right in front of our faces. And to me, it feels like we don’t have the time to say we’re going to go back to the old model of politics."
Keeping reading about young voters and the convention here.↑ Back to top
Who’s Speaking Tonight?
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who defeated Republican incumbent Scott Walker in 2018, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who had been considered as a potential vice presidential pick, will also speak.
Also scheduled to speak is former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was shot in a mass shooting in 2011 and is now an advocate for gun reform legislation. Her husband, the astronaut Mark Kelly, is running for the state’s Senate seat.
The big speeches of the night belong to vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama.
Viewers can also expect to hear musical performances from Billie Eilish and Jennifer Hudson.↑ Back to top
Reimagined Virtual Roll Call Steals The Show
What could easily have been a logistical and technical nightmare became an unexpected fan favorite part of Tuesday night’s convention programming: the roll call of states and territories.
With a mix of live and pretaped speakers, party delegates from 57 states and territories had their moment in the spotlight, showcasing a variety of backdrops — from picturesque vistas to historic buildings and Joe Biden’s own childhood home in Scranton, Pa.
Many praised the reimagined roll call for its ability to highlight and celebrate the diversity within the Democratic Party.
The updated roll call brought with it some poignant moments, including remarks from Khizr Khan, who announced the Virginia vote. Khan, the Gold Star father who also spoke at the 2016 Democratic convention and asked whether Trump had ever read the Constitution, spoke about the racial violence in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va.
Wyoming’s speech was delivered by the parents of Matthew Shepard, a college student who was beaten to death in 1998 for being gay.
The roll call was not without its humorous and odd moments too — none of which was perhaps more bizarre or beloved than when Rhode Island state Rep. Joseph McNamara appeared next to a chef holding up a plate of fried calamari and declared Rhode Island “the calamari comeback state.” It prompted unexpected delight across the Twitterverse.
But, of course, the calamari moment didn’t pass without a side serving of controversy, notably from Rhode Islanders who prefer clam-centric meals over fried squid.