Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered an impassioned plea to Americans Thursday night to see the country as more than just a clash of different interests and to unite with hope, love, and light to “protect America.”
“With passion and purpose, let us begin — you and I together, one nation, under God — united in our love for America and united in our love for each other,” said Biden in his 21-minute acceptance speech. “Love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. This is our moment. This is our mission. And may history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation.”
And thus concluded the 2020 Democratic National Convention, an “unconventional convention” that — because of the seriousness of the current coronavirus pandemic in the United States — required a re-invention of the longstanding ritual of American political convention.
Instead of a mass gathering of the party faithful in one city, the convention relied on multiple ways for communicating remotely — Zoom sessions, video interviews, broadcasts and webstreams, ending on Biden’s speech from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
“I think Vice President Biden met the moment tonight and part of that was understanding the urgency of this moment, these multiple crises that didn’t have to be that way,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), during a post-convention interview on MSNBC. “And I think that, while we were disappointed not to have the convention in Milwaukee live, it’s clear he does understand the gravity and the seriousness of the moment because you can’t safely convene 50,000 people in a city…”
Baldwin said the coronavirus epidemic in Wisconsin is “getting worse, not better” because of President Trump’s “utter failure.”
Baldwin was part of the convention line-up of speakers on the last night of the convention, as was another high-profile openly gay elected official: former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Both were given time-slots in the very prominent second half of the two-hour broadcast, just prior to the grand finale of Biden’s acceptance speech.
There was nothing in the introduction of Senator Baldwin or in her remarks that identified her as the first openly gay person to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Baldwin told her personal story of being very sick as a 9-year-old, growing up in the care of her grandparents, who had no health insurance. She used the story to illustrate the importance of the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislation passed under President Obama and Vice President Biden — legislation that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Buttigieg used his time to share his story, too. Following a video recounting the life of Biden’s late son Beau, who served as a member of the National Guard in Iraq, Buttigieg noted that he also served in the military, in Afghanistan. He said he grew up at a time when “firing me because of who I am wasn’t just possible — it was policy.”
“Now in 2020, it is unlawful in America to fire anyone because of who they are or who they love,” said Buttigieg. “The very ring on my finger reflects how this country can change. Love makes my marriage real, but political courage made it possible — including that [courage] of Joe Biden, who stepped out ahead of even this party when he said that marriage equality should be the law of the land.”
Buttigieg’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination reflected how much the country can change, too.
“The day I was born, close to where I’m standing here in South Bend,” said Buttigieg, during his convention speech, “the idea of an ‘out’ candidate seeking any federal office at all was laughable. Yet earlier this year, I campaigned for the presidency, often with my husband at my side, winning delegates to this very convention.
“Now,” said Buttigieg, “I proudly support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”
Two other openly LGBT people were briefly highlighted during the last night of the convention. One was Virginia Delegate Danica Roem, the first transgender person to win office in that state. Roem spoke as part of a video of various people — famous and obscure — expressing what they hope the nation will be like “this time next year.” Roem said she hopes there will be a president who can look at a transgender woman in the eyes and “tell her her rights are important.” The other was openly gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who said he hopes there will be “comprehensive immigration reform.”
Comedic actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, star of the HBO series “Veep”, served as emcee for the last night of the convention and made clear immediately that she would be irreverent in her approach to the gig. Throughout the evening, she delivered many zingers aimed directly at the Trump administration.
The event’s invocation was delivered by Sister Simone Campbell of “Nuns on the Bus,” a Catholic social justice group that has supported respect for same-sex marriage. Campbell herself has spoken in support of the federal Equality Act, which seeks to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
And presidential historian Jon Meacham, who spoke about the struggle for the “soul of America,” included Stonewall, along with Seneca Falls and Selma, as being struggles that “dwell in the American soul.”
“In its finest hours,” he said, “America’s soul has been animated by the proposition that we are all created equal, and by the imperative to be sure that we are treated equally.”
Lisa Keen is the Chief Correspondent for Keen News Service, a professional news organization specializing in national political and legal news that involves or affects gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.