Did Democrats make a compelling case at the DNC?

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Mike Bebernes
·Senior Editor
·6 min read
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“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

The Democratic National Convention concluded Thursday night with a keynote address from Joe Biden as he accepted the party’s nomination for president.

Biden’s speech echoed the themes raised by speakers throughout the four-night event: Sharp criticisms of President Trump’s first term in office, calls for unity and a push to “build back better” after the coronavirus pandemic has been brought under control. The structure was consistent with previous conventions. But the pandemic forced Democrats to hold the event virtually, which presented some opportunities and pitfalls along the way.

Speakers throughout the week represented a broad swath of the political spectrum: Democratic icons such as Barack and Michelle Obama, progressives including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and even prominent Republicans like John Kasich and Colin Powell.

Why there’s debate

Many responses to the convention praised Democrats for ably handling the massive challenge of carrying out such a complicated virtual event, even if there were some hiccups. They also earned points from some pundits for embracing the “big tent” that the party represents, from past GOP voters who may be considering a change, to progressives seeking a major systemic overhaul.

The convention effectively presented Biden as an alternative to Trump, some argue, by consistently highlighting his compassion and eagerness to find common ground with diverse groups of people. Biden’s acceptance speech was widely considered to be both skilfully delivered and effective in presenting a clear vision for how America can overcome its current crises. By giving a 24-minute address to the nation with minimal stumbles, Biden dealt a major blow to the president’s attempts to portray the former vice president as mentally in decline, some say.

The convention did receive some strong criticism from both sides of the aisle. Many progressives felt the inclusion of Republican speakers — along with limited speaking time given to rising stars like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — would alienate the young, diverse coalition of voters Biden needs to win in November. Others felt that Democrats failed to take advantage of the virtual format, and instead their attempts to mimic a traditional convention came off more like an extended telethon.

Many conservatives took issue with what they saw as overly dark rhetoric on the state of the country and the Trump presidency. Repeated attacks on the president and calls for unity obscured the reality of Biden’s policy agenda, which would radically transform the structures of American life, they say..

What’s next

Polling over the next few weeks will provide a clearer picture of the effect of the convention on public opinion, though the true impact may not be known until Election Day on Nov. 3.

Republicans will launch their own party convention on Monday in Charlotte, N.C.. Unlike Democrats, the GOP will be holding some in-person events, but the festivities will be scaled down significantly from previous conventions. President Trump is scheduled to give his acceptance speech Thursday from the White House.

Perspectives

Boosters

Democrats sent a clear message of what party stands for

“If the purpose of a convention is to lay out a vision for America and define what the election is about, I don’t think Biden and the Democrats could have done a better job.” — Chris Truax, USA Today

Biden gave a powerful rebuttal to Trump’s two strongest attacks

“Biden's commanding delivery could make it more difficult for Trump to paint him as staggering and senile (‘Slow Joe’) at the Republican convention next week. At the same time, Biden’s focus on middle-of-the-road policies complicates Trump’s attempts to tag his ticket as pawns of the radical left.” — Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago, Politico

The convention made a strong case against Trump’s presidency

“The convention was more about Trump than it was about Biden. Democrats and Republicans who have decided to support Biden made the case with searing effectiveness, that Trump has failed at his job, and what matters now is saving the country by ending his presidency.” — Frida Ghitis, CNN

Appealing to GOP voters is a smart strategy, even if it angers progressives

“Progressives like Sanders have long argued that the way to win in 2020 is by mobilizing a new coalition of young voters and nonvoters who are excited by issues such as a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and free public college. But the numbers don’t really support this theory.” — Andrew Romano, Yahoo News

Democrats embraced the broad coalition their party represents

“The Democratic National Convention began with a mosaic of Americans reciting the preamble to the U.S. Constitution — a striking display of ethnic, racial and gender diversity. But more important, this time around, the Democrats have taken care to celebrate the kind of ideological diversity that is crucial to winning the White House on Nov. 3.” — Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post

They overcame the limitations of a virtual convention

“I wondered if this year's online convention held in the midst of a pandemic would even be watchable. ... By the time former first lady Michelle Obama got rolling in her keynote address near the end of the telecast, I was a believer, reminded of television's ability to adapt to new technology and the enduring power of one human voice speaking passionately from the heart to a camera.” — David Zurawik, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Critics

Democrats focused far too much on dark moments, rather than hope for the future

“To show their ferocious sincerity in the struggle against America’s injustices, most of the speakers thought they had to beat the crap out of the country — over and over. Its sins: racism, sexism, bigotry, violence, xenophobia, being unwelcoming to immigrants. The charges, direct and indirect, never let up. Little love was expressed, little gratitude.” — Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

There was no clear policy vision

“In its entire four-night convention, the Democratic Party said almost nothing about its own platform or the policies Biden plans to implement if elected.” — Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

There wasn’t nearly enough representation of Latinos

“Rather than growing the electorate, which is how Democrats will win in November and beyond, it seems as though they are reaching out to Republican voters. This sends a terrible message to the Latino voters they need to win in November.” — Cristina Jiménez Moreta, New York Times

Including Republicans risks severing a shaky truce between moderates and progressives

“Many progressives, including Sanders and Warren, say the threat of Trump's election is enough to fully unify them behind Biden. But that doesn't mean there aren't rising tensions — and a convention leaning so heavily into Republican support for Biden is exacerbating them.” — Will Weissert and Sara Burnett, Associated Press

The virtual convention was boring and frequently awkward

“These things are always about a raucous atmosphere, yelling and cheering and balloons dropping, and noises, crazy hats, and crazy people sometimes. Now you’ve got very benign-looking people sitting in front of the fireplace. ... I’d make it a little more entertaining, make it more watchable.” — Mike Huckabee, Fox News

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images