Grace Couch | @GCouch99
After months of Primaries, US party conventions mark the official nomination of their candidates for the Presidency. Primaries provide the opportunity for party supporters to vote for their favourite presidential nominee, state by state. Although we have known that Joe Biden would be the Democratic candidate for President for a few months, the Democratic National Convention marked his official nomination and the announcement of Kamala Harris as his running mate – his Vice-President if he were to be elected to the Whitehouse.
The DNC would originally have seen thousands of supporters flocking to Wisconsin to hear guest speakers, adopt the official Party Platform and act as a propaganda tool to show the rest of the country why their candidate is the best. For obvious reasons, this year’s DNC was a much quieter event, with pre-recorded speeches and live-streamed meetings, devoid of the war cries of voters with their placards. However, many feel that the silence spoke louder, with big-name after big-name chastising opponent President Trump for his mishandling of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Some have remarked that Biden’s acceptance speech marked a turning point in a 30-year pursuit for the presidency – he has been a senator for 36 years, served 8 years as Obama’s vice-president and was rumoured to run for President in 2016 before pulling out due to the death of his son, Beau.
“Here and now I give you my word. If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness. It is time for us, for we, the people, to come together” (Biden)
His words highlighted the increasing divisions within the people of the US. Described by author Ezra Klein as ‘polarisation’, many voters have moved further away from each other, becoming increasingly opposite to each other in opinions and sticking to the ‘poles’. Obama-esque progressive politics vs the traditionalist, extreme right-wing Trump Presidency we have seen. Comments such as these reverberated through the week, asking American’s to ‘unite’ and ‘winning the soul of America’.
“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)
This is something that ‘new girl on the block’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez discussed on her Instagram. ‘AOC’ was elected to the House of Representatives in 2019 and has been making waves ever since representing Latinos, pushing for women’s rights and the Green New Deal to combat climate change. She said that ‘it’s not how she would have done it’, believing that the Biden strategy of appealing to the moderates may alienate other voters that are just as important to winning as those in the swing states. Her comments spoke of annoyance that they did not really represent Muslims or Latinos, despite still being a large proportion of voters. Another fatal blow was the pre-recorded nature of the convention revealing AOC’s speech actually endorsing rival Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders… awkward.
You can give as little as £1 towards supporting the work we do and ensuring young people's views are championed
“For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.” (President Obama)
Obama chose the DNC to ‘tear into Trump like never before’, with damning comments describing the minimum expectation of a President to be the safety of their population, which has been questioned due to the 177,000 deaths from Covid-19 so far. Similarly to Biden, he tried to reach across the divide by promising a Democratic government that would put the welfare of all 330 million US citizens first, regardless of who they vote for – something we assumed to be a given before the rise of identity politics in 2016 that began to pit classes, generations and races against each other.
He also spoke kindly of both Biden and Harris; of the friendship he shared with his Vice-President and the allyship he feels with someone who has overcome barriers and become ‘a first’ in their field, recognising Kamala Harris as the first woman of colour to be nominated for national office by a major political party. Biden mentioned both white supremacy and systemic racism in his acceptance speech – themes that may not have been at the forefront a few months ago. It is often commentated that Biden was originally propelled to the White House by deep support from Black voters, and it will be interesting to see whether this enthusiasm has outlived the seismic cultural shifts that have occurred since May and are reciprocated to ‘career-prosecutor’ Harris, with accusations of a chequered past.
One of the biggest differences between US and UK politics is the involvement of candidates’ spouses in their campaigns. The ‘American dream’ holds family life at the pinnacle, making a speech from Jill Biden a standard affair at the convention. Similarly, former First Lady Michelle Obama has been quoted as one of the most influential guests of the week:
“But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.” (Michelle Obama)
American’s also really like to know who their candidate is. With stark contrasts to the shoving under the carpet of Boris Johnson’s personal life, the final night of the convention highlighted Biden’s personal story with recollections from his friends and grandchildren, and tributes to his son, Beau, who died from brain cancer in 2015. There was also the featuring of his well-known love of ice cream.
Statements such as these were backed up by viral sensation Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old boy with a stutter. The pair met in New Hampshire a few months earlier when Mr Biden told Brayden that they were “members of the same club – we stutter”. Brayden said he was amazed to see that someone similar to himself had become the vice-president of the United States:
“Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to, someone who cares, someone who will make our country and the world feel better.” (Harrington)
Empathy seemed to be the running theme of the week. Democratic opposition candidate Bernie Sanders, another critic of his moderate politics, spoke of how with “Joe Biden, you have a human being who is empathetic, who is honest, who is decent. And at this particular moment in American history, my god, that is something that this country absolutely needs.”
The main observation that can be taken from this is the veracity by which speakers, supporters and strategists are quick to slander Trump, pick up on his worst traits and call him out for the way he has dealt, or not dealt, with the recent crisis. However, to me, this echoes the rhetoric of 2016. Democrats will give every reason under the sun to vote against the Republicans, and they are often very justified. But how often are they giving voters a reason to vote for the Democrats.
Thanks for reading our article! We know young people’s opinions matter and really appreciate everyone who reads us.