In the final night of the Democratic Nominating Convention, the Democrats appeared united, hostess Julia Louis-Dreyfus dared to joke and Joe Biden accepted his party’s nomination in what will go down as a big moment in American history.
Here’s what you missed.
Biden gets his moment, decades in the making
After four decades in politics, two failed campaigns (1988 and 2008) and one that never got started because of tragedy (2016), Biden delivered the most important speech of his career to date by formally accepting the Democratic nomination.
He started with a quote from a human rights activist, “give people light and they will find the way”, and used light vs dark to guide his ideas from there.
“This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme, with passion and purpose. Let us begin, you and I together. One nation, under God. United in our love for America. United in our love for each other,” he said.
The speech, missing a crowd, missing generous applause breaks and missing much of the soaring rhetoric and pageantry traditionally found at American political conventions, is probably never how Biden imagined it would happen. He recognised it in his address.
“No generation ever knows what history will ask of it. All we can ever know is whether we’ll be ready when that moment arrives. And now history has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced. Four historic crises. All at the same time. A perfect storm,” Biden said.
But in the face of attacks about his mental fitness from his opponent, it was delivered in a way that indicated he’d been waiting a very long time to give this specific speech, something noted even by the conservative Fox News in the aftermath.
We don’t know if Biden will ever get his traditional convention acceptance speech. He’s got to win an election first. And he’s not yet committed to seeking a second term even if he does.
But in this speech calling on Americans to seize the “moment”, he finally got his own as well.
A promise on coronavirus was key
The former vice-president drew on his own experiences with loss and grief to make sharp, specific points about Trump’s handling of coronavirus.
“He keeps waiting for a miracle. I have news for him. No miracle is coming. We lead the world in confirmed cases. We lead the world in death. Our economy is in tatters,” Biden said.
He then spent nearly a minute listing measures like manufacturing protective equipment, investing in rapid testing, implementing a national mask mandate and amplifying the advice of public health experts over misinformation.
He promised, above all else, to protect America from attacks seen and unforeseen.
Biden also addressed the survivors of loved ones directly, connecting America’s greatest crisis to its greatest ideals.
“I know how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens in the middle of your chest and you feel as if you are sucked in. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.”
He finished his speech by hugging his wife, re-applying his mask and leaving an empty stadium behind.
A ‘Veep’ almost stole the show from the veep
Officially, the 2020 White House Correspondents Dinner is cancelled.
Nobody told Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the celebrity host of the final night of the Convention.
From the moment she hit the screen, the Veep star (who actually has past friendship with Biden) started dropping jokes that would normally be found at the traditional comedy roast of the president that Donald Trump has shunned since assuming the presidency.
“I’m proud to be a nasty, nasty woman. You know, when Donald Trump spoke at his inauguration about American carnage, I assumed that was something he was against, not a campaign promise,” she said.
She even got one step ahead of the President, inviting criticism on Twitter:
“I couldn’t be prouder … to be a “patriotic Democrat — or as Donald Trump will call me in a tweet tomorrow, ‘a washed-up, horse-face, no-talent has-been with low ratings’.
Family was front and centre (during primetime, no less)
It was the death of his son Beau, who died of brain cancer, that kept Biden out of the presidential race in 2016, when his role as Obama’s vice-president might have given him an edge.
So it’s no small coincidence that the second half of the day’s program was packed with moments speaking to the importance of family.
There was joy, when an NBA star interviewed his primary-school-aged children about the White House.
And there was pain, with a sizable chunk of the primetime spot dedicated to the sacrifices made by military families.
During his acceptance speech, Biden spoke about his family as a foundational part of his character.
“I will have the strength that can only come from family. Hunter, Ashley and all our grandchildren, my brothers, my sister. They give me courage and lift me up.
“And while he is no longer with us, Beau inspires me every day.”
In 2020, hundreds of thousands of Americans are also losing loved ones to an illness. Millions more are physically separated from their families or struggling to provide for their children.
The family theme of the night was more evidence of the bet from the Biden campaign that Americans aren’t interested in politics as usual.
Democrats say they are united and they’re going to tell you. Again and again
One word featured on every single evening of the Democratic Convention — unity.
And tonight more than others, Democrats told the audience tuning in that they were united behind Joe Biden.
Before Biden hit the stage, there was a light-hearted chat with several of the candidates he vanquished on the way to claiming the nomination, including Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Cory Booker, the host of the chat, joked that it was like a chat with the people who had been “voted off the island”.
All of them had one mission — talk up Biden.
This virtual convention didn’t allow many moments for mischief, but that didn’t mean it was totally sanitised, with Senator Sanders speaking out in an interview before the final night about the lack of progressive voices that were invited to speak.
But this convention was a far cry from 2016, which was marred by sit-in protests and booing from the convention floor.
And despite their policy differences, the thing that has united Democratic voices in 2020 was made obvious again and again: the desire to defeat Donald Trump.