Wrapping up the Republican and Democratic national conventions


Chris Thomas and Joelle Dlugozima

The 2016 presidential election was a spectacle from start to finish. A billionaire outsider, the brother and son of a past president, the first woman to win the nomination of a major party, and an old guy who captivated the youth competed in one of the most viewed races to date. Conventions and debates drew large numbers, culminating in an election night that drew 71 million Americans to the television. It goes without saying that the 2016 presidential election was one for the history books.


Fast forward four years and that same process isn’t quite as lively, despite some of the key players returning. It seems that the tragic deaths of international stars, a global pandemic, and an explosion of racial tension have captured the attention of the media and with it the eyes of the people. If you were one of those people who were, justifiably, less concerned with election festivities, you have some catching up to do.


In accordance with US election history, sitting President Donald Trump won the nomination practically unopposed, and as expected, he is returning Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate. This was made official at the Republican National Convention. By definition, these conventions are announcements for the presidential nominees of major parties. In fact, certain conventions have nominations cast for the runner up, but seeing that presumptive nominee is generally known far before the convention, these events have trended toward pitches for why you should vote for “our” candidate.


The Democratic National Convention (DNC) was the week prior, so President Trump would get the last word. The Republicans decided to use D.C. as their main venue and had representatives, senators, members of the Trump family, and everyday Americans kick off their week-long pitch for President Trump.


Cast wise the second night was quite similar, but one man in particular stood out. Jon Ponder, the President of Hope for Prisoners told his personal story of crime and redemption. Ponder became friends with the federal agent who had arrested him and following his release he started an organization to help prisoners get back on their feet. Then, the President surprised Ponder by pardoning him on national television with his wife present; as expected, this dominated the headlines as Trump tried to show his record and stance on criminal justice. The first lady ended off the night by detailing her “Be Best” campaign that has fought against drug use and cyberbullying around the globe.


On the third night, the convention made a strong appeal to women. They highlighted the female members of Trump’s cabinet and campaign team while pushing a message that Trump genuinely wants to empower women. The penultimate night was closed by Vice President Pence, generally a mild-mannered reserved man who delivered a speech dedicated to American heroes. This message aimed to show the Trump administration’s support for law enforcement during a time of social unrest and call for police reform.


The final night was the longest night, but the format was mostly the same. However, the last half of the near four-hour conclusion was shared between President Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, a popular figure in the campaign. She introduced her father as a man of the people through a story about her son and a Lego set he built for the oval office. Trump has received just as much criticism on his character as his policy, so it would make sense that this is one of the closing messages. President Trump took the stage to generous applause and began to recap the accomplishments of his administration. He touched on foreign policy, Republican history, COVID-19, the economy, unity, and like his Democratic counterpart, Trump stressed the importance of this election and how the American dream is at stake. In typical Trump fashion, there was a firework show to end the night. I’m sure Republicans and Democrats alike were glad to see it end; Trump had talked for an hour and 10 minutes straight. For comparison, Biden’s acceptance speech was just under 25 minutes. It seems that these candidates are doing everything in their power to distance themselves from each other.


Earlier that month, the traditional DNC concluded. Unlike previous conventions, this year’s was hosted in a downsized arena located in Wisconsin with only a few people in attendance. Other participants represented themselves virtually from their homes in order to lower the risk of the ongoing global pandemic, COVID-19. For four nights, the Democratic party reiterated its platform and broadcasted multiple stories from democratic voters.


There were many historical speeches during the convention; the Clintons and Obamas were present in their support for presidential nominee, Joe Biden. Furthermore, some notable candidates from the Democratic primaries, such as Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, spoke at the convention and endorsed Biden.


However, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez focused her speech on nominating Sanders, not Biden. When faced with confusion from Democratic voters, the Representative explained it was routine for candidates that passed a certain threshold in votes to be endorsed for nomination during the convention.


AOC later tweeted out her support for Biden, congratulating him on his nomination. “Let’s go win in November,” she said, ensuring there was only one candidate backed by the Democratic party.


Moreover, the party was praised for creating the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history. Heavier leftist policies such as universal healthcare, tuition-free colleges, and criminal justice reform were adopted by the Biden-Harris ticket. While the drastic change in platform may be risky implementing before such a critical election, the positions the party took are steps to uniting the liberal and more left-leaning figures grouped under Democrats.


Finally, Biden and Kamala Harris, the VP pick for the Biden ticket, ended the convention with solid speeches discussing their approaches and qualifications for running the country. Harris condemned America’s systemic racism as well as emphasized the importance of unity for a better future. Biden followed in Harris’ message, stating “This is the United States of America. And there has never been anything we’ve been unable to accomplish when we’ve done it together.”


The Biden-Harris duo will now focus their efforts on defeating President Trump this November.


These conventions have been posted to C-span and other platforms if you’d like to watch them, but if you’ve already seen them, you’ll have to hold off until the next flurry of political events. Come Sept. 29, Biden and Trump will face off during the first presidential debate of 2020 with Harris and Mike Pence following up on Oct. 7.