Democrats have launched their national convention with a call to rally for what they called the battle for “the soul of America” and proclaiming a long charge sheet against President Donald Trump.
The four-day convention, which will make history by nominating Kamala Harris as the first Indian-American nominee for Vice President, began on Monday with electronics replacing the electricity of tens of thousands of delegates and party supporters who would have attended in person but for the coronavirus pandemic.
The convention is being held virtually, even without Biden, who is to be the presidential nominee, or Harris being present in Milwaukee, its official site, but hundreds of thousands linked electronically.
To make the electronic convention lively, actress Eva Longoria was the emcee of the opening session rather than a politician, and she interviewed people from around the country with their tale of woe and introduced the speakers.
Adding to the glamour quotient, two singers Leon Bridges and Maggie Rogers performed between the speeches.
The star of the opening session, former First Lady Michelle Obama, led the charge against Trump, saying: “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.”
While she heaped praise on Biden as a “profoundly decent man” who can “rescue the economy” and “lead the nation”, she was silent on Harris.
Her speech was reportedly recorded before the announcement of the vice-presidential candidate, but she did not revised it.
Obama called for uniting behind Biden even if one did not agree with him entirely because of the peril to the nation.
Former rivals for the party’s presidential nomination, as well as Republican leaders, spoke of putting aside their differences to defeat Trump.
Bernie Sanders, the self-styled socialist who mounted a strong challenge to Biden, was the other headliner at the opening session.
He acknowledged that there were differences between him and Biden on several issues but said that he would end Trump’s climate of “hate and divisiveness” and move in a progressive direction.
Sanders said the nation was facing the “most important election in history” as Trump was leading the country towards authoritarianism and asked the “millions” of his supporters to line up behind Biden.
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, a “lifelong Republican”, said that the vitriol and divisiveness that Trump had unleashed has “terrible consequences for our nation’s soul” and that was why he was crossing party lines to back Biden.
“In normal times nothing like this would happen and these are not normal times,” he said and assured his fellow Republicans that Biden would not lead the nation on the path of radicalism.
Fellow Republicans, former New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman and Susan Molinari, who was the keynote speaker at the 1996 Republican Convention, joined him in endorsing Biden.
Other speakers included the daughter of a Covid-19 patient, who said that her father’s only pre-existing condition was “trusting Donald Trump”, and the brother of George Floyd, whose killing by police in Minneapolis set of a national movement against police brutality and racism.
At the top of the list of charges flung against Trump by Obama and added to by others was what they said was his mismanagement of the coronvirus crisis leading to 170,000 deaths.
He was blamed for the economic meltdown that followed, accused of trying to sabotage the election by intimidating voters and refusing to fund the post office, fanning the flames of racism and divisiveness and leading the country on the path of authoritarianism and endangering democracy.
Biden is leading Trump by 7.7 per cent in opinion polls, according to RealClearPolitics, which aggregates different poll numbers.
In keeping with his style of needling opponents, Trump held a rally at Oshkosh in Wisconsin state, about 100 km from the official Democratic convention venue in Milwaukee hours before it was to open.
Speaking to a few hundred supporters at the airport in front of his Air Force One jet, he ridiculed Biden asserting that his mental powers were “shot” and that Harris would be his “boss”.
But he turned on her, calling her “mean” and “angry”.
He defended his handling of the coronavirus crisis and boasted about the low unemployment and the high stock market numbers before the pandemic hit and said that Biden was the “trojan horse” for the radical socialists who would damage the economy.