California Senator Kamala Harris has officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination to run as its vice-presidential candidate, making history as the first black and South Asian woman on a major party’s presidential ticket.
The third night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on Wednesday featured Democratic heavyweights including past president Barack Obama, who gave an unusually heavy-hitting critique of his successor and his administration as a threat to America’s democracy.
Mr Obama and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also reached out to undecided voters in their speeches, urging them not to sit out the election and warning that the consequences of Mr Donald Trump winning a second term were too dire.
Said Mr Obama, whose voice wavered with emotion at times: “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. 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.”
Speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, he warned that America’s democratic institutions were being threatened like never before, and the Trump administration had “shown it will tear our democracy down if that’s what it takes to win”.
“What we do these next 76 days will echo through generations to come,” he said, as he called on Americans to rally behind presidential nominee Joe Biden and Ms Harris, as well as Democrats in federal and state races, and vote Mr Trump out.
Mr Trump responded twice on Twitter as Mr Obama’s speech was ongoing. “HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!” he said, referring to the Spygate conspiracy theory that the Obama administration had spied on his campaign in 2016, which the Justice Department found no evidence of in a report last December.
Mrs Clinton, who lost to Mr Trump in 2016 by razor-thin margins in crucial battleground states despite winning the popular vote, made a similar plea to Americans to turn out to vote in November.
“For four years, people have said to me, ‘I didn’t realise how dangerous he was’, ‘I wish I could go back and do it over’, ‘I should have voted’. This can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election,” she said.
Unlike the previous two nights of the virtual DNC which focused on Mr Biden’s character and personality, Wednesday’s programme was heavier on policy. Lawmakers and activists highlighted Mr Biden’s stances on issues close to Democratic voters, including gun control, immigration rights, climate change action and affordable childcare.
DO THE IMPORTANT WORK
We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work.
A president who will bring all of us together – black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous – to achieve the future we collectively want.
CALIFORNIAN SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS
RECALLING HER WORDS
But didn’t she call him a racist??? Didn’t she say he was incompetent???
U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, in a tweet about Ms Harris’ previous attack on Mr Joe Biden over his record on race issues, while they were both rivals for the Democratic White House nomination.
ECHO THROUGH GENERATIONS
Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t … What we do these next 76 days will echo through generations to come.
FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Why did he refuse to endorse Slow Joe until it was all over, and even then was very late?
MR TRUMP, in a tweet during Mr Barack Obama’s speech, questioning Mr Obama’s support for Mr Biden.
The night’s line-up also paid tribute to women in politics, featuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Elizabeth Warren, while highlighting the significance of Ms Harris’ nomination, which comes 100 years after women in the US won the right to vote.
Her speech was viewed by observers as a chance for her to introduce herself to the wider public and highlight her qualifications and strengths as a candidate.
Ms Harris, 55, reflected on her personal history and paid tribute to the generations of women on whose shoulders she stood, particularly her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer researcher who died in 2009.
She came to America from India at age 19 to pursue her dream of curing cancer, pursuing and earning a PhD at the University of California Berkeley. It was there that she met Mr Donald Harris, who had come from Jamaica to study economics.
Ms Harris’ parents split when she was five, and she and her younger sister Maya were raised mostly by their mother.
“I keep thinking about that 25-year-old Indian woman – all of five feet tall (1.52m) – who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California. On that day, she probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for vice-president of the United States of America.”
Ms Harris, who has highlighted her rise from college graduate to prosecutor, California’s attorney-general, senator and now vice-presidential nominee as an embodiment of the American dream, said her values had been shaped by her mother.
“She taught us to be conscious and compassionate about the struggles of all people. To believe public service is a noble cause and the fight for justice is a shared responsibility.”
Making the case for Mr Biden and herself as the next leaders of America, Ms Harris said: “We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work. A president who will bring all of us together – black, white, Latino, Asian, Indigenous – to achieve the future we collectively want.”
But their vision felt distant in today’s America, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, she said, blaming Mr Trump’s “failure of leadership” for the loss of lives and livelihoods.
Ms Harris, 22 years younger than Mr Biden, 77, also sought in her speech to be a bridge between older moderates and younger progressive voters, whose voices and causes of racial justice, gun control, immigration rights and climate change action featured heavily on the night.
“You are pushing us to realise the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love. In this election, we have a chance to change the course of history,” she said.