Democrats formally nominated Joe Biden for president on Tuesday, with elder statesmen and rising stars promising he would repair a pandemic-devastated America and end the chaos of Republican President Donald Trump.
The convention’s second night, under the theme “Leadership Matters,” aimed to make the case that Biden would represent a return to normalcy.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command centre,” former US President Bill Clinton said in a prerecorded video. “Instead, it’s a storm centre. There’s only chaos. Just one thing never changes – his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame.”
In clips from around the country, Democrats of all stripes explained why they were supporting Biden while putting their own state-specific spin on the proceedings, from a calamari appetizer in Rhode Island to a herd of cattle in Montana.
Following his home state of Delaware, which went last in his honour, Biden appeared live for the first time at a Delaware school, where his wife, Jill, was set to deliver the night’s headline address later in the evening.
The programme started by showcasing some of the party’s rising politicians. But rather than a single keynote speech that could be a star-making turn, as it was for then-state Senator Barack Obama in 2004, the programme featured 17 stars in a video address, including Stacey Abrams, the one-time Georgia gubernatorial nominee whom Biden once considered for a running mate.
“America faces a triple threat: a public health catastrophe, and economic collapse and a reckoning with racial justice and inequality,” Abrams said. “So our choice is clear: a steady experienced public servant who can lead us out of this crisis just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract.”
As they did on Monday’s opening night, Democrats featured a handful of Republicans who have crossed party lines to praise Biden, 77, over Trump, 74, ahead of the November 3 election.
Cindy McCain, widow of Republican Senator John McCain, was scheduled to appear in a video talking about her husband’s long friendship with Biden, according to a preview posted online. Trump clashed with McCain, who was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, and the president criticized McCain even after his 2018 death.
Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired four-star general who endorsed Biden in June, was one of several national security officials due to speak on the Democrat’s behalf.
“Our country needs a commander in chief who takes care of our troops in the same way he would his own family,” he said.
“He will trust our diplomats and our intelligence community, not the flattery of dictators and despots. He will make it his job to know when anyone dares to threaten us. He will stand up to our adversaries with strength and experience. They will know he means business.”
Democratic former Secretary of State John Kerry said of Trump: “When this president goes overseas, it isn’t a goodwill mission, it’s a blooper reel. He breaks up with our allies and writes love letters to dictators. America deserves a president who is looked up to, not laughed at.”
Biden’s vice presidential pick, Senator Kamala Harris, will headline Wednesday night’s programme along with Obama.
Without the cheering crowds at the in-person gathering originally planned for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TV viewership on Monday was down from 2016. But an additional 10.2 million people watched on digital platforms, the Biden campaign said, for a total audience of nearly 30 million.
Aiming to draw attention away from Biden, Trump, trailing in opinion polls, held a campaign rally in Arizona, a hotly contested battleground state that can swing to either party and play a decisive role in the election.
The convention was being held amid worries about the safety of in-person voting. Democrats have pushed mail-in ballots as an alternative and pressured the head of the US Postal Service, a top Trump donor, to suspend cost cuts that delayed mail deliveries. Bowing to that pressure, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy put off the cost-cutting measures until after the election.
Hours before his speech, the president said a massive shift to mail-in voting could cause so many problems officials might have to hold another election, a far-fetched possibility given that a national US election “re-do” has never occurred and Trump lacks the authority to order one.
Other Democratic speakers on Tuesday included US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading liberal figure known as AOC.
The Republican National Convention, also largely virtual, takes place next week. Trump will give his acceptance speech at the White House, despite criticism he is politicizing the presidential residence.