(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Biden and vice presidential candidate Harris hold first joint campaign appearance as a ticket in Wilmington, Delaware
By James Oliphant and John Whitesides
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Kamala Harris will make history when she accepts the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday, saying the country is at an inflection point and “we can do better” than four more years of President Donald Trump.
The first Black woman and Asian-American on a major U.S. presidential ticket, Harris can be expected to unleash her prosecutorial skills at the Democratic National Convention as Joe Biden’s running mate in the Nov. 3 election.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama also will speak, telling the convention that Trump’s failures as his successor had led to 170,000 people dead from the coronavirus, millions of lost jobs and America’s reputation badly diminished in the world, according to excerpts of his speech released by organizers.
On the third day of a four-day convention, Harris will aggressively press the case against Trump and for Biden, likely speaking directly to millions of women, young Americans and voters of color, constituencies Democrats need if Biden is to defeat the Republican Trump.
“We’re at an inflection point. The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot. And here’s the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more,” Harris says in excerpts of her prepared speech.
The proceedings, largely virtual due to the coronavirus, begin at 9 p.m. ET (0100 GMT on Thursday).
In excerpts made available ahead of time, Obama, whose vice president was Biden from 2009-2017, says he had hoped that Trump would take the job seriously, come to feel the weight of the office, and discover a reverence for American democracy.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before,” Obama was expected to say.
The coronavirus has complicated life with many Americans expecting to cast votes by mail to avoid crowds at the polls. Trump has repeatedly and without evidence attacked mail voting as susceptible to fraud, though voting by mail is nothing new in American political life.
Speaking at a virtual fundraiser on Wednesday with elected officials from Pennsylvania, Biden repeated his calls for unifying the country.
“This moment requires us to sort of rise together and get everyone we know involved, remember who we are as a nation, to build back a better future. That’s what America always does in a crisis,” Biden said.
CHILD OF IMMIGRANTS
In her speech Harris will have an opportunity to outline her background as a child of immigrants from India and Jamaica who as a district attorney, state attorney general, U.S. senator from California and now vice-presidential candidate shattered gender and racial barriers.
She gained prominence in the Senate for her exacting interrogations of Trump nominees, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General Bill Barr.
Biden, 77, named Harris, 55, as his running mate last week to face incumbents Trump, 74, and Vice President Mike Pence, 61. She will deliver her speech from an austere hotel ballroom in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
Obama will speak to the convention live from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. He will speak about how he worked closely with Biden, his vice president, to lead the country out of the last recession, according to the excerpts.
The first two nights of the four-day Democratic convention showcased elder statesmen and rising stars in the party who said Biden’s election would repair a pandemic-battered United States and put an end to the chaos of Trump’s four years in office.
But the party comprises a range of ideological positions.
Some on the left complained that Republicans like former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is backing Biden, a moderate Democrat, over Trump, were given more air time than the party’s own progressive wing.
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading progressive voice from New York, had one minute for her remarks on Tuesday night.
Some progressive members of Congress voted against the party’s policy platform for omitting a pledge to pursue a “Medicare for All” national healthcare system.
The left’s standard bearer and Biden’s former rival for the nomination, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, spoke on Monday night, urging unity and emphasizing Biden’s pledges to raise the minimum wage to $15, expand paid family leave, and fund preschool for all Americans.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive who is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday that some Democrats had “different priorities” but were united in working to defeat Trump.
The Republican National Convention, also largely virtual, takes place next week.