A day before Joe Biden is set to officially accept the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and other party heavy hitters repeatedly emphasized a message on race and identity on the penultimate night of the convention.
Making history as the first Black woman on a major party national ticket, Harris sought to show she’s more than the designated attacker of Joe Biden’s campaign.
During her speech, Harris showed flashes of the toughness she displayed as a former prosecutor and aggressive questioner on Capitol Hill. But her angle Wednesday seemed aimed more at broadly complementing arguments Biden was making well before Harris joined the ticket.
She excoriated Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but noted that the virus has only exacerbated deeply rooted problems in America.
“While this virus touches us all, let’s be honest, it is not an equal opportunity offender. Black, Latino and Indigenous people are suffering and dying disproportionately,” she said. “This is not a coincidence. It is the effect of structural racism.”
She added: “Let’s be clear—there is no vaccine for racism. We’ve got to do the work. For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For the lives of too many others to name. For our children. For all of us. We’ve got to do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because, none of us are free…until all of us are free.”
Harris wasn’t the only speaker of the night to make racial injustice a major part of her speech.
With the effects of widespread protests following the police-involved death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor still reverberating across the country, along with the recent passing of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, Wednesday became a night where Democrats both celebrated the advances the country has made and mourned for the progress still needed.
“Some years ago, I sat down with John and the few remaining leaders of the early Civil Rights Movement. One of them told me he never imagined he’d walk into the White House and see a president who looked like his grandson,” former President Barack Obama said in his remarks. “Then he told me that he’d looked it up, and it turned out that on the very day that I was born, he was marching into a jail cell, trying to end Jim Crow segregation in the South.”
He added: “What we do echoes through the generations.”
Wednesday night’s events also heavily focused on the contributions of women in politics.
Coming just a day after the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote, Wednesday’s speakers included the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi of California, its vice presidential nominee, Harris, and its prior presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Pelosi celebrated that women make up nearly a quarter of the House, but she quickly shifted to hitting Trump over missing the moment.
“I’ve seen firsthand Donald Trump’s disrespect for facts, for working families and for women in particular, disrespect written into his policies toward our health and our rights, not just his conduct,” she said.
The first two nights of the convention were hosted by prominent actresses of color and capped by powerful speeches from two famous political spouses, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. Numerous speakers talked about the power of Black women and Latinas.
Several of the women – including Clinton — wore white, the color that honors the women’s suffrage movement. Biden was featured for his work to enact the Violence Against Women Act, with video showing his advocacy and Senate hearings leading up to the 1994 law.
Democrats are increasingly dependent on female voters, as a gender gap grows in U.S. politics. That often helps the party, because there are more women voting than men. And the combination of Trump and the #MeToo movement has turned that gap into a chasm, even with a 77-year-old white man as nominee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.