(CN) — Pulling together a coalition of progressives and moderates, the Democratic Party Tuesday formally nominated former Vice President Joe Biden as its nominee to run for president against Donald Trump in November.
After a roll call announcing the delegate votes state-by-state, the virtual Democratic National Convention cut to Biden, sitting in a library, holding a mask in his hand as his grandchildren stood behind him. He was invited to address the convention and Biden said he would do so on Thursday.
With a lineup that included two former presidents and state lawmakers, night two of the Democratic convention was billed as one that would highlight the kind of leadership the Democratic Party says it will bring to positions of power — from the White House down.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican breaking with his party, said in a video Biden would “restore America’s leadership and our moral authority.” And former Secretary of State John Kerry said Trump’s foreign policy has isolated the country after the Obama administration had “led by example.”
Speaking in front of a blurry Statute of Liberty, New York Senator Chuck Schumer expanded the idea of leadership past a potential Biden administration and said Democrats had to win the Senate in order to bring changes to the nation.
Kicking off the night, 17 Democrats from around the country split the keynote address. The prerecorded video cut from speaker to speaker until the camera rested on former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who said Biden would back free and fair elections.
“In a democracy, we do not elect saviors,” Abrams said. “We cast our ballots for those who see our struggles and pledge to serve.”
It was one part of the unconventional convention that will formalize the party’s nomination of Biden to challenge incumbent President Donald Trump. The convention was mostly conducted remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic, although its hub is the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Around the country, Democrats tuned in to see how the party plans to crystalize ahead of the race to Election Day.
Rodney Strong, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party in southeast Tennessee, told Courthouse News he planned to turn on CNN as he had on Monday and watch the convention, something he has done since the mid-60s, when there wasn’t much of a choice but to watch it because of the limited number of television channels.
A pledged delegate from southeast Tennessee, Ryan Scofield, voted for Biden by email, sending his three-question ballot to the state party days before the convention. If it were not for the coronavirus, Scofield would have been in Milwaukee but instead he planned to tune into the broadcast on a hotel television in Tampa, Florida.
Virginia Applebaum, an Alabama party leader elected official delegate pledged to Bernie Sanders, told Courthouse News she planned to livestream the events over her Roku and eat a roasted chicken, which was dry brining in her fridge.
And despite recent polling showing Biden supporters trailing in enthusiasm with those of Trump’s, the energy surrounding the socially distanced convention is still palpable, Applebaum said.
“I think we are all pretty excited regardless,” Applebaum said. “It’s been a long four years.”
In a video, former President Jimmy Carter said Biden has the decency and character and is “the right person for this moment in our nation’s history.” He ended his video by saying Biden listened to medical experts and knows lives could be saved from Covid-19 through testing and mask wearing.
Meanwhile, casting the presidential race as a job interview, former President Bill Clinton said Biden had helped lead America back from the Great Recession and he could help bring the country back again.
“If you want a president who defines the job as spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, [Trump’s] your man,” Clinton said. “Denying, distracting, and demeaning works great if you’re trying to entertain and inflame. But in a real crisis, it collapses like a house of cards.”
Rounding out the night, Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, delivered her speech from a classroom at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware, where she used to teach English. These days, she said, the smell of waxed floors and fresh notebooks are gone as students study online.
“With Joe as president, these classrooms will ring out with laughter and possibility once again,” she said.
Pushing back on the idea that America is a divided country with irreconcilable differences, Jill Biden said faith, understanding and kindness were what fixed the Biden family after Joe Biden’s daughter and first wife died in a car collision and they were values that could also fix a nation.
“We have shown that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness and courage,” Jill Biden said.
According to John Rowley, speakers at the convention were fighting against the medium of a virtual convention.
The Nashville-based media consultant who has worked on Democratic political campaigns across the country said the roll call which announced delegate counts from Maine to American Samoa worked well, blending everyday Americans with cameos of politicians such as Sanders, who appeared in the frame when Vermont’s counts were announced. But many speakers struggled to connect, he said.
“Only the virtual convention medium could make Bill Clinton a mere mortal speaker,” Rowley said.
Yet at the same time, Rowley said, the Democratic virtual convention has not been plagued with technical issues, social media outbursts nor any heated exchanges between the progressive and moderate arms of the party.
A convention during a pandemic comes with an adjustment of expectations.
“When you do the convention, you want it to be big spectacle you want the big bump in the polls. Maybe this year it’s … you do a good solid job and you get a double as opposed to a home run,” Rowley said.