(CN) — Saying she stood on the shoulders of her mother and the women who achieved the right to vote 100 years before, Senator Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic party’s official nomination for vice president Wednesday night.
The third woman running for that office, Harris is also the first Black and Asian American to seek that position as well on a major-party ticket.
The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, the former California attorney general said her mother came to this country as a teen dreaming to cure cancer but died from the disease.
“She probably could have never imagined that I would be standing before you now speaking these words: I accept your nomination for Vice President of the United States of America. I do so, committed to the values she taught me,” Harris said.
Harris delivered her address on the third night of the socially distanced Democratic National Convention from Wilmington, Delaware, and used it to walk through her background while drawing distinctions between the Democrats’ 2020 ticket and the incumbent administration.
Harris said the country is at an “inflection point” where there is a vision of the country as a welcoming community that treats everyone with respect and dignity.
“Today, that country feels distant,” Harris said. “Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods.”
During her speech, she touted her experience as a prosecutor, taking legal proceedings to banks, transnational criminal activity and “one of the biggest for-profit colleges.”
“I know a predator when I see one,” Harris said.
During Harris’ speech, President Donald Trump took to twitter to allude to the early debates among Democratic candidates when Harris took aim at Biden.
“BUT DIDN’T SHE CALL HIM A RACIST??? DIDN’T SHE SAY HE WAS INCOMPETENT???” Trump wrote.
Speakers at the socially distanced convention did not advocate for a reset to a time four years before the Trump administration, but advance policy proposals such as confronting climate change and reducing gun violence.
The night began with videos of activists affected by gun violence. It included a video of Gabby Giffords, former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in 2011, that showed her playing the French horn and working on the delivery of her speech.
“I put one foot in front of the other. I found one word and then I found another,” said Giffords, who dealt with paralysis and aphasia after the shooting.
“We can let the shooting continue or we can act,” she said in her pitch for Biden.
Standing before solar panels, Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham added to the convention’s messaging on climate change when she said time was running out to address two existential crises: Trump and the “environmental annihilation he represents.”
“While the Trump administration has been rolling back environmental protections, we’ve been expanding them,” the governor said.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, speaking from an early childhood education center in Springfield, Massachusetts, said the Biden-Harris plan of universal preschool and affordable childcare is an economic issue.
“We build infrastructure like roads, bridges and communications systems so that people can work. … It’s time to recognize that childcare is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation — it’s infrastructure for families,” Warren said.
Behind Warren’s left shoulder three letters stood in the wooden cubbies along the wall: B.L.M.
The convention heard from titans in the Democratic Party such as former president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who raised their rhetorical artillery against President Donald Trump and warned of new challenges to the ability to vote.
“This can’t be another woulda coulda shoulda election. Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line, because they are,” Clinton said.
Speaking live from Chappaqua, New York, Clinton wore white, a symbol of the women’s suffrage movement more than a century ago. The stakes are high, Clinton said, because Trump risked American lives, leadership and jobs and four more years could make it worse.
“Remember: Joe and Kamala can win 3 million more votes and still lose,” Clinton said. “Take it from me. We need numbers so overwhelming Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.”
Obama, for his part, told listeners Trump never took the job of president seriously and only used it to pull attention to himself.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed.”
Obama said some of the accomplishments of his administration — preventing an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S., passing the Affordable Care Act and its response to the Great Recession — gave Biden the experience to tackle current challenges.
Obama then attempted to set the Trump administration outside the traditional conflicts between Republicans and Democrats, saying Biden believes everyone stood under the law and the military should not be deployed against protesters inside the country.
“These shouldn’t be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They’re American principles,” Obama said. “But at this moment, this president and those who enable him, have shown they don’t believe in these things.”
The president, Obama said, is making it difficult to vote because he cannot win over Americans to support his policies.
“Do not let them take away your power,” Obama said, his voice growing husky. “Don’t let them take away your democracy.”
Ken Taylor, a political strategist based in Memphis, Tennessee, said Harris balanced her speech between speaking about her family and what they meant to her and portraying herself as the former prosecutor, the bulldog, that will indict Biden’s opponent.
“It’s an incredible dance and I think she does very well,” Taylor said.
During the night, Democrats talked about issues where polling indicates they have support from wide swaths of Americans, Taylor said, issues that will serve the party as it vies for control of battleground states.
“You cannot underestimate the power that women are going to have in this election,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the messages surrounding child care and gun control resonate with women, adding that suburban women are one of the groups who could be persuaded to switch their votes.
“I think what Democrats have the opportunity to do and they’re doing very well is really using that incumbency against Donald Trump. He’s made it easy,” he said.