What we'll remember from the 2020 Biden convention

What we'll remember from the 2020 Biden convention
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The first-ever all-virtual convention is in the books.

The four nights of programming that made up the 2020 Democratic National Convention clearly lacked some of the energy, spontaneity and unpredictability of in-person conventions that attract thousands of lawmakers, political operatives, grassroots supporters and reporters from across the nation.

The broadcast ratings are down big from 2016 and Democrats are doubtful nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE will get much of a polling bump in the next few days.


But the 2020 Democratic National Convention had its share of content that lit up the internet and moments that will be remembered as significant in the course of the campaign.

Here’s a look back at the some of the most memorable moments:

Biden vows to lead the U.S. out of a “season of darkness.”

Biden’s speech to close out the convention was a good one, earning praise immediately from pundits such as Fox News's Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceSunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Pompeo defends Trump on Russia in Chris Wallace interview Lewandowski says Trump has not spoken to him about being reinstated MORE and CNN's Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperPolice investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide Mississippi governor: Biden goal of 70 percent of US vaccinated by July 4 is 'arbitrary' Energy secretary: Adversaries have capability of shutting down US power grid MORE.

The Democratic nominee spoke for just shy of 25 minutes and repeatedly returned to a theme of drawing the U.S. out of a dark period and into a more hopeful future.

The rhetorical flourishes were nice, as when he talked about leading the U.S. out of a “season of darkness.” But the overall message was a simple one about being a president who will unite a deeply fractured country in the throes of health, economic and racial crises.

Tapper called it one of the best speeches he’d ever seen Biden deliver.


Biden answered any questions about whether he’d be able to meet the moment, sending Democrats out of the convention on a high note.

President Obama’s warning for democracy

Democrats have been eager for the former president to jump into the fray and they were not disappointed.

Obama’s Wednesday night address, filmed from Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution, was unsparing in its critique of President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE.

The former president described his successor as a direct threat to democracy. He accused Trump of fomenting hate and of reducing the U.S. to an embarrassment on the global stage.

The speech was notable for Obama’s grave tone, which stood in contrast to his lighter, happier address to the 2016 convention, a sign Democrats may not have taken Trump’s prospects for election seriously enough at the time.

They’re taking it seriously now.

Trump reacted with fury, taking to Twitter to slam Obama in all-caps tweets. Democrats saw that as mission accomplished.

Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaJill Biden, Kate Middleton to meet this week Jill Biden to focus on military families on foreign trip Book claims Trump believed Democrats would replace Biden with Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama in 2020 election MORE’s fury

The former first lady does not enjoy getting involved in campaign politics — something she reminded viewers of during her Tuesday night speech.

But Obama’s address to close out the first night of the convention was explicitly political.

She lambasted Trump, saying his presidency has been a case study in “chaos division and a total utter lack of empathy.” Obama said the presidency had revealed Trump for who he is — a leader whose words and actions had emboldened “torch-bearing white supremacists.”

Democrats thrilled to the attacks from the former first lady, who has become a pop culture star and one of the most admired women in the country.

Democratic star wattage on display

If there’s one area that Democrats clearly have Republicans beat, it’s with celebrity endorsements.

The party took full advantage, stocking the programming with appearances from top-tier performers.

Billie Eilish blasted Trump in a startlingly blunt direct-to-camera monologue before unveiling her song “My Future.”

Jennifer Hudson performed the Sam Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Folk legend John Prine’s last recorded song was played over a tribute to those who have died from COVID-19. Prine died this year from the disease.

Common and John Legend led a final night tribute to the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisCommemorating Juneteenth: Learn from the past to improve the present and future Joe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill Hundreds in West Virginia protest Manchin's opposition to voting rights legislation MORE (D-Ga.) with "Glory," the Oscar-winner from the movie “Selma.”

Along the way, basketball star Steph Curry and family released a cute and playful endorsement video. Actresses Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria hosted different nights of the convention.


Not all of the celebrity appearances were home runs, however, and Republicans are likely to cast the appearances as evidence of a party out of touch with the country.

The roll call

Democrats took viewers to every state and territory for the roll-call vote to officially nominate Biden for president, revealing colorful characters and backdrops from all over the U.S. and beyond.

The tiny state of Rhode Island made the most of its 30 seconds in the spotlight.

State Democratic Party Chairman Joseph McNamara spoke from the boardwalk in “the Calamari Comeback state of Rhode Island” next to a chef holding a big platter of the appetizer from Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowder House. That made the front page of The Providence Journal.

The roll call was not without controversy. The U.S. Army is investigating the uniformed soldiers that appeared in the American Samoa video, apparently breaking protocols that prohibit military personnel from participating in political events.

Hit-and-miss humor


Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star of “Seinfeld” and “Veep,” hosted the final night of the convention and her comedy received mixed reviews.

The zingers against Trump seemed to clash with the more serious tone of the rest of the convention. Some of the jokes were confusing, such as a bit with 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew YangAndrew YangAdams, Wiley lead field in NYC mayoral primary: poll Republican House campaign arm says it will begin soliciting cryptocurrency donations Five takeaways from the NYC Democratic mayoral debate MORE, in which they repeatedly mispronounced Vice President Pence’s name.

A bit involving Sarah Cooper lip-synching a Trump diatribe got things back on track

Republicans step up for Biden

Biden’s efforts to win over right-leaning independents got a boost from prominent anti-Trump Republicans, who appeared in videos urging conservatives to abandon Trump.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, appearing at a literal crossroads, was the centerpiece.

Cindy McCain, wife of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West Five takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit MORE (R-Ariz.), former Secretary of State Colin PowellColin Luther PowellOvernight Defense: Biden makes his Afghanistan decision Colin Powell on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do' Is nonpartisan effectiveness still possible? MORE, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former Rep. Susan Molinari (N.Y.) also appeared to explain why they’re crossing party lines.

Perhaps the most effective pretaped content featured testimonials from ordinary Americans across the country saying they had voted for Trump in 2016 but would be voting for Biden in 2020.

The final night of the convention featured a 95-year-old World War II veteran and lifelong Republican backing Biden in 2020.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.) seeks to rally progressives

While the Republicans were telling voters they could trust Biden would not tack too far to the left, Sanders sought to convince the left of Biden’s progressive bona fides.

Sanders ticked through all the ways a Biden administration would be the most progressive ever and urged the left to put aside its differences and to unite behind the shared goal of defeating Trump.

Sanders was criticized by some for not being more full-throated in his backing of Clinton. Such critics would have little to point to in this cycle. 

Ocasio-Cortez nominates Sanders for president

Speculation swirled around how Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Ocasio-Cortez, Gillibrand and Moulton call for more high-speed rail funding in infrastructure package Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (D-N.Y.) would use her very brief 60-second slot.

It turns out, she had been tapped to nominate Sanders for president — a formality at a convention for a candidate that has accumulated as many delegates as Sanders did over the course of the primaries.

Some tried to read this as a slight against Biden, but Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter with her trademark intensity to explain that this was not the case.

The Bidens as regular people overcoming tragedies and obstacles

The second night of the Democratic convention sought to cast Biden as a return to normalcy after four years of frenzy around the Trump administration.

Jill Biden played a key role in that effort, recounting the story of how they began dating after Biden’s first wife and daughter were tragically killed in a car accident.

That evening ended with Jill Biden walking through a classroom in Delaware, where she explained her passion for teaching.

Biden would encounter tragedy again in 2015 when his son Beau Biden died of brain cancer. In one poignant moment before Biden addressed the 2020 convention, Democrats played a tape of Beau introducing his father at the 2012 Democratic convention.

Also on the final night of the convention, a video played of Biden discussing his stutter. The segment featured testimony from Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old boy who also has a stutter. Brayden talked about meeting Biden in New Hampshire and the bond they formed over their shared disability.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Monica Lewinsky responds to viral HBO intern's mistake: 'It gets better' Virginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP MORE’s warning

The Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee was there to remind about what happens when Democrats stay home.

Clinton won the national vote by more than 3 million but lost the Electoral College because Democrats turned out in lower numbers than expected in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Clinton urged Democrats not to repeat that mistake in 2020.

The viral attacks against Trump

The virtual convention was heavy on slickly produced, pre-programmed content.

The Democrats got at least a couple of viral segments out of these.

Kristin Urquiza of Arizona talked about how her father, a Trump supporter, did not take the coronavirus seriously because “he had faith in Donald Trump.”

Urquiza’s father died of the virus several weeks after going to a bar with his friends.

“His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life,” Urquiza said.

A different video featured an open letter to Trump by an 11-year-old girl named Estela Juarez, whose mother came to the U.S. as a teenager and married a U.S. Marine who voted for Trump in 2016.

Juarez said her mother was deported after Trump became president.

“Every day that passes, you deport more moms and dads and take them away from kids like me,” Juarez said.

Meet the veep

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation Watch live: Harris delivers remarks on vaccination efforts Biden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' MORE (D-Calif.) got her big official rollout on Wednesday night, when she bookended the programming.

Harris opened the evening with a plea for Democrats to get out and vote.

The Biden campaign put together a glossy promotional video ahead of her speech.

Harris closed out the night with an address in which she hit Trump at times but also focused on her personal biography and how she and Biden would build a “beloved community.”

Racial justice on display

The Democrats sought to make the case that Biden is the candidate who can unite a country bedeviled by racial turmoil.

The family of George Floyd led a moment of silence on the convention’s first night.

Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd spoke stirringly about standing up for the victims of police violence who “we do not know, the faces we will never see, those we can’t mourn because their murders didn’t go viral.”