History making moments and a rallying call to the voting booth led by women defined last night's convention.
By Solomon Smith, Political News Editor
The third night of the Democratic National Convention continued to make history with the acceptance of California Senator Kamala Harris, the first Black woman at the top of the Democratic ticket.
“That I am 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” said Harris in her acceptance speech.
Harris’s acceptance is an historical landmark; she is the first woman of color to be a running mate as vice president for a major party, the first east asian person, and the first Black woman. The speech introduced her history, and clearly stated that she was born in Oakland, California, a subtle answer to the birther attacks. She related her love of family, and how her diminutive but strong mother, who died of cancer, was a role model for her. She also spoke about other women of color who came before her.
“And these women inspired us to pick up the torch, and fight on,” said Harris. “Women like Mary Church Terrell and Mary McCleod Bethune. Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. Constance Baker Motley and Shirley Chisholm.”
Throughout the night, women were the driving force for the different parts of the Democratic platform, announced through videos and personal stories filmed in living rooms. Immigration and the separations of families were told by those affected. Eleven-year-old Estela Juarez read a letter to President Donald Trump explaining how his administration's policies had her mother deported to Mexico. Her mother was a Dreamer who spent the majority of her life in America.
“Mr. President, my mom is the wife of a proud American Marine and the mother of two American children,” said Juarez. “We are an American family, we need a president who will bring people together, not tear them apart.”
The stories of immigrants, delivered from their own homes, added an authenticity that live crowds usually bring. The draconic separation of families and children from parents at the borders of the U.S. was one issue which appalled Americans on both sides of the aisle.
Gun violence in America was also highlighted by two women living with its consequences. DeAndra Dycus, wearing a Moms Demand Action tee, recounted “what a bullet can do” and how the pandemic has made it hard for her to touch her son Dre as he deals with being shot. Gabrielle Gifford was shot in the head in January 2011 and retired from the House of Representatives. Standing before a podium, she talked about keeping her voice as an advocate for gun reform.
“We are at a crossroads. We can let the shooting continue or we can act. We can protect our families, our future. We can vote. We can be on the right side of history,” said Gifford. "We must elect Joe Biden. He was there for me; he’ll be there for you, too. Join us in this fight.”
The harshest rebuke of Trump, so far, once again comes from the Obama family, specifically former President Barack Obama. He has maintained a neutral tone throughout most of the election, and like most presidents refrained from criticizing his predecessor. As the election date has gotten closer, Obama has been more outspoken and last night's speech was an alert to the American people.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead,” said Obama. “Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”
It is almost unheard of for a former president to involve themselves in the process so deeply, but Obama made sure his point was made, that “American democracy was at stake” from a president he describes as unable to meet the challenge, one who “makes stuff up” and does not believe in American principles.
“None of this should be controversial. These shouldn’t be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They’re American principles,” said Obama. “But at this moment, this president and those who enable him, have shown they don’t believe in these things.”
The evening was one of the strongest in bringing criticism to Trump and presented the most information about Biden and the Democratic platform: investing in green infrastructure and renewable power, but failing to mention the Green New Deal from the left, the roll back of protections under Trump and rejoining the international climate agreement.
The ending was just as evocative, finishing with the Harris acceptance speech and her call to arms for the Biden-Harris ticket. She mentioned the high rate of deaths from COVID-19 and the “suffering and dying disproportionately” among people of color linked to institutional racism. It was not all doom brought down by Trump. At its final moments, Harris included a hopeful moment.
“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. The America, we love,” said Harris. “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. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”