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4 key takeaways from the DNC 2020, Night 3

Kamala Harris told her personal story to the nation; Hillary Clinton warned don't blow it — again; the bear is loose; and more.
Kamala Harris during the third night of the Democratic National Convention at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.
Kamala Harris during the third night of the Democratic National Convention at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris reintroduced herself to the nation she hopes to help govern as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made a case about the dire state of American democracy on the third night of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.

Democrats showcased the diversity of their coalition, with every race and background represented and musical performances in Spanish and English, culminating in Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, accepting her party's nomination for vice president.

Here are four takeaways:

1. Harris takes a place in history

Americans have never seen a vice president who looks like Kamala Harris, so Kamala Harris gave America a good look at herself Wednesday.

In the biggest speech on the biggest platform of her career, Harris told the story of her immigrant parents' meeting during the civil rights movement in California and their split when she was young, leaving her mother to raise her and her sister.

"Like so many mothers, she worked around the clock to make it work, packing lunches before we woke up and paying bills after we went to bed," Harris said. "She made it look easy, though I know it never was."

She wove that story into America's story, which has become so politicized amid Trump-era debates over Confederate monuments and fights over who gets to be a real American. Harris shouted out to her Black sorority sisters and walked off the stage to Mary J. Blige's "Work That," making the case that making the country more just for all is an act of patriotism.

"There is no vaccine for racism. We've got to do the work," she said. "You are the patriots who remind us that to love our country is to fight for the ideals of our country."

2. Don't sweat the policy details

The third night of the convention offered by far the most policy substance of any night, but that's not saying much. The convention has focused primarily on President Donald Trump and his failings and on who Joe Biden is as a man — but not what he would do as president

Wednesday's program featured sections devoted to climate change, gun violence, immigration and more, but moving videos and speeches laid out the problems and mostly insisted that something be done, without really saying what. Even famously plan-loving Elizabeth Warren breezed through Biden's "really good plans" in one short paragraph.

That may be by design. Biden is trying to stitch together a broad coalition that spans disaffected Republicans like John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, who spoke Monday, to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who spoke Tuesday.

They have very different ideas about, say, the Green New Deal and "Medicare for All," but they agree that Trump needs to go, so the convention has stuck to the common ground.

3. The bear (Obama) is loose

"The bear is loose. I broke out of the cage," Obama liked to joke when he left the White House and armored limousines behind to stroll around Washington as president.

The former president has been in a political cage of sorts for the past few years, mostly biting his tongue about Trump to respect the tradition that former presidents don't criticize their successors, just as George W. Bush had done for him.

But Obama changed his mind. He made it clear Wednesday that he has lost any hope of Trump's living up to the office he once held, decided that some things are more important than tradition and signaled plans to get off the bench to help his former vice president get over the finish line.

"Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job because he can't," Obama said. "This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes to win. So we have to get busy building it up."

4. Hillary: Don't blow it — again

Russia, former FBI Director James Comey's meddling, not visiting Wisconsin — they all played roles in Clinton's loss to Trump in a very winnable election four years ago. But complacency may have been her biggest foe.

Democrats never took Trump seriously. And when nearly every expert was projecting an easy win for Clinton and many voters were disillusioned with the whole system, millions of voters who had turned out for Obama in 2012 decided to stay home in 2016.

Now, polls are once again showing Trump behind, and forecasters are once again suggesting that the odds are in Biden's favor. So when she spoke Wednesday, Clinton wanted to deliver one message that only she could: Don't blow it.

"For four years, people have said to me, 'I didn't realize how dangerous he was.' 'I wish I could go back and do it over.' Or worse, 'I should have voted,'" she said. "Well, this can't be another woulda coulda shoulda election."