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Key takeaways from unprecedented Democratic convention

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Aug 22, 2020 - 08:06 AM

WASHINGTON — A unified party, an on-point Joe Biden and his rising-star running mate are among the upshots from the Democratic National Convention, which drew on party nobility like the Obamas while showcasing the next generation.

The four-night affair drew millions of likely voters to, due to the coronavirus pandemic, an untested format: an all-virtual mix of live and pre-recorded content serving as both a lengthy political TV ad and a mirror on America.

Here are five key takeaways.

United front

“It’s time for us, for we the people, to come together,” Biden, 77, said. And the sometimes fractious Democrats did, backing up their nominee while seeking to make the election a referendum on Trump’s presidency.

An ugly floor revolt and walkout by progressive Bernie Sanders supporters in 2016 marred the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

This week’s convention aired no such dirty laundry, with the party — including most of the two dozen other rivals for the nomination — now squarely behind establishment figure Biden.

Sanders, again the runner up in 2020, made a personal appeal to his and other candidates’ supporters, urging them to unite against the threat of a second Trump term.

Biden ups his game

Long criticized for lacking energy and a crisp message, Biden rose to the occasion during his acceptance speech Thursday, eviscerating the Trump presidency while urging Americans to come together and outlining solutions to end multiple US crises.

Pledging to “draw on the best of us” if elected, he made the case for a Biden administration that will “overcome this season of darkness in America.”

For months Republicans have painted Biden as a candidate struggling to deliver a rousing speech, but even contributors on Fox News, one of Trump’s favorite channels, acknowledged Biden blew a hole in that characterization.

Biden gave “probably the best speech of his life,” said Dana Perino, White House press secretary under George W Bush. “He had pace, rhythm, energy, emotion and delivery.”

Kamala Harris impresses

Harris, 55, made history Wednesday by becoming the nation’s first woman of color on a major political party ticket.

Eight months after ending her own presidential bid, the US senator and daughter of immigrants adroitly reintroduced herself to voters with a speech mixing optimism and pointed criticism of Trump.

She offered a searing denunciation of racial injustice roiling the nation — and, indirectly, of the president accused by Democrats of stoking divisions.

“Let’s be clear, there is no vaccine for racism,” she said, one of several lines that signalled she will be a potent force against Trump in the 10 weeks before the election.

Obamas still ascendant 

Half assault on his successor, half appeal for a protection of the nation’s vulnerable democracy, Barack Obama’s address Wednesday night showed why he remains so popular with Democrats.

Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said in an unprecedented rebuke of a sitting president by a predecessor.

His wife Michelle Obama, whose appeal transcends politics — making her an ideal messenger — also electrified with her own speech on Monday, when she warned that Trump “cannot meet this moment.”

There was less enthusiasm about the Clintons.

Former president Bill Clinton’s address fell flat, while Hillary Clinton used her time to urge Democrats to heed the lessons of 2016 and not remain on the sidelines.

“This can’t be another woulda, coulda, shoulda election,” she said.

Next generation

Given that Biden sees himself as a transitional figure to the next generation of party leaders, it was important for the convention to showcase young Democrats.

They did, with appearances by 30-year-old congressional sensation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and with a Tuesday night keynote delivered not by a single rising star but 17 of them.

A cleverly produced mash-up video featuring members of Congress across the country won plaudits for presenting a cross-cultural, ideologically diverse but united front in support of Biden.

And shortly before Biden spoke Thursday, former rival Pete Buttigieg — 38 years young, openly gay, and an Afghanistan war veteran — addressed the convention to urge viewers to “imagine what 2030 could look like” with a diverse Democratic coalition.

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