The Democratic National Convention kicked off Monday in what is shaping up to be a nominating convention unlike any other.
The first night of the almost all-virtual event featured keynote speaker Michelle Obama, as well as former Democratic presidential contenders Sens. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Presumptive nominee Joe Biden's pick for vice president, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is expected to speak Wednesday night along with former President Barack Obama.
Jill Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other high-wattage headliners will round out the programming in days leading up to Biden's acceptance speech on Thursday.
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This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading DNC news from August 18, 2020.
Democratic convention's focus on racial justice omits policy demands of BLM protesters
The first night of the Democratic National Convention featured a series of voter testimonials, speeches and a reserved conversation that centered on racial justice.
The first hour of the convention brought repeated references to the Black Lives Matter movement, the disproportionate number of Black Americans killed by police each year and the multi-city protests which roiled the nation this summer.
But there was little talk about specific policy commitments to address various forms of racial injustice.
'Hollywood-produced infomercial': Trump campaign responds to first night of DNC
Trump’s re-election campaign was quick to criticize Democrats just moments after the first night of the DNC concluded.
"With history as our guide, if Joe Biden had been president, the coronavirus crisis would be dramatically worse," Hogan Gidley, the Trump 2020 national press secretary, said in a statement. "Democrats can try to conceal the dangerous truth with a Hollywood-produced infomercial, but they can’t hide the fact that the radical socialist leftist takeover of Joe Biden is complete."
Earlier in the night the Trump campaign also sent an email during Sen. Bernie Sanders’ speech, claiming "it’s Bernie Sanders’s party – Joe Biden is just the empty vessel for it."
Trump appeared to be following along to the night’s events, retweeting criticisms of Cuomo and other speakers.
Michelle Obama's speech gets early praise
Michelle Obama scorches Trump, says to 'vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it'
Former first lady Michelle Obama, one of the most popular political figures in America, gave a speech Monday night that was part endorsement, part call to action, and a full-throated indictment of the Trump era.
She did not mention Trump by name until the end of her speech but mentioned a litany of controversies and policy failures during his first term. Obama also talked about all the pain and loss inflicted by the coronavirus and placed the blame squarely on the president.
"Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy," she said.
In a more personal tone, she talked about how Biden knows how to deal with loss after losing a wife and two children. She said Biden "is not perfect" because "there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president," but he is someone who knows the job well, will listen to experts and tell the truth. She used the last part of her speech as a rousing call to action to vote in person or by requesting mail-in ballots early.
She addressed the remarks she made at the 2016 convention: "When they go low, we go high."
"Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty," she said, adding, "Going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth."
"So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can," she added, calling out the president directly. "Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us."
She added, "If you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it."
In powerful speech, Sanders says Trump leading U.S. toward 'authoritarianism'
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said all of the progressive movement's gains could be in jeopardy should Trump win re-election, adding that the president is "leading us down the path of authoritarianism."
"Our great nation is now living in an unprecedented moment," Sanders said. "We are facing the worst public health crisis in 100 years and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. We are confronting systemic racism and the enormous threat to our planet of climate change. And, in the midst of all of this, we have a president who is not only incapable of addressing these crises but is leading us down the path of authoritarianism."
"This election is the most important in the modern history of this country," he said. "In response to the unprecedented crises we face, we need an unprecedented response — a movement, like never before, of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency — and against greed, oligarchy, and bigotry. And we need Joe Biden as our next president."
Sanders thanked supporters of his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids, adding the campaigns "moved this country in a bold new direction" and turned ideas once considered "radical" mainstream.
"But, let us be clear, if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy," Sanders said. "During this president’s term, the unthinkable has become normal."
"As long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates, and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat," he added.
Sanders bashed Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying, "Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Trump golfs."
"His actions fanned this pandemic resulting in over 170,000 deaths and a nation still unprepared to protect its people," Sanders said, adding, "Trump’s negligence has exacerbated the economic crisis we are now experiencing."
Sanders pivoted to discussing how Biden will advance the progressive agenda, saying that Biden supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, 12 weeks of paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, among other crucial progressive linchpins.
"To everyone who supported other candidates in the primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake," Sanders said. "The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine."
Sanders was featured during the "unity" night of the convention — notable given how much better Sanders' post-primary relationship is with Biden compared to what it was with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Team of rivals: 9 former Democratic opponents support Biden in montage
Nine of Joe Biden's former rivals came together to trash Trump and support Biden in a video montage.
Featured in the video were Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer. Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, also made an appearance.
The montage highlight the policy and personality differences between Trump and Biden. Characterizing Biden has an empathetic politician who has adopted many of their ideas, signaling unity within the party. It remains to be seen how useful it may be.
Noticeably missing are Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, who have separate speaking slots at this week's convention.
Klobuchar talks voting rights, Post Office in DNC address
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., opened her remarks Monday night highlighting the importance voting rights and the Post Office this election year.
"The president may hate the Post Office, but he’s still going to have to send them a change of address card in January," she joked.
Klobuchar also struck a more somber tone, making the case for a president who can unite the country after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
"Now, more than ever, we need a president who will unite this country. We need a president who, in George Floyd’s memory, instead of using the Bible as a prop, will heed its words: to act justly," Klobuchar said.
Vulnerable Democratic senator makes plea for unity
Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama used his convention spot Monday to highlight the advancement of civil rights in the South and promote Biden as the candidate who believes "Americans have more in common than what divides us."
"Alabama has shown me that even our deepest divisions can be overcome because each of us wants the same thing: to be treated fairly and given the same opportunities, and the freedom to live with dignity and respect," Jones said. "Now, some politicians try to pit us against each other, but I believe that Americans have more in common than what divides us. And in November we have a chance to elect a president who believes that, too."
"I’ve known Joe for more than 40 years. I met him as a wide-eyed law student, and he’s been my friend and champion ever since," Jones added. "The Joe I know is exactly the leader our country needs right now. He can bring people together to find common ground while standing up for what he believes is right."
Jones' speech hit on the major theme of Monday night — national unity. He is one of the most endangered Democratic senators up for re-election this year after having won a tight special election for former Sen. Jeff Sessions' seat in 2017. Biden campaigned for Jones in that race.