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Highlights From Night 1 of the Democratic National Convention

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  • 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.”

Trump’s Response

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)

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Virginia Governor’s Tip Line to Report Teachers Spammed by Trolls

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The tip line was created for parents to report educators who violate the governor’s new executive orders banning critical race theory and making masking optional.


Youngkin’s Controversial Policies

Celebrities, TikTok activists, and other social media users have been spamming an email tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) intended for parents to report teachers and “divisive practices in their schools.”

The tip line was implemented after the new governor enacted several highly controversial policies targeted at public schools in the weeks since taking office.

On his first day, Youngkin signed an executive order banning so-called critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in public schools. CRT, which is largely taught in higher education institutions, is not included in Virginia’s curriculum standards. As a result, many educators and scholars have expressed concerns that the policy will be used to broadly restrict the accurate teaching of history.

Shortly after imposing the CRT ban, Youngkin further angered educators by signing an executive order making masking optional in schools. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post, the majority of Virginia schools enrolling two-thirds of all students have actively disobeyed the order.

The email tip line, introduced Monday, is intended to report educators and schools that do not follow Youngkin’s policies.

Calls to Spam Tip Line

The tattle-on-a-teacher tip line prompted widespread criticism. Many people took to Twitter to urge other users to spam the email, including major names with massive followings, like musician John Legend.

“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced. We are parents too,” he tweeted. 

Several TikTok activists also encouraged their followers to bomb the tip line as well, including 21-year-old Sofia Ongele, who even launched a website that automatically generates emails to send to the line that include the name of a public school in Virginia and lyrics to a pop song.

Ongele told Insider that, so far, the website has gotten a lot of traffic, attracting about 1,500 people every 30 minutes.

These efforts are not the first time social media users, and specifically young TikTokers, have encouraged others to troll a tip line set up by conservative figures. In September, TikTokers also sent fake reports, porn, and Shrek memes to a tip line intended to report people who violated Texas’ six-week abortion ban.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Insider) (WDBJ7)

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Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering

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The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.


Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map

A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.   

In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.

“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”

As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.

Ongoing Legal Battles

Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.” 

According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.

The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.

Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.

The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC

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The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.


SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.

The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.

The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.

The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.

In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.

The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.

Past Precedent Up in the Air

Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.

But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.

The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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