Democratic Convention 2020

Democratic Convention Recap: Biden and Harris Vow To Make Government Even Bigger

We suffered through it so you didn't have to.


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The Democratic Party just hosted its first-ever virtual national convention, where it nominated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president. The goal of the four-day event was to unify the party's moderates and progressives by focusing on President Donald Trump's moral and political failings. 

But despite all the talk of change, it was clear that after four years of rising walls, spiraling debt, and rule by executive order, the Democrats are resolved to stay the course and continue expanding the size and scope of the federal government.

Biden blasted the Trump administration for its disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic and pledged to institute a national mask mandate; the rest of his plan was short on specifics. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose decision to return elderly people infected with COVID-19 to nursing homes led to thousands of deaths, was summoned to provide the party's vision for responsible leadership.

The Democrats sought to exploit the coronavirus to justify bigger government—what they call "bold" federal action. They pledged strong gun control measures to respond to an "epidemic of gun violence," even though the gun homicide rate today is half what it was in the early '90s.

They promised that a Biden-Harris administration would address systemic racial bias and reform a criminal justice system that, ironically, Biden played a lead role in creating. But the speeches were short on specifics about what a Democratic White House would actually do to reverse the impact of laws like the 1994 crime bill, which Biden defended all the way up until the beginning of his presidential campaign last year. 

The party did offer numerous proposals for new government mandates and increased spending on social programs to fight racial and wealth inequality. It also tied social justice issues to Biden's $2 trillion plan to address climate change, which he's selling as a form of economic stimulus—even as the federal debt just climbed above 100 percent of gross domestic product.

Similar to Trump, Biden promises to move jobs back to the U.S. And though former President Bill Clinton attacked Trump's tariffs on China, Biden hasn't committed to repealing those tariffs if elected.

A major theme was Trump's incompetence, divisiveness, and general inability to rise to the challenges he has confronted. Convention organizers sought to convince voters that Joe Biden would bring back decency and the pre-Trump normal. 

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the Democrats' most visible critic of our endless wars, wasn't invited, but former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who alongside Biden helped make the case for the Iraq War, delivered a speech. He argued that a Biden administration would bring back the glory days of America projecting its power around the globe.

Hillary Clinton called Trump's concerns about vote-by-mail fraud a conspiracy theory, and then repeated one of her own, claiming that it wasn't her fault she lost the election: Russia stole it away. 

Even if you're disaffected with 2-party politics-as-normal, even if you find the major candidates unacceptable election after election, the 2020 Democratic National Convention was designed to convince you that you can create change at the polls this time for real, and that voting is not just your right but your responsibility—just as long as you vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Written and edited by Justin Monticello. Graphics by Isaac Reese and Meredith Bragg. Research by Regan Taylor. Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Music: Lance Conrad and Russo.

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