6 min read

Wake Up To Politics - August 21, 2020

It’s Friday, August 21, 2020. Election Day is 74 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Promising to end “season of darkness,” Biden accepts Democratic nod

In two prior campaigns for the presidency — one a dozen years ago, the other two decades before that — Joe Biden never found his stride.

But the core themes of his 50-year political life have remained consistent: focusing on decency, faith, honor, and integrity. Those values were again emphasized Thursday night in Biden’s highest-profile speech to date, as he forcefully vowed to guide America in overcoming its “season of darkness” while accepting the Democratic presidential nomination he has long sought and finally received.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long: too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Biden said in his address on the closing night of the Democratic National Convention, speaking before a near-empty ballroom in his Delaware hometown. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.”

Biden, who has been regarded as gaffe-prone throughout his career and particularly during this campaign, is not known for soaring oratory. But on Thursday, his performance was steady — which was enough to rebut the claims leveled at him by President Donald Trump, who has been poking at Biden’s mental acuity for months.

Although Biden did not mention Trump by name in his speech, “the current president” was a constant theme throughout, as the former VP tried to contrast Trump’s divisive style of leadership with his own.

“While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did,” Biden declared. “That’s the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment.”

The address touched on the “perfect storm” of “four historic crises” — the coronavirus pandemic, an economic recession, racial strife, and climate change — that America faces, but as with the earlier days of the DNC, Biden focused more on personality than on policy. In doing so, he continued his gamble that Americans will cast their votes this year with values on their minds, not just issues.

“Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy: they are all on the ballot,” he declared. “Who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and, most importantly, who we want to be: that’s all on the ballot.”

His repeated invocations of character were a reminder of the message that lifted him to the Democratic nomination this year: not the dense policies of rivals Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but a call for national unity and restoration of normalcy amid the tumultuous Trump presidency.

Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Democrats featured other speakers on the DNC’s final night who underlined the portrayal of Biden as a figure of integrity, from a virtual panel of his 2020 opponents to 13-year-old Brayden Harrington, who shared about Biden helping him with his stutter. “Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to,” Harrington said.

Biden’s personal sorrows — the car crash that killed his young wife and daughter, the cancer that killed his adult son — were also on display throughout the convention. On Thursday, he wove them into his acceptance speech as he addressed those who have lost family members to the coronavirus. “Your loved ones may have left this Earth but they never leave your heart,” he said. “They will always be with you.”

While he challenged Trump on a variety of fronts — one of the most impassioned parts of his speech referred to Russian bounties and election interference — Biden returned again and again to the president’s handling of the pandemic. “The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear. He keeps waiting for a miracle,” Biden said. “Well, I have news for him, no miracle is coming.”

In some ways, the entire convention was an attempt to keep coronavirus front-and-center, as Democrats traded the usual festivities for a completely virtual presentation, including a “Roll Call Across America” and culminating with Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris (both masked) appearing before a parking lot of supporters in cars on Thursday night.

But, mixing his criticism of the current state of the nation with a plea for optimism, Biden urged Americans to remain hopeful. “May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation,” he concluded his remarks. “And this is a battle that we, together, will win. I promise you.”

President Trump responded to Biden’s speech with a tweet expressing doubt that the former vice president would deliver on his lofty promises. “In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks,” Trump said. “He will never change, just words!”

Trump will accept his second Republican presidential nomination during the GOP convention next week, with the 2020 campaign rapidly moving into its final stage as Election Day looms less than 75 days away.

The Rundown

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former White House chief strategist and top campaign aide, was arrested and charged with fraud on Thursday. In a 24-page indictment, Bannon and three others were accused by federal prosecutors of defrauding donors to the “We Build the Wall” campaign, which was presented as an online effort to fund the president’s signature border wall. Instead, the prosecutors said, Bannon and his associates used the $25 million they raised largely to enrich themselves.

Bannon was arrested while on his yacht of the coast of Connecticut; he later appeared in federal court, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was released on a $5 million bond. President Trump told reporters that he felt “very badly” for his former adviser but emphasized that he had no connection to the crowdfunding campaign, although he has ties to many of its leaders.

Amid criticism of his operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the 2020 election, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today. After an outcry from top Democrats in Congress and across the country, DeJoy promised earlier this week to suspend any changes to the Postal Service until after the November election. But he is expected to still face tough questioning today about his agency’s readiness to handle the surge of mail-in ballots expected to be received this year.

The House is scheduled to vote Saturday on legislation allocating an additional $25 billion to the Postal Service. In addition to his appearance before the Republican-led Senate panel today, DeJoy will testify before the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee on Monday.

President Trump faced another legal setback Thursday, as a federal judge rejected his attempt to block a New York prosecutor from obtaining his tax returns. The Supreme Court cleared the way last month for the prosecutor, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, to seek eight years of Trump’s financial records, rejecting Trump’s claims that a sitting president has “absolute immunity” from a criminal investigation.

Trump responded with a new lawsuit in district court arguing that Vance’s subpoena went beyond his jurisdiction. Judge Victor Marrero knocked down the president’s claims, which he amounted to “absolute immunity through a back door”; the president is now expected to appeal Marrero’s decision.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will deliver remarks at a meeting of the Council for National Policy, an invitation-only conservative group, in Arlington, Virginia, at 11 a.m.  

Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.

The House and Senate will meet for brief pro forma sessions; neither chamber is scheduled to conduct any business.

  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will convene at 9 a.m. for its virtual hearing with testimony from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will attend a virtual grassroots fundraiser, along with his running mate Kamala Harris and their spouses.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.