The Democratic Party has made history by nominating Kamala Harris as its vice presidential candidate, as an array of party leaders laid out their case for Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States and urged people to organise and vote.
Democrats must defeat President Donald Trump in the November election or face a chaotic, destructive future amid a deadly pandemic and a rising climate crisis, Harris and a parade of Democrats including women, immigrants and young people warned on the third night of the virtual Democratic National Convention.
“We’re at an inflexion point,” Harris said in her acceptance speech on Wednesday in a direct attack on Trump.
“Right now we have a president who turns our tragedies into political weapons,” Harris said. “Constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot. And here’s the thing – we can do better and deserve so much more,” Harris said.
“We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work – a president who will bring all of us together – Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous – to achieve the future we collectively want,” Harris said.
The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, Harris is the first woman of colour to be nominated as a candidate for vice president by a major US party – Republican or Democrat. Harris’s remarks capped a night of appearances by big-name Democratic politicians in support of Biden’s candidacy.
Harris spoke passionately about the strength of her late mother Shyamala who conveyed values of activism to her and she testified about her love of family.
“She came across as really genuine. There was a warmth to it that counterbalances her image as a tough person,” Courtney Burns, an associate professor of political science at Bucknell University, told Al Jazeera.
Harris’s selection as vice president “showed diversity and connection”, Burns said.
Party stars make the case for Biden
Former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared by satellite feed on the penultimate night of the virtual convention.
“Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of dark times and build it back better,” Obama said in a speech that recounted his time in the White House with Biden as his number two.
“Over eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president. He’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country,” Obama said, lauding Biden’s humility and resilience.
Obama warned darkly that the Trump administration “has shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win” and he urged Democrats to organise and vote in the election.
“What we do echoes through the generations,” Obama said.
In an email to reporters, Trump’s re-election campaign said Biden and Harris are leading “the most far-left presidential ticket in American history” and are “total failures”.
Among Democrats’ concerns ahead of the November polls, there has been a new outcry as a Trump-appointee has taken steps that could slow down the US Postal Service at a time when millions of voters could attempt to cast ballots by mail to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
The US is struggling with the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 5.5 million Americans and killed more than 173,000 – a higher toll than in any other country. Democrats say Trump failed to lead an effective response.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak in America right now – and the truth is, many things were broken before the pandemic,” said former Democratic presidential candidate Clinton who lost her 2016 bid to be the first woman president.
“For four years, people have said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how dangerous he was.’ ‘I wish I could go back and do it over.’ Or worse, ‘I should have voted’,” Clinton said, urging Biden supporters to commit to voting.
“This can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election,” Clinton said. “No matter what, vote. Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line, because they are.”
Array of reforms
Biden and the Democrats are promising to bring a range of new policies on gun control, immigration reform, clean energy to address climate change and racial and economic justice.
Silvia Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant in North Carolina, appeared by video feed during the virtual convention with her daughters Jessica, who is a Dreamer, and Lucy.
Sanchez crossed the Rio Grande river into the US holding one of her daughters, who has spina bifida, a life-threatening birth defect, above the water. Today, they are battling for citizenship and healthcare.
Hearing the voices of women leaders was a persistent theme in Wednesday night’s proceedings.
House Speaker Pelosi led the impeachment charge against Trump and has been on the receiving end of his insults.
“As Speaker, I’ve seen first-hand 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,” Pelosi said.
“But we know what he doesn’t – that when women succeed, America succeeds,” Pelosi said.
Wednesday’s event also featured stars from the world of entertainment, with actor Kerry Washington hosting and teenage pop sensation Billie Eilish performing her new single, My Future, for the first time.
“Donald Trump is destroying our country and everything we care about. We need leaders who will solve problems like climate change and COVID, not deny them, leaders who will fight against systemic racism and inequality,” Eilish said, urging people to vote in November’s poll.
Democrats are nearing the climax of a four-day national convention designed to appeal to a broad coalition of Americans on a centre-left political spectrum with an added pitch to some Republicans who are unhappy with Trump’s unconventional conduct.
Democrats formally nominated Biden, to be their presidential candidate on Tuesday in a first-ever video roll call vote of delegates. Biden will give his acceptance speech on Thursday.