Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris of California urged people to fight for “the America we know is possible,” as she made history in accepting her party’s nomination to appear alongside presidential candidate Joe Biden on the ballot in November.
Harris, 55, a former prosecutor, is the fourth woman to be on a major U.S. party’s national ticket, but the first Black woman and first South Asian American. Her mother was a breast cancer scientist who emigrated from India. She died in 2009. Harris’ father, an economist, came to the U.S. from Jamaica.
Addressing the third night of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Harris sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, saying his “failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.”
Earlier in the evening, former President Barack Obama delivered a blistering attack on Trump, his successor, saying Trump was treating the presidency like “one more reality show” and jeopardizing the democracy with his inept leadership and authoritarian style.
In accepting the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket, Harris spoke of a nation with “complexities and imperfections,” and the need to put in the work to address its flaws, such as combating racism and realizing “the promise of equal justice under the law.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead is not easy. We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths, and we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us,” Harris said.
Biden’s choice of a Black woman of Asian America descent as his running mate broke the mold of traditional political ticket-making and has excited many minorities and women in the party who were lukewarm or opposed to the 77-year-old white Biden leading the party into the fall election.
Harris pledged that a Biden-Harris administration would work to “build an economy that doesn’t leave anyone behind,” take steps to end the coronavirus pandemic, and build a community that is “strong and decent, just and kind.”
"We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work,” Harris said. “A president who will bring all of us together — Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous — to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden."
Harris also made reference to her birth at a hospital in Oakland, California, seemingly a reference to a baseless “birther” theory stoked last week by President Trump that Harris wasn’t qualified to be vice president because both of her parents were immigrants.
Meanwhile, Obama delivered a speech taped in historic Philadelphia saying that for nearly four years Trump “has shown no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Obama warned that Trump’s reelection could undermine democracy and said he had hoped Trump would take the job of president seriously and “discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.”
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. 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.”
Obama’s speech was extraordinary because former presidents rarely publicly criticize a sitting president.
After excerpts of Obama’s comments were released earlier Wednesday, Trump responded, criticizing Obama as having been ineffective and putting U.S. democracy in danger.
"When I listen to that and I see the horror that he’s left us, the stupidity of the transactions that he made. Look what we’re doing. We have our great border wall. We have security," Trump said at an afternoon press conference. “Look how bad he was, how ineffective he was.”
‘Setting an example’
Many who spoke emphasized Biden’s character and fortitude in overcoming major losses in his life, including the deaths of his first wife and young daughter in a 1972 car accident and more recently, in 2015, the death of one of his grown sons, former Delaware attorney general Beau Biden, from brain cancer.
Obama said Biden knows the true strength of the United States “comes from setting an example the world wants to follow,” and that Biden and Harris have plans to get the coronavirus pandemic under control, expand medical coverage, rescue the U.S. economy and “restore our standing in the world.”
“More than anything, what I know about Joe, what I know about Kamala, is they actually care about every American, and that they care deeply about this democracy,” Obama said. “They believe that in a democracy, the right to vote is sacred and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballot, not harder. They believe that no one, not even the president, is above the law and that no public official, not even the president, should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in her 2016 bid for president, urged people to turn out to vote as she advocated for Biden and Harris in her convention address Wednesday.
“This is the team to pull our nation back from the brink, but they can't do it without us,” Clinton said. “This can’t be another woulda, coulda, shoulda election. If you vote by mail, request your ballot now, and send it back right away. If you vote in person, do it early. Most of all, no matter what, vote.”
‘Strong at the broken places’
She cited plans for job creation, paid family leave, health care for everyone, helping undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, reforming law enforcement and having elections free from foreign interference.
“There’s a lot of heartbreak in America now, and the truth is, many things were broken before the pandemic,” Clinton said. “But, as the saying goes, the world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places. That's Joe Biden. He knows how to keep going, unify and lead, because he’s done that for his family and his country.”
Trump has been making campaign stops and holding news conferences during Biden’s week in the political spotlight, traveling to several political battleground states.
On Thursday, he is visiting near Biden’s boyhood home in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Republicans are staging their virtual national convention next week, starting Monday and culminating with Trump’s renomination acceptance speech at the White House on August 27.