Michelle Obama delivered a scathing indictment of President Donald Trump’s policies and character August 17 on the first night of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention accusing the White House of sowing “chaos” and “division” and showing a “total and utter lack of empathy.” Coming at the end of a jam-packed two-hour program that tackled the coronavirus crisis, racial justice and the nation’s economic woes, Obama began by acknowledging Americans’ weariness with the current state of affairs. “I know a lot of folks are reluctant to tune into a political convention right now or to politics in general. Believe me, I get that,” she said. “You know I hate politics.” But the former first lady, who has never entertained calls to run for office despite being one of the most popular women in the world, said now is no time to check out. “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,” she said.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama said President Donald Trump “is clearly in over his head” in handling the Coronavirus pandemic despite ample time to catch up. “He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is,” she said. Obama added: “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. We know that what’s going on in this country is just not right.” The former first lady warned that Trump would do everything he could to stay in power and that the only way to stop him was to commit to vote him out in overwhelming numbers. “We’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night (to vote) if we have to,” Obama said. “We have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.” On August 18, Trump responded on Twitter to the former first lady, saying that he became President because of “the job done by your husband, Barack Obama.”
Speaking before Michelle Obama, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont made a similar appeal, focused not on the politically weary but on the politically active people who supported him. He subtly invoked his own Jewish family’s experience in the Holocaust to warn that Trump is trying to destroy democracy. “Under this administration, authoritarianism has taken root in our country. I, and my family, and many of yours, know the insidious way authoritarianism destroys democracy, decency and humanity,” Sanders said. “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.” Sanders touted the success his two presidential campaigns have had in moving the Democratic Party and the nation to the left, but said it could all be for naught if Biden does not win. “I say to you, 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,” he said. “We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president.”
The socially distanced 2020 Democratic convention is arguably the most unique political convention since the 1944 Democratic and Republican conventions, which occurred during the height of World War II. While both conventions had full coverage on radio, the television coverage of both conventions aired on a one-day film delay due to wartime restrictions and the primitive state of television broadcasting at the time. These technical issues reduced the feelings of immediacy that live coverage would have brought about. Similarly to the 1944 political conventions, the largely virtual nature of the 2020 conventions perhaps reduced the effectiveness of the live convention coverage. Actress Eva Longoria served as emcee, interviewing everyday Americans over video chat between politicians’ speeches, some of which concluded with many tiny video boxes of people applauding from their couch at home. The virtual format allowed for a wider range of backdrops and for the program to stick closely to schedule, but it also felt eerily quiet and rootless at times with no cheering crowds in a packed arena to center the proceedings. There were a few minor technical glitches, such as speakers unsure of when to begin, but they did little to disrupt the flow.