Kamala Harris has been formally nominated as Democrats’ pick for vice-president, becoming the first woman of colour to accept a spot on a major U.S. party’s presidential ticket.
Harris addressed the Democratic National Convention’s third night after former president Barack Obama warned that American democracy itself was at risk if President Donald Trump wins re-election this fall.
She is the first woman of colour on a major party presidential ticket.
In a largely empty arena near Joe Biden’s Delaware home, Harris issued an urgent plea for voters of all colours to rally behind Joe Biden and find a way to vote despite concerns about the pandemic and postal slowdowns.
She said, “Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” and that she shares Biden’s vision of America, “where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love.”
The California senator evoked the lessons of her late mother, an Indian immigrant who instilled in her a vision of “our nation as a beloved community — where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from or who we love.”
WATCH | Kamala Harris makes history:
She also mentioned her Jamaican immigrant father and getting a “stroller’s eye view” of America’s diversity, while noting that she was born in Oakland’s Kaiser Hospital — perhaps a nod to Trump reigniting the baseless “birther” questions about Harris’ vice presidential eligibility.
After the speech, Harris, 55, waved and clapped as she was applauded by a screen of viewers. A smiling Biden walked out afterward, standing a safe distance from her amid the pandemic, and the two were joined by their spouses.
WATCH / U.S. historian says Kamala Harris ‘star’ of Democratic National Convention:
Some of the most influential women in Kamala Harris’ life introduced her.
They included Harris’ younger sister, Maya Harris; her niece, Meena Harris; and her step-daughter, Ella Emhoff. Maya Harris has long been one of Harris’ closest political advisers.
Meena Harris called her aunt a role model who taught her she could do anything she wanted, and a role model to so many women and girls of colour around the world. Maya Harris says she’ll have Harris’ back the way Harris had hers as children growing up.
Obama makes a personal appeal
Obama delivered his speech just ahead of Harris’s, live from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. He issued a blistering rebuke of Trump, accusing his successor of unleashing America’s “worst impulses” and treating the presidency as a reality show “to get the attention he craves.”
The former president also described the stakes in the November election in stark terms, warning that the future of American democracy is on the line in the race between Trump and Biden.
“I am also asking you to believe in your own ability — to embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure,” Obama said.
“Most of you have already made up your mind. But maybe you’re not still not sure which candidate you’ll vote for, or whether you’ll vote at all,” he went on.
“Joe knows the world and the world knows him. He knows that our true strength comes from stetting an example that the world wants to follow. A nation that stands with democracy, not dictators. A nation that can inspire and mobilize others to overcome threats like climate change and terrorism, poverty and disease.”
WATCH | Obama’s stinging rebuke of Trump:
Third night focuses on issues
The third night of the convention featured some of the issues Democrats are campaigning on, including climate change, immigration and gun control.
Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords called on Americans to speak out to combat gun violence, “even when you have to fight to find the words.”
Struggling to speak herself, Giffords recounted her difficulty recovering from the 2011 shooting that nearly took her life.
She told viewers that Joe Biden was there for her after the shooting and that they must participate in the November election to be “on the right side of history.”
“We can let the shooting continue, or we can act,” she said, adding: “We can vote.”
Hillary Clinton looks back and ahead
Hillary Clinton reflected on her loss during her speech and urged Americans not to take the election’s outcome for granted after some voters stayed home in 2016.
“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.’ Well, this can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election,” she said.
She then began to list the number of things Americans can vote for in 2020.
“Vote for paid family leave and health care for everyone. For social security, Medicare and Planned Parenthood. Vote for Dreamers and their families,” she said.
She added: “Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line, because they are.”
WATCH | Clinton urges Democrats not to let Trump “sneak or steal his way to victory.”
Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren told voters Joe Biden can hold his own on having a plan for nearly every policy challenge, large and small.
The Massachusetts senator said Wednesday night in her speech: “I love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans — plans to bring back union jobs in manufacturing and create new union jobs in clean energy.”
Warren spoke from an early education centre in Springfield, Mass., and said Biden will guarantee affordable, quality child care for all families.
WATCH | Warren shares a personal story of how she got to where is today:
Before the main event began, Harris had appeared with brief opening remarks, saying viewers may have heard “about obstacles and misinformation, and folks making it harder for you to cast your ballot.”
“I think we need to ask ourselves: Why don’t they want us to vote?” Harris said Wednesday. “When we vote, things get better. When we vote, we address the need for all people to be treated with dignity and respect in our country.”
She did not say what those possible obstacles were, but Democrats have accused Trump of deliberately trying to disrupt operations at the U.S. Postal Service in a year when more people are expected to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
WATCH | Kamala Harris makes a pre-speech appearance to deliver a message:
Convention addresses are often the most important for those selected as vice-presidential candidates, but also only the start of a far bigger role in public political consciousness should their ticket win. There’s potentially even deeper repercussions for Harris, though, since she could be called upon to step into the role of party standard bearer as soon as 2024, should Biden — who will be nearly 82 by then — opt not to seek a second term if he wins in November.