- Speeches from the first night of the Democratic National Convention caught a lot of attention, including one from Michelle Obama, who delivered her strongest criticism of President Donald Trump to date.
- Other speeches that made waves were from Bernie Sanders and John Kasich, who both delivered clashing messaging on whether Joe Biden will be progressive or cater to conservatives who have disavowed Trump.
- The daughter of a Trump supporter who died of COVID-19 and George Floyd’s family also spoke, giving remarks about the pandemic and the fight for racial justice, two of the biggest issues facing the country right now.
- Trump later condemned many of the speeches and speakers, and both he and his campaign continued to paint the Democrats and Biden as radical leftists.
Michelle Obama’s Speech
Day one of the first ever virtual Democratic National Convention is now officially on the books. On Monday, Democrats, Republicans, and progressive speakers from across the political spectrum kicked off the four-day event.
Former first lady Michelle Obama headlined the night with a nearly 20-minute keynote address that has been described as her strongest public criticism of President Donald Trump ever.
“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. “But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another.”
“They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else,” she continued.
“And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain. They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists.”
“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: 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. It is what it is,” the former first lady added before going on to argue that all the reasons she outlined show why Americans need to vote for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November.
“So 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,” she said. “If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.”
Sanders and Kasich Share Competing Messages
Some of the other most talked-about speeches of the night were delivered by political figures who are less politically aligned with Biden.
In addition to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) giving his highly anticipated address, multiple Republicans also called on their party to reject Trump, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. While both Sanders and Kasich spoke about putting aside their political differences with Biden to defeat Trump, both seemed to describe two very different Bidens.
Sanders, for his part, appealed to his supporters by trying to paint Biden as someone who has adopted some of the progressive policies he supports, starting off his speech by talking about how some of his views had become more mainstream in recent months.
“Our campaign ended several months ago, but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day,” he said. “Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered ‘radical,’ are now mainstream. But let us be clear. If Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.”
Sanders also listed a number of Biden’s policies he said are examples of how the former vice president would move the progressive agenda forward, including raising the minimum wage, making it easier for workers to join unions, fighting climate change, and reforming the criminal justice system, among other things.
Notably, Sanders’ most significant remarks actually came the day before he spoke at the convention. During an interview on “Meet the Press,” the self-described Democratic Socialist said he was confident that progressives would be able to influence Biden’s policies if he won.
“What I will credit strongly the Biden campaign for is that Joe and I talked about this and he and I agreed that we should have task forces dealing with some of the major issues facing this country,” he said.
“But I think if people look at the outcome of those task forces, they’ll find the reality that if those task force proposals are implemented, you know what, Joe Biden will become the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”
In his convention speech, Kasich went the opposite way, emphasizing his Republican roots and presenting Biden as someone who Republicans and conservative Independents could vote for because he would not be influenced by those same progressive ideas.
“I’m a lifelong Republican. That attachment holds second place to my responsibility to country,” he said. “I’ve known Joe Biden for 30 years. I know his story of profound grief that is so deeply affected his character joins a good man. A man of faith. A unifier. Someone who understands the hopes and dreams of the common man and the common woman.”
“I’m sure there are Republicans and independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” he continued. “They believe he may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that. I know the measure of the man. Reasonable. Faithful, respectful and no one pushes Joe around.”
These two very different and contradictory narratives raise some important questions about Biden’s campaign. Currently, it is unclear if the former vice president will try to appeal to progressives like Sanders’ base, court conservatives who may have voted for Trump before but now are dissatisfied, or try to straddle a middle ground.
Regardless, this is likely something Biden will have to address, and soon, because if he leans too far one way, he risks alienating one of those groups, and both could be essential to sway the election.
Other Notable Moments
While political figures headlined the first day of the convention, some of the most notable moments of the nights came from remarks made by everyday people.
One now-viral clip came from a woman named Kristin Urquiza, whose father was a Trump supporter who died of coronavirus in Arizona this summer.
“My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t. He had faith in Donald Trump. He voted for him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that coronavirus was under control and going to disappear,” she said.
“So, in late May, after the stay-at-home order was lifted in Arizona, my dad went to a karaoke bar with his friends,” she continued. “A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator. And after five agonizing days, he died alone in the ICU with a nurse holding his hand. My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”
At another moment during the evening, the family of George Floyd, specifically his brother, Philonise Floyd, spoke about the nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality before asking for a moment of silence.
“It’s a fitting legacy for our brother, but George should be alive today,” he said. “Breonna Taylor should be alive today. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today. Eric Garner should be alive today. Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland– they should all be alive today. So it’s up to us to carry on the fight for justice. Our actions will be their legacies.”
With three more days of the Democratic National Convention to go and the Republican National Convention slotted for next week, Trump has been going on the offensive.
In addition to scheduling multiple campaign events in battleground states in an attempt to counterprogram the convention, Trump has also responded to the Democratic event by targeting both individual speakers and the party as a whole.
Before Kasich gave his speech, the president sought to undermine him by personally attacking his character.
“He was a loser as a Republican, and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat,” Trump told reporters. “Major loser as a Republican. I guess you can quote me on that. John was a loser as a Republican. Never even came close. And as a Democrat he’ll be an even greater loser.”
The president also went after the former first lady on Tuesday.
“She was over her head,” he said, using the same words she used to describe him in her speech. “And frankly, she should have made the speech live, which she didn’t do. She taped it. … If you gave a real review, it wouldn’t be so fawning. I thought it was a very divisive speech, extremely divisive.”
Both the president and his campaign have also gone after Democrats more broadly by continuing their efforts to present them as radical and far left.
“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,” Trump’s campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said statement Monday.
Trump himself also made similar remarks during a campaign rally in Wisconsin the same day.
“You want to crush our economy. Under the crazy socialist policies of Sleepy Joe Biden and his boss, Kamala Harris — Kamala — and his other boss, Nancy Pelosi — she’s a beauty — and his ruler, Bernie Sanders, Crazy Bernie, or do you want to quickly rebuild the strongest economy in the history of the world?” he said.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Survives Recall
Experts say the outcome should act as a warning for Republicans who tie themselves to former President Donald Trump and attempt to undermine election results by promoting false voter fraud claims.
Recall Effort Fails
After seven months and an estimated $276 million in taxpayer money, the Republican-led effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) failed Tuesday.
Just under 70% of the votes have been reported as of Wednesday morning, showing that “no” on the recall received 63.9% of the vote. That’s nearly twice as many votes as “yes,” which had 36.1%.
According to The Washington Post, even if the margin narrows as more votes are counted, this still marks one of the biggest rejections of any recall effort in America over the last century.
Analysts say the historic rebuke was driven by high Democratic turnout and broader fears over resurging COVID cases.
While the Delta variant continues to push new infections to record highs in many parts of the country with lax mask rules and low vaccination rates, California, once a global epicenter of the pandemic, now has one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest new caseloads in the nation.
Newsom has continually tried to convince voters that those figures are the results of his vaccine and masking policies, which have been some of the most aggressive in the U.S.
Given that polls showed the pandemic was the top concern for California voters, it is clear that the majority favored his policies over those of his competitors. Larry Elder, the Republican talk radio host of led the field of 46 challengers, ran on a platform of getting rid of essentially all COVID restrictions.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Newsom painted the recall’s failure not only as a win for Democratic coronavirus policies but also for Democracy at large.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic,” he said. “We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression.”
“I think about just in the last few days and the former president put out saying this election was rigged,” he continued. “Democracy is not a football. You don’t throw it around. That’s more like a, I don’t know, antique vase. You can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up to meet the moment and push back.”
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail, we may have defeated Trump, but Trump-ism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country.”
A Warning for Republicans
Newsom’s remarks took aim at the efforts by Elder and other Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — who over the last week have claimed falsely and without evidence that voter fraud helped secured the governor’s win before Election Day even took place.
While it is currently unknown whether that narrative may have prompted more Republican voters to stay home, Newsom’s effort to cast Edler as a Trump-like candidate and the recall as an undemocratic, Republican power grab appears to have been effective.
Now, political strategists say that the outcome of the recall should serve as a warning that Republicans who pin themselves to Trump and his Big Lie playbook may be hurt more in certain states.
“The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office,” The New York Times explained.
Even outside of a strongly blue state like California, analysts say this strategy will also be effective with similar candidates in battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, which will be essential to deciding control of the Senate.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Justice Department Sues Texas Over Abortion Ban
The department claims the Texas law violates past Supreme Court precedents on abortion and infringes on Constitutional protections.
Biden Administration Takes Aim at Texas Law
The Department of Justice sued Texas on Thursday in an attempt to block the state’s newly enacted law that effectively prohibits all abortions by banning the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The abortion law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a person terminate their pregnancy after six weeks.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it violates past Supreme Court precedents through a technical loophole.
While numerous other states have passed similar laws banning abortion after about six weeks, federal judges have struck down those measures on the grounds that they are inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that states cannot prevent someone from seeking an abortion before a fetus can viably live outside the womb, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.
The Texas law, however, skirts the high court decisions by deputizing citizens to enforce the law rather than state government officials, taking the state out of the equation entirely and protecting it from legal responsibility.
Individuals who do so do not have to prove any personal injury or connection to those they take legal action against, which can range from abortion providers to rideshare drivers who take someone to a clinic.
If their lawsuit is successful, the citizen is entitled to a $10,000 award.
DOJ Lawsuit Targets Constitutionality
During a press conference detailing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland referred to the enforcement mechanism as “an unprecedented” effort with the “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” to prevent Texans from their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Garland said, adding that the provision of the law allowing civilians “to serve as bounty hunters” may become “a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
The Justice Department argued that the Texas policy violates equal protection guarantees under the 14th Amendment as well as the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which establishes that the Constitution and federal law generally take precedence over state law.
The lawsuit also claimed that the law interferes with the constitutional obligation of federal employees to provide access to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, to people who are under the care of federal agencies or contractors such as those in prisons.
Both Sides See Path to Supreme Court
While proponents of abortion rights applauded the Justice Department’s legal challenge, officials in Texas defended the law and accused the Biden administration of filing the lawsuit for political reasons.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), said in a statement.
“We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”
The DOJ’s suit will now be decided by a federal judge for the Western District of Texas, based in Austin.
Depending on how that court rules, either opponents or supporters of the abortion ban are expected to appeal the case, sending it to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and likely ultimately placing the matter before the Supreme Court again in a matter of months.
The Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect by declining to approve an emergency petition to block the measure last week, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of the policy.
As a result, the Justice Department’s legal challenge could force the high court to hear another facet of the law that it has not yet considered if it decides to see the case.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Texas Tribune)
Texas Governor Says Rape Victims Aren’t Forced To Give Birth Because They Have 6 Weeks To Get an Abortion
The governor also defended the six-week abortion ban’s lack of exceptions for rape and incest by saying the state will “eliminate all rapists.”
Abbott Defends Texas Abortion Law
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday defended the state’s new controversial law that bans abortion after six weeks, before many know they are pregnant, after facing criticism that the policy does not provide exceptions for rape and incest.
During a press conference, Abbott refuted a reporter’s assertion that the law forced victims of rape and incest to carry their pregnancies to term, claiming that it “provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”
“Let’s make something very clear: Rape is a crime,” the governor continued.
“And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
Backlash Over Remarks on Abortions at Six Week
Abbott’s claim that rape victims would still have plenty of time to get an abortion was widely criticized by many, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who called his remarks “disgusting” in a now-viral interview on CNN,
“I don’t know if he is familiar with a menstruating person’s body. In fact, I do know that he’s not familiar with a female or menstruating person’s body because if he did, he would know that you don’t have six weeks,” she said.
“But in case no one has informed him before in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “Two weeks late for your period for any person, any person with a menstrual cycle, can happen if you’re stressed, if your diet changes, or for really no reason at all.”
Those comments were echoed by a lot of other people who pointed to data from Planned Parenthood that said 85-90% of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into their pregnancy.
Critics Note Flaws in Abbott’s Claims About Rapists
Many also took aim at Abbott’s claim that he was going to “eliminate all rapists” by mocking the governor.
“Wait. Governor Abbott had a solution to end all RAPE and he sat on it until now?” Texas State Representative Gene Wu (D) tweeted.
Others argued that historical evidence proves Abbott’s promise was ignorant.
According to data from the Justice Department analyzed by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), only 1 out of every 3 rapes and sexual assaults are reported.
Out of every 1,000 assaults, only 50 lead to arrest, and only 25 lead to incarceration, meaning that more than 97% of people who commit assault walk free.
Some critics also said that Abbott’s goal of getting rid of “all rapists” relied on a faulty conception of who actually perpetrates sexual crimes.
“The majority of people who are raped and who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone who they know,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN. “And these aren’t just predators that are walking around the streets at night. They are people’s uncles, they are teachers, they are family friends.”
“And when something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward,” she added. “And second of all, when a victim comes forward they don’t necessarily want to bring their case into the carceral system.”