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DNC Night 1 Recap: Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich
A national convention like no other began on Monday, as the Democratic Party streamed a mix of live and pre-taped videos from leading figures across the country to kick off their four-day nomination of Joe Biden.
The DNC’s first night, as introduced by emcee Eva Longoria, focused on three competing crises: racial injustice, the coroanvirus pandemic, and the economic recession.
The civil rights portion featured relatives of George Floyd, whose death in the custody of the Minneapolis police earlier this year sparked nationwide protests; they led a moment of silence for him and other Black men and women killed by police brutality. “It is up to us to carry on the fight for justice,” his brother Philonise Floyd said. “Our actions will be their legacies.”
Democrats then highlighted an array of voices to bash President Donald Trump and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to a montage of front-line health care workers. Perhaps the most poignant moment came from Kristin Urquiza, a California woman whose father succumbed to the coronavirus in June. She directed the blame for his death squarely at President Trump, whom her father voted for.
“My dad was a healthy 65-year-old,” she declared. “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.”
The next segment of the virtual convention included a smattering of political figures across the ideological spectrum, who offered varying messages but united to endorse Biden over Trump. Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a top contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, was one of several Republicans who spoke, describing Biden as a “man for our times.”
Kasich also sought to assure fellow Republicans and Independents that Biden would not veer too far to the left as president. “No one pushes Joe around,” he promised.
But, representing the competing forces within Biden’s fragile coalition, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke soon after, representing the exact progressive influences that Kasich warned against. The self-described democratic socialist listed off left-leaning proposals embraced by Biden in a bid to bolster support for the nominee among his backers, including a minimum wage increase, universal pre-K, lowering the eligibility age for Medicare, and criminal justice reform.
“To heal the soul of our nation, Joe Biden will end the hate and division Trump has created,” Sanders said, “He will stop the demonization of immigrants, the coddling of white nationalists, the racist dog whistling, the religious bigotry, and the ugly attacks on women.”
Finally, in the capstone event of the night, former First Lady Michelle Obama — who remains one of the party’s most popular figures, almost four years after leaving the White House with her husband — brought it all together with an 18-minute address.
Obama was unsparing in her criticism of Trump, staring into the camera to state: “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment.”
“If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election,” Obama added, calling for Americans to back her husband’s vice president. “If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
More convention notes
Analysis: Despite its new virtual format, the DNC’s first night went off without any major glitches Monday. At times, the procession of videos — interspersed with videos of Americans clapping from their couches — took on an awkward feel, a far cry from the standard fare in the raucous convention hall.
But the speakers who best blunted that awkwardness were those that leaned into the new format and didn’t attempt to recreate the usual convention format. While some speakers held forth from behind podiums, the most powerful moments came from those like Obama and Urquiza who looked directly into the camera and offered stinging indictments of President Trump. The virtual convention also gave Democrats the opportunity to feature everyday Americans, rather than just the politicians who generally populate such events, a recognition that the best political surrogates can often be a mourning daughter or a small business owner or a nurse.
The DNC focused their debut night on a trio of crises, and the format may have actually played into their favor in that regard, allowing speakers to trade the fiery and energetic speeches commonplace at conventions for a more somber presentation evocative of the sickened and out-of-work America under Trump they were attempting to portray.
Tonight: The featured speaker for Night 2 will be Dr. Jill Biden, the nominee’s wife and one of his closest confidants. She will be proceeded by a number of other Democratic heavyweights, including former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as rising stars like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams.
Counter-programming: President Trump rarely likes to cede the spotlight, and his rival’s convention week is no exception. Trump spoke in Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday; he will hold a campaign event in another swing state (Arizona) today. The Trump campaign is also blanketing the web with digital ads throughout the week, including a just-debuted video that suggests Joe Biden is declining mentally.
The Trump team’s top rapid response hand — the president himself — has also been busy on Twitter throughout the morning, attacking DNC speakers Michelle Obama and John Kasich. Plus, Trump previewed a major announcement Monday, telling reporters that he would be issuing a “very, very important” pardon today without disclosing its recipient.
RNC preview: Trump will be formally nominated by Republicans next week. Wake Up To Politics reported last night that one of the speakers at the GOP’s largely virtual convention will be Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis man who pointed a gun at Black Lives Matter protesters in June.
“Mr. McCloskey will be in full oratory splendor at the RNC,” his lawyer Albert Watkins told WUTP.
WUTP Interview: Young Delegates Call for Democrats to “Pass the Torch”
The Democratic convention’s keynote slot is traditionally given to one of the party’s rising stars, from first-term New York Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1984 to a little-known state senator named Barack Obama two decades later.
Tonight, 17 Democrats — many of them young elected officials — will jointly deliver the primetime keynote address, a chance for the party to highlight their freshest faces before nominating a septuagenarian standard-bearer.
The party’s rollout of the keynote speakers on Sunday came after a group of its most junior delegates protested the lack of generational diversity in the original convention lineup.
“When the average age of a speaker is 62 and you only have two speakers who are under 40, it’s hard to see representation in that lineup,” said Joseph Mullen, an 18-year-old delegate from Florida, referring to the list of speakers initially released by the DNC. “It’s hard to have young people watch that and be very enthusiastic.”
Mullen is the founder of the Young Delegates Coalition (YDC), a group of 200+ Democrats under the age of 35 who were elected as delegates to this year’s convention. The recent high school graduate said that the addition of younger speakers in the keynote slot was a “big win” for his coalition — but he and his fellow delegates told Wake Up To Politics in a recent interview that the Democratic Party still has more to do to reach its youngest members.
Zenaida Huerta, a 22-year-old California delegate, said that including younger Democrats is only made more critical by the virtual nature of the 2020 campaign.
“We’re going to have to reinvent our electoral playbook within the Democratic Party” due to the changes brought about by the coroanvirus pandemic, Huerta said. “That means resorting to digital organizing and a lot of virtual media. And who better understands [those platforms] than young people?”
Members of the YDC have been meeting for months in Zoom calls and Slack channels to discuss ways to pool their influence and push a youth-focused agenda for the party. They settled on a list of platform recommendations, including proposals for criminal justice reform, a call to legalize marijuana, and a plan to eliminate student loan debt.
Delegates in the coalition were elected to represent a variety of 2020 candidates, from Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. But they all emphasized the civil tones of their discussions about the platform — offering a more conciliatory model for a party still working to unify its disparate ideological wings after a fractious primary.
“We’ve always been able to be respectful and provide a platform for all of our voices to be heard and for all of us to really be welcome,” said Ethan Cox, a 20-year-old Biden delegate from Illinois. “Because at the end of the day, we’re all fighting for the same things.”
Mullen, a Sanders delegate, added that they were able to bridge their differences partly because of a shared generational perspective. “I feel like for young people, with a lot of these issues, urgency is the most important thing,” he said, citing gun control and climate change as prime issues where that imperative is felt the strongest. “We don’t really have a lot of time to talk about all these things and grandstand on a lot of issues. It’s really desperate for a lot of young people in the future that we’re looking at.”
Members of the Young Delegates Coalition in a recent Zoom call.
Abby Kingsley, a 21-year-old Warren delegate from California, also argued that the YDC members’ ages gave them an advantage in settling intraparty disputes.
“Being young is undeniably an asset here because [we]...have not been in politics for the decades and decades that some of the party leaders have. So they feel entrenched in the way that politics has always happened,” Kingsley said. “They have an already set frame of how policy is made and what’s possible. Whereas as young delegates, we can imagine a new future. We can imagine different policy proposals that maybe people hadn’t really thought of or hadn’t really thought was within the realm of the possible.”
“ ‘You have more in common talking with a younger Bernie delegate than an older Biden delegate,’ ” Mullen quoted Cox as saying. “That generational experience gives us the ability to talk to each other in a respectful way.”
However, many of the delegates interviewed recounted brushes with ageism from older party leaders since being elected to participate in the DNC. “Within the Democratic Party, there’s a lot of reluctance to pass the torch because there’s a belief that you have to earn your spot and you gave to put in your time to earn these opportunities,” said Huerta, a Sanders delegate. “As young people, since we’re shorter on the time end since we’re younger, that is weaponized against us rather than looking at who has the capability to reach a new audience and innovate.”
Huerta also attended the 2016 convention as a 17-year-old delegate, which she called a “horrible” and “traumatizing” experiencing partly due to her treatment from older delegates. CJ Cetina, a 20-year-old Sanders delegate from Texas, added that he received many “rude” and “unpleasant” comments from older party elites when he triumphed over an Austin labor organizer to win his delegate race.
But many of the young delegates said they benefited from an ace up their sleeves when running to join the DNC. Normally, delegates are selected through in-person caucuses that make it “really prohibited for young people to try and run to be delegates,” Mullen explained. But this year’s caucuses were held over Zoom. “Our generation knows how to use technology to our advantage in organizing,” he said. “And that made it a lot easier for me to hop into a delegate race with a bunch of my friends who are high school seniors who were all not busy because school was canceled.”
While members of the YDC were heartened by the addition of younger officials to the convention lineup, they have also been pushing for the party to extend New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s one-minute speaking time.
Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest sitting member of Congress at age 30, is the only member of “The Squad” — some of the Democratic Party’s newest and most progressive lawmakers — to be given a spot in the convention. More than 6,000 signatories have already joined a YDC petition to extend Ocasio-Cortez’s slot beyond her currently-allotted 60 seconds.
“It’s not really enough time to give a speech about the vision for the next generation of America,” Mullen complained.
“That’s like as long as a TikTok.”
More WUTP coverage of young voters in the 2020 election: a podcast interview from May, a special report from June, and a virtual event from earlier this month.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will participate in the signing ceremony for a proclamation marking the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment at 9 a.m.
The president will then travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to receive a disaster recovery briefing at 12:15 p.m. and to Yuma, Arizona, to receive an update on construction of the border wall at 3:30 p.m. and deliver remarks on immigration at 4:15 p.m. Following the speech, he will return to Washington D.C.
Vice President Mike Pence will lead a video teleconference with governors on COVID-19 response and recovery at 2 p.m.
The House and Senate will meet for brief pro forma sessions. No business will be conducted in either chamber.
The Supreme Court is on summer recess.
The Democratic National Convention will continue for its second night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Speakers will include former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams and 16 other elected officials for the keynote address, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State John Kerry, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, former President Bill Clinton, and former Second Lady Jill Biden.
Night Two of the convention will also feature a “Roll Call Across America,” which will showcase delegates in all 57 states and territories casting their votes for the Democratic presidential nomination. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross will serve as emcee throughout the night.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a grassroots virtual fundraiser with actor Tom Hanks, participate in a NowThis virtual conversation with the Latino Victory Project and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, and join virtual meetings with convention delegates from Pennsylvania and Florida.
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