Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden takes centre-stage

V Nivedita | Updated on August 19, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee and wife Jill Biden are displayed on a video monitor after winning the Democratic nomination during the virtual Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US, on August 18, 2020   -  Bloomberg

Downplays progressive voices, emphasises 'common touch' and healthcare reform

The Democratic Party pulled out some of its big political guns on the second day of its convention, marshalling an array of leaders to amplify its political message as it formally nominated Joe Biden as its Presidential candidate for the 2020 elections. 

The party also chose to showcase its diversity and make a persuasive case for Biden, with speakers emphasising his image as a man of integrity and  honesty and as a good leader.


This is Biden's third run for presidency -- after 1988 and 2008 -- but the first time he is securing the party nomination. 

In a convention that is marked by departure from conventions, given the circumstances imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, one tradition remained unchanged: of past Presidents and senior party officials turning up to back the nominee. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Chuck Schumer and others familiarised audiences with a many-sided view of Biden, particularly focussing on his "average Joe" quality, who stands up for the small guy. 

As happened on the first day of the convention, top Republican leaders like Colin Powell, the retired general and former Secretary of State in the George W Bush administration, and Cindy McCain, the widow of Senator John McCain, came out in support of Biden. 

Focus on healthcare 

The first day's proceedings were primarily focussed on trenchant criticism of US President Donald Trump’s performance in office, particularly his handling of the  coronavirus crisis, but the second night made an attempt to put forward a positive agenda, with a focus on healthcare, a critical concern these days. Biden said he would give top priority to reforming the nation's healthcare system if he was elected President. 

He would, he said, strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he and President Barack Obama helped pass in 2010. He said his plan would protect those with pre-existing conditions and would also provide a Medicare-like option for those who want it.  

The Trump administration has, over the past four years, been looking to actively sabotage the ACA. By contrast, Biden has throughout his campaign, pledged to fortify the ACA to give Americans more choice, reduce costs and to simplify the system. However, this does not satisfy progressives who want to overhaul the health insurance system with the ‘Medicare for All’ plan.

Schumer stressed the need for the Democrats to win both the legislature wings -- the Senate and the House -- in addition to the Presidency, in order to make effective changes to address issues related to healthcare, income inequality and climate change. 

Generational push 

The party may have nominated Biden, 77, this time, but it is actively grooming its next-gen leadership. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams led a session with young lawmakers of the party. This is in line with Biden’s promise to make the party stronger. 

However, a few other stars -- such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- were given marginal roles. In her short speech, she supported former hopeful Bernie Sanders, and said that the progressive movement “to establish 21st-century social, economic and human rights” was under way. Strikingly, Ocasio-Cortez was the only progressive voice of the day; she got less talk time than even Republican Colin Powell. That perhaps says something about the Democratic Party's endeavour to move to the middle of the political stage. 

Published on August 19, 2020

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