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For the first three nights of the Democratic National Convention, speaker after speaker hammered Donald Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as what they portrayed as the president’s defective character. As they contrasted Trump’s failings with what they touted as Joe Biden’s decency and good judgment, the proceedings leading up to Thursday’s acceptance speech for the nomination painted the current state of the union in generally gloomy terms. That set up Biden to explain his plans to steer the nation in a more hopeful direction and to try to convince skeptics that he is up to the task of seeing them through.
Here are the key takeaways from day 4 of the DNC.
Biden lays out a plan to renew American ‘purpose’
Biden accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, a goal that he set his sights on decades earlier. In a forceful speech, he did not sugarcoat what awaited him should he defeat Trump in the general election, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the sharp economic downturn resulting from it, the systemic racism that continues to endure in the United States, and the unfolding disaster of climate change. Biden used his speech to make the case that he would govern with a steady hand and would not follow Trump’s lead in inciting partisan division.
“While I'll be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I'll work hard for those who didn't support me, as hard for them as I did for those who did vote for me,” Biden said, adding, "I will draw on the best of us, not the worst of us. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness."
His speech, in which he avoided using Trump’s name, was classic Biden. It was aimed at the American middle class and at blue-collar workers, steering clear, for the most part, of identity politics and instead appealing to voters across the political spectrum.
If Trump were to be reelected, Biden said, “working families will struggle to get by, and yet the 1 percent will get tens of billions of dollars in new tax breaks, and the assault on the Affordable Care Act will continue until it is destroyed, taking insurance away from more than 20 million people — including 15 million people on Medicaid.”
Some of the strongest sections of his speech dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 174,000 Americans.
Biden pledged that, if elected, his “first step will be to get control of the virus that has ruined so many lives. Because I understand something this president hasn’t from the beginning: We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids safely back in schools, we will never have our lives back, until we deal with this virus.”
This week, Biden proposed a nationwide mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19, and on Thursday he argued that the lack of leadership on this issue has made the pandemic worse.
"The tragedy that we face today is that it didn't have to be this bad. The president keeps waiting around, looking for a miracle. Well, I have news for him: Mr. President, no miracle is coming," Biden said.
If he wins, Biden, who is 77, would be the oldest person ever inaugurated as president of the United States. He has been repeatedly attacked by Trump, the current holder of that record, who likes to claim that the former vice president is not cognitively “all there.” But Biden’s speech, with the exception of a few minor stumbles, came off as persuasive and well-organized, somewhat like the Democratic convention itself, the first ever virtual political convention in the nation’s history.
That left Trump to try a different tack in responding to the attacks being made against him.
In 47 years, Joe did none of the things of which he now speaks. He will never change, just words!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2020
Brayden Harrington gives emotional speech on Biden’s gift for empathy
On a night when it sometimes felt as though the speakers who preceded Biden were instructed not to overshadow the Democratic presidential nominee on his big night, 13-year-old Brayden Harrington turned in a stand-out performance.
“About a few months ago, I met [Joe Biden] in New Hampshire. He told me that we were members of the same club: We stutter,” Harrington said in a courageous appearance at Thursday’s convention. “It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president.”
Biden — who has spoken frequently about his struggles with stuttering when he was younger — met Harrington at a February campaign rally in Concord, N.H., chatting with the boy on the rope line before inviting him backstage.
“I’m just a regular kid, and in a short amount of time, Joe Biden made me more confident about something that bothered me my whole life,” Harrington said at the convention. “Joe Biden cared. Imagine what he could do for all of us.”
A stand-up defense of voting by mail
Comedian Sarah Cooper, whose Trump lip-sync impersonations have made her a household name among Democrats, took on a serious issue Thursday night: the president’s efforts to cast doubt on the integrity of voting by mail.
“I’ve heard Donald Trump say some pretty unhinged things. I’ve heard them over and over and over again. But nothing is more dangerous to our democracy than his attacks on mail-in voting during a pandemic,” Cooper said. “OK, here’s the truth: Donald Trump doesn’t want any of us to vote, because he knows he can’t win fair and square. So whether you plan to vote by mail or in person wearing a mask, it is your vote, and it is your right. Don’t let Donald Trump take that away from you.”
Next up, two top state election officials, Alex Padilla of California and Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, took aim at misconceptions spread by the president.
“So let’s talk about this election,” Padilla said. “Despite what he says, Donald Trump can’t cancel it, but he and Republicans are making it too hard for so many to cast their ballots, and now he’s attacking vote by mail, to distract and confuse voters.”
Benson, who has warned of potential chaos surrounding election results this year, noted that the president himself had voted by mail.
“Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no difference between voting by mail and absentee,” Benson said. “Millions of Americans have been voting absentee for decades. Donald Trump, his family, his staff, they all vote by mail.”
At the same time Democrats at the convention were vouching for the integrity of mail-in voting, the president was being interviewed on the Fox News program “Hannity.”
“It’s a fraudulent election,” Trump said, of the mail-in ballots being sent to voters. “Everybody knows it.”
Democratic primary election: The reunion show
For a moment, the DNC felt as though it had morphed into a reality television show bringing back the former Democratic presidential candidates, along the lines of a reunion episode of shows like “Real Housewives” or “The Bachelor.”
Sen. Cory Booker, who had delivered a stand-alone speech earlier in the evening, hosted the Zoom-style call, which included Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Andrew Yang. It was meant to interject some levity into the proceedings after the focus on the pandemic and on Trump’s time in office, and the candidates reminisced about moments on the campaign trail, many of which reflected positively on the man who finally won the primary race.
“You can think of this sort of like ‘Survivor’: the interviews with all the people that got voted off the island,” Booker said, to laughter from the panel.
“Bernie, don’t you laugh,” Booker quipped, “because I’ve got questions for you, like: ‘Why does my girlfriend like you more than she likes me?’”
“Because she’s smarter than you, and that’s the obvious answer,” Sanders responded.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus tells jokes
Thanks to the choice of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of the TV comedy series “Veep,” as host of Thursday’s proceedings, a lighter tone pervaded from the start. But it quickly became apparent how difficult an assignment Louis-Dreyfus had been given, in part because the subject at hand was not exactly a laughing matter.
“I’m here tonight to remind you that Joe Biden not only knows how to read, he reads everything,” Dreyfus joked, alluding to Trump’s assertion that he had not read his presidential daily briefing on the U.S. intelligence finding that Russia had paid bounties for killing U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.
“Just remember, Joe Biden goes to church so regularly that he doesn’t even need tear gas and a bunch of federal troops to help him get there,” Dreyfus quipped of Trump’s decision to use federal troops to clear protesters from Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., before posing for a photo opportunity in front of St. John’s Church. The joke came just moments after a heartfelt video about Biden’s faith had finished playing.
With debate raging on social media about whether Louis-Dreyfus’s jokes were landing, the host pressed on, urging viewers to send a text to the number 30330, a line the Biden campaign has set up to help people vote.
“30330. That would be the president’s golf score if he didn’t cheat,” the actress said. “OK, look, I’ll admit that was a little nasty. But we all know he’s a cheater. And I’m proud to be a nasty, nasty woman.”
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