The Night of the Coalition

Welcome to a convention recap edition of On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics.

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Political conventions are prolonged, four-night pep rallies with one big goal: pitch the ticket to the broadest possible expanse of the electorate and build a coalition that can win in November.

On Monday, Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, set about healing any wounds within his base. On Tuesday, the focus was on appealing to older, more moderate voters, using G.O.P. statesmen like Colin Powell and John McCain (in a video tribute) to appeal to Republicans, and party elders like John Kerry and Bill Clinton to tie Joe Biden to some lifelong moderate Democrats.

But Wednesday was about the backbone of the modern Democratic Party: younger voters, Black voters, Latino voters and women, the voters who have delivered for Democrats in the Trump era and who have infused the party with new energy around social justice.

The two marquee speakers — barrier-breaking Black politicians themselves — both spoke about racism in a direct manner rarely heard at a party convention.

“Let’s be clear — there is no vaccine for racism,” said Senator Kamala Harris, officially accepting the vice-presidential nomination. Naming victims of police violence, she added: “We’ve got to do the work. For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For the lives of too many others to name. For our children. For all of us.”

Ms. Harris, the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to join a major party’s presidential ticket, also noted the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment and women’s suffrage.

“We celebrate the women who fought for that right. Yet so many of the Black women who helped secure that victory were still prohibited from voting, long after its ratification,” Ms. Harris said. “But they were undeterred.”

Former President Barack Obama, delivering his first truly searing indictment of the Trump administration since leaving the White House, sought to appeal to the same diverse coalition that first propelled him to the presidency 12 years ago. He said he understood the political disillusionment shared among people like white factory workers, Black mothers, new immigrants and young people.

And he encouraged the young people who took to the streets this summer to protest racial injustice, telling them that “in so many ways, you are this country’s dreams fulfilled.”

The evening’s slate of speakers was filled almost completely by women; the only men with extended speaking time were Mr. Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Speaker Nancy Pelosi preceded the night’s two headliners.

Critics have noted the relatively small presence of Latino speakers at the convention, a shortage seen as particularly ill-suited for a party that is assailing the Trump administration over its immigration policies, including separating families at the border.

On Wednesday, however, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, one of the nation’s highest-profile Latina elected officials, opened a discussion on climate change. Immigrant families shared their stories of hardship. An open letter from immigrants included a blunt message: “Mr. President, you tore our world apart.”

Silvia Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant in North Carolina who appeared before the 2012 convention to discuss her family’s financial struggles, returned, this time with her daughters Jessica and Lucy, to talk about the need to extend protections for “Dreamers.”

Of course, the Biden campaign doesn’t just want to reward and fire up the most loyal Democratic voters of the Trump era; it wants them to cast ballots. There were many appeals on Wednesday to join the campaign’s texting operation with a single word: “Vote.”

And tonight, Mr. Biden will take the stage to accept his nomination — and try to tie this coalition together.

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The first two nights of the Democratic convention offered numerous testimonials about Mr. Biden’s core humanity, and about why this election is — for Democrats, at least — more urgent than ever before.

But for most of the first hour of Wednesday’s program, policy discussions returned, focusing on issues that party officials said were aimed at energizing young voters. They were presented in a way that played to the strengths of an all-virtual convention.

Gone were lengthy speeches ticking off the numbers behind a policy plan. In their place were polished videos and succinct appeals.

A video segment about gun control mixed together clips of students protesting inaction after school shootings and tearful memorials from mothers who had lost children to gun violence. Then came a moving speech from former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head nearly a decade ago in an assassination attempt and whose speech has been impaired ever since.

“Words once came easily, but today I struggle to speak. But I have not lost my voice,” Ms. Giffords said, after a video was shown of her practicing her remarks. “America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words. We are at a crossroads. We can let the shooting continue, or we can act.”

Following Ms. Giffords was a segment on climate change, an area where Democratic operatives say the Biden campaign’s platform could help energize younger voters. To make that case more explicitly, convention organizers turned to teenage climate activists.

“I’m asking you to join us,” said Alexandria Villaseñor, 15, one of several climate activists who sold Mr. Biden’s agenda.

And Billie Eilish, the 18-year-old megastar musician, spoke about the importance of climate change before performing her song, aptly titled “My Future.”


  • Here’s our recap article from the front page of the newspaper, from Lisa Lerer and Astead Herndon, covering Ms. Harris’s nomination and Mr. Obama’s searing speech.

  • Our news analysis on Ms. Harris’s moment in the spotlight: “Pressures, hopes, aspirations — this was the burden on Ms. Harris at the Democratic convention.”

  • The selection of Ms. Harris is testing America’s relationship to women in power, Amanda Hess writes in a political memo.

  • Here are the videos and transcripts of the speeches by Ms. Harris and Mr. Obama.


Another member of “The Postal Service” endorses Joe Biden.


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