What happened at the Democratic National Convention 2020?


The Democratic National Convention (DNC) for the 2020 election lasted from the 17th August to the 20th and saw speakers from across the country spreading their message- to vote for Joe Biden on the 3rd November. The DNC is the way that the Democratic Party formally appoints their nominee to run for President of the United States and attempts to unite the party behind a figurehead, after sometimes divisive races to become the nominee. This year was no different and a variety of speakers gave Biden their wholehearted support from Barack Obama to Colin Powell. Biden’s acceptance speech was the shortest of any Democratic nominee since 1984 when Walter Mondale’s speech lasted 32 minutes. With Covid-19 preventing large gatherings, this convention was held online, which meant that it was a different style of convention than usual. The real question is, how will it have effected the race to the White House?

There was a real range of speakers on display this year as old Presidents Obama and Clinton said their piece but there were a couple of surprises in Colin Powell and John Kasich, both of whom are typically Republican in their allegiances. Powell emphasised Biden’s moral character in his speech together with the need for strong leadership in tackling climate change and the prevention of nuclear proliferation. Kasich described America as being at a ‘crossroads’ with a choice between division under another Trump administration or pulling together as a nation with Biden as President. If staunch Republicans like Powell and Kasich are breaking ranks how many more Republicans might break ranks in November? It might be that they are very much in the minority, as polling shows that President Trump’s popularity among Republicans remains as high as 87% (taken from an average of polls with Republican voters).

There were also speeches from those on the left of the Democratic Party as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren gave Biden their wholehearted support too. It is possible that this level of cohesion was only made possible at this convention due to the fact that it was online. At a usual convention, there is the convention floor with many of each candidates supporters in separate areas, these areas show quite how divided the large umbrella parties of America are. As it was online, these potential hostilities were completely avoided. The range of speakers was complimented with some non-political orators too with Brayden Harrington getting some of the limelight when he spoke about how Biden has given him advice about coping with a stutter, which Biden himself had as a child too. When all the delegates called in to announce the votes of their particular states it is hard not to appreciate how many people the Democratic Party represent.

A few of the key themes from the convention were Covid, universal healthcare, positive impacts of immigration, Trump’s foreign policy and the virtues of Biden. Barack Obama broke from tradition by naming President Trump in his critiques and stating that he has not grown into the role of President. Barack stated that he expected the President to be the ‘custodian of this democracy, regardless of the ego’ and that Trump had treated the presidency like a ‘reality show’. There were many critiques of Trump’s policies both domestic and abroad- Michelle Obama criticised Trump’s handling of Covid-19 due to the high death toll and economic damage. The majority of the speakers testified to Biden’s quality of character and ability to help the country come together and recover from Covid and the social unrest around the BLM movement. Kamala Harris the Vice President nominee mentioned the need for action around racial injustices as one of her top priorities if she gets into office.

Trump has criticised Biden along with both Barack and Michelle Obama’s speeches by saying that Biden’s was ‘just words’ and that Michelle Obama’s was ‘divisive’ without many facts. In regards to Barack Obama, Trump threw aspersions to the supposed ‘Obamagate’ scandal which is still yet to have any actual clarity and also criticised Obama for not giving Biden his support earlier in the campaign. Biden did not refer to Trump directly by name once in his speech, as he instead used the rhetoric of light and dark to describe the difference between the two candidates. Throughout the convention, it seemed the Democratic Party are attempting to make this election less of a dog fight and more of character contrast.

It seems that Biden has managed to steer the Democratic Party into the centre as democrats across the country are desperate to remove President Trump from office. Even the more extreme wings of the Democratic party are willing to unite in support of an attempt to win back the White House. With the House firmly in Democrat hands and the Senate in the balance, the world is holding its breath for the election in November. Some have described this national decision as life-changing and it is hard to see the stakes being higher as the country is gripped by a pandemic and an imminent global recession. Biden’s strategy so far appears to be to stay out of the way and at home while Trump stirs up the Democratic base with his treatment of BLM protestors and handling of the pandemic.

The convention went smoothly and without any major incidents to derail the message, so the democrats will be pleased. If Biden ends up losing on the 3rd November he will not be able to blame this convention. Polling still shows the presidential race to be close which begs the question, will staying out of the limelight be enough to get Biden into the White House? Only time will tell. 

You can expect more coverage of the US election in the weeks to come and SCAN will have some commentary on the debates that will be held towards the end of September.

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