Democratic Party stalwarts circled the wagons around Hillary Clinton on Wednesday during the third night of the Democratic National Convention, leaving no question that the full brass was united behind the presidential nominee even as die-hard supporters of Bernie Sanders continued to protest inside and outside the convention hall.
Two nights after his wife, Michelle, offered a forceful argument for Clinton, burying any remaining notes of discord that may have remained following the tense 2008 campaign, Barack Obama did the same for the woman who was once his secretary of state.
Obama, receiving a hero’ welcome when he took the stage shortly before 11 p.m., painted Clinton as a cool-headed leader who knows how to manage through a crisis.
“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” he said.
“No matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits,” Obama said on the same stage that propelled him to national stardom 12 years ago.
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
Recommended for you
Meanwhile, Tim Kaine, the Virginia senator Clinton tapped to be her running mate, gave a lengthy, personal acceptance speech for the vice presidential nomination in which he showed off his mastery of Spanish, laid out his background and praised Clinton as a solid, trustworthy servant.
As expected, however, he also took a number of shots at Donald Trump, including using one of the Republican nominee’s signature catchphrases against him.
“ ‘Believe me?’ I mean, here’s the thing. Most people, when they run for president, they don’t just say ‘believe me.’ They respect you enough to tell you how they will get things done,” he said, slamming Trump for refusing to release his tax returns.
“Folks, you cannot believe one word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth. Not one word,” Kaine said, as the crowd erupted in a chant of “not one word.”
Senior party leaders also offered their own forceful rebukes of Trump. In a fiery address earlier in the evening, Vice President Joe Biden said the New Yorker was unfit to lead, a man who would sow division in America and abroad.
“We cannot elect a man who belittles our closest allies while embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin,” he said.
Biden’s remarks were a direct response to comments Trump made earlier in the day in which the Republican nominee invited Russia to find the roughly 30,000 emails Clinton reportedly deleted from the private email server she used when she was secretary of state. The Kremlin is accused of hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s servers and tampering with U.S. elections.
Obama and Biden addressed a fired-up crowd Wednesday that held up placards bearing their names and primarily emanated goodwill for the two party figureheads of the past eight years.
While senior Democrats looked to unite the party at the Wells Fargo Center, division was rampant beyond the cameras. Disgruntled Sanders supporters continued to fume after Wikileaks published a trove of new voicemails on Wednesday evening that appeared to demonstrate once again that DNC officials were working to undermine Sanders’ campaign during the primary.
A group of Sanders supporters holding anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership signs was photographed turning their backs to Kaine when he took to the podium to accept his party’s vice presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, national security-focused speeches from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson were interrupted by some Sanders supporters, who chanted “lies” and “no more war.” When convention organizers turned the lights off over the Washington and Oregon delegations, many flashed the lights on the back of their cellphones in protest.
The acts of protest came in stark contrast to the DNC’s programming on the third day of the convention, which focused on inclusion.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus highlighted their work on Capitol Hill and vouched for Clinton, as did a pair of young black Atlantans, Daniel Driffin, the first HIV/AIDS activist to address the Democratic convention in 16 years, and state Rep. Park Cannon.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also hit on the theme of unity in his prime-time speech.
“Fellow Democrats, tonight we choose diversity over division,” he said. “We choose a steady-handed commander-in-chief over a loose cannon. We choose a leader who would rather be in the trenches securing health care for 8 million children than in a suite putting his name on a tower.”
The party also devoted an emotional segment of the evening to the victims of gun violence. Speakers included former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords; Christine Leinonen, whose son Drew was killed in the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando; and Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, two survivors of the shooting last year at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C.
“The shooter in Charleston had hate in his heart. The shooter in Orlando had hate in his heart, and the shooter in Dallas did, too,” Sheppard said. “As Scripture says, love never fails, so I choose love. And in this election, I choose Hillary Clinton.”
Perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Trump came from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent, who said, “I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one.”
The biggest hit with the crowd earlier in the evening appeared to be Biden, in what was likely his last major speech as vice president. Like Kaine, the former senator also used a signature Trump catchphrase to signal his dismay with the Republican nominee.
“His cynicism is unbound. His lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in the phrase he’s most proud of and made famous: ‘You’re fired,’ ” he said. “Think about that. … He’s trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That’s a bunch of malarkey.”