MILWAUKEE • US Democrats opened their nominating convention on Monday with a show of unity behind Joe Biden and former first lady Michelle Obama, delivering a scathing rebuke of US President Donald Trump as she urged voters to reject his politics of “division”.
“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” Barack Obama’s wife said in a keynote speech on the first night of the convention that has shifted entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership, or consolation, or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division and a total and utter lack of empathy.”
The pre-taped remarks came as unprecedented criticism by a former first lady of a sitting US president, painting him as a man who lacks the competence, character or decency for the job.
It was a potent message for voters who tuned in unsure of what to expect from a virtual convention that lacked the showstopping pizzazz and stagecraft of a live event.
With the Democratic Party poised to officially anoint the 77-year-old Biden as its nominee, Trump defied coronavirus concerns and staged a competing event in Wisconsin, the state where Democrats were supposed to hold their in-person convention.
The carefully choreographed opening for the four-day unifying gathering featured actress Eva Longoria as convention moderator.
“Every four years, we come together to reaffirm our democracy,” she said. “This year, we’ve come to save it.”
Dozens of speakers, including a host of Republicans opposed to Trump, offered a similar message.
Michelle also took pains to describe Biden as a “terrific VP” she grew to know well during the eight years he served as her husband’s No 2.
“He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country,” she added.
Biden “will tell the truth, and trust science”, she said in a jab at Trump, who has been accused of repeatedly ignoring the advice of his scientific advisors on how to respond to the pandemic.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who challenged Biden for the nomination from the progressive
left, also addressed the convention by videolink, and warned that Trump is “leading us down the path of authoritarianism”.
“The future of our democracy is at stake”, and electing Biden over Trump is an absolute necessity, he stressed.
“My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.”
Trump flew on Air Force One, meanwhile, to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and delivered remarks to supporters gathered on the airport tarmac.
He accused Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris of seek- ing to enact “crazy socialist policies” and warned the 2020 election will be “the most dangerous” ever.
The Democratic convention is taking place amid a furore over Trump’s own efforts to limit mail-in voting.
Insisting without proof that it fosters fraud, Trump has threatened to block extra funding that Democrats say is urgently needed to allow the US Postal Service to process millions of ballots.
Michelle addressed the controversy in her remarks, warning that Trump and Republicans were “lying about the security of our ballots”.
While some speeches on Monday were clearly pre-taped, Biden and Harris, 55, will address the convention live via videolink, according to the campaign.
Biden, whose poll leads over Trump remain significant, despite a slight tightening of the race, is hoping Harris — the first woman of colour on a major party’s presidential ticket — will invigorate Democrats. — AFP