The Biggest Moments from This Week’s (Virtual) Democratic National Convention

The Biggest Moments from This Week’s (Virtual) Democratic National Convention
Moderator Eva Longoria speaks during the first night of the Democratic National Convention. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

This year’s socially distanced DNC saw fewer big hats and balloon drops—but the same big push for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. Here’s a rundown of what you missed.

With fewer than 80 days until the general election, this year’s virtual DNC brought together a wide-ranging coalition of Democrats—and some allied voters from across the aisle—to make the case for a stronger, more just America led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Here are the convention’s biggest moments, broken down by day.

DAY 1  |  DAY 2DAY 3DAY 4


Speakers Stood on the Side of Science

Faced with more than 170,000 American deaths from COVID-19, Democratic leaders—including New York governor Andrew Cuomo and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer—hammered home the need to follow science and trust experts in the fight against both COVID-19 and other public health crises, like climate change.

Viewers also heard from those whom the pandemic has impacted most personally. Kristin Urquiza, whose father died of COVID-19, spoke critically of the president’s response to the crisis: “We need a leader who has a national, coordinated, data-driven response to stop this pandemic from claiming more lives and to safely reopen the country. We need a leader who will step in on day one and do his job—to care.”

The Party Reckoned with Racism and Where to Go Next

Following months of widespread protests against the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, convention speakers—including Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Senator Bernie Sanders, Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser and members of the Floyd family—addressed the ongoing reality of racism and police brutality embedded in the country’s history and unpacked how the fights for racial justice and climate justice are intimately woven.

“Enough for every Black and brown American who has experienced injustice. Enough for every American who believes in justice,” said Bowser, who criticized the deployment of federal troops and the use of tear gas during Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the District. “Together, we can turn this reckoning into a reimagining of a nation where ‘we, the people’ means all the people.”

Republicans Broke from Trump to Show Solidarity

Conservatives—including politicians like former Ohio governor John Kasich, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, and several citizen voters—made the public commitment to break with party lines and stand with Joe. “This is not about a Republican and a Democrat,” Whitman said. “It is about a person—a person decent enough, stable enough, strong enough to get our economy back on track. A person who can work with everyone, Democrats and Republicans, to get things done.”

One voter who cast his ballot for Trump in 2016 said that he’d now registered as a Democrat for the first time in his life. “It’s really difficult to vote for someone who essentially has zero platform right now, apart from winning the election,” he said. “Joe Biden, on the other hand, has a very detailed plan—on things like unity, education, environmental preservation, racial inequality, even health care. We have a chance right now to look ourselves in the mirror and vote for a proven leader with a history of caring about others and putting—truly putting—all Americans first.”

Previous Primary Contenders Laid Out the Stakes

The pack of primary candidates that once battled Biden for the nomination rallied around him last night, emphasizing the former vice president’s decency, empathy, and preparedness for the uphill battle ahead. The message from former contenders—including Senator Cory Booker, Senator Amy Klobuchar, former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, and Senator Bernie Sanders—was clear: This is no ordinary election year.

While Trump remains the most “destructive, hateful, racist president in the history of this country, who is literally tearing apart the fabric of the United States of America,” O’Rourke said, Biden offers solutions.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama Gave the “Cold, Hard Truth”

Delivering one of her most pointedly political speeches to date, former first lady Michelle Obama closed out the night by making it clear that the country could not withstand another four years of this administration: “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country….He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”

Michelle railed against Trump’s lack of moral compass or compassion. “Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy,” she said, and then reassured voters that Barack’s former VP offers an urgent salve to the world’s overlapping crises. “He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic, and lead our country,” she said. “And he listens. He will tell the truth and trust science.”

But Michelle made the solution clear too: voting.


Roll call! On the second night of the convention, Democratic party delegates from all 50 states and a number of U.S. territories cast their votes and secured the official nomination for Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate. In videos shot coast to coast, the delegates also reminded viewers that the climate crisis still looms large—and that Joe’s climate plan offers substantive solutions.

Here are eight times local leaders put climate in the spotlight during last night’s roll call.

California has fought environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration on everything from fuel efficiency standards to the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Last night, the Golden State made clear that Biden’s climate plan would be central to building a more just future for all its residents.

“Climate change is not a hoax. It’s real, and communities of color have been bearing the brunt of this reality for generations. Joe Biden’s plan to crack down on polluters to protect our air and water is about environmental justice and economic justice. He will prioritize equity and renew clean energy jobs to Black and brown neighborhoods because that is how we build back better.”

Alaskans—who rely on clean waterways, thriving fisheries, and a livable climate to provide paychecks, put food on the table, and sustain Indigenous ways of life—called for more consultation with Native communities and protection for future generations.

“The waters we rely on to feed our families and make a living are threatened by climate change. When Joe Biden was vice president, he and President Obama made sure that Alaskan tribes had a say in how these waters were managed. Donald Trump took it away. We must elect a president who will respect our voices, protect our waters, and address climate change.”

Ohio, already becoming a national leader in the electric vehicle industry, hammered home that investment in our clean energy economy is a win-win for workers and the climate.

“It seems like every time working people believe in a down-Trump promise, they wind up getting screwed. Joe Biden has more than just a promise. He actually has a plan to bring jobs back to America, like electric vehicles or a national network of vehicle charging infrastructure that will provide good-paying jobs for skilled union workers—and the future will be made in America.”

So, too, did Michigan—home to Motor City.

“Michigan autoworkers are the best in the world, but we’d be nowhere without Joe Biden, and a lot of folks wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt, but Joe Biden believed in us, and together we fought to save our auto industry. Now he’s got a plan to create a million new auto jobs by investing in clean energy. Joe Biden believes in American workers. He has our back, and we have his.”

In case Republicans had forgotten, Idaho clarified that ambitious climate action goes hand-in-hand with a thriving economy.

“We’re not waiting for Washington to act on climate change. Here in Boise, we know that clean energy doesn’t just mean a healthier planet, it means good-paying jobs. Imagine what we could do with a president who listens to science and leads with courage.”

And that’s never been more important than now—amid a pandemic and skyrocketing unemployment rate—Massachusetts reminded.

“We need a plan to get the economy going again. Joe Biden will get the pandemic under control, create new jobs in manufacturing and clean energy, help small businesses and our restaurants recover, and build back better so our economy is stronger and fairer than it was before.”

Vermont recognized the necessary and overlapping fights for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.

And back at the convention’s home base in Milwaukee, Wisconsin delegates channeled the state’s progressive history in calling for climate action to build a more equitable future.

“We know that we build a better future for our nation by channeling Wisconsin’s energy as the birthplace of the labor and the progressive movement, and uniting around a bold inclusive agenda that uplifts every community in the pursuit of a more just future—one that recognizes health care as a human right, one that tackles the climate crisis and takes on racial and economic justice.”

With a final tally of 3,558 delegate votes, Joe Biden formally secured his presidential nomination—moving his climate plan, the most ambitious ever proposed by a major party candidate, much closer to becoming a reality.


The third night of this year’s Democratic National Convention covered critical ground on climate and featured heavy-hitting speakers, like Barack Obama and Biden’s running mate, Senator Harris. Let’s break it down.

Climate Got Its Due

The climate crisis got its turn in the spotlight. Much like Biden’s own plan to address our rising emissions, the convention’s climate segment didn’t shy away from calling out specific policy solutions—like investing in renewable energy and green infrastructure and upgrading buildings—and featured climate advocates from around the country, who reminded voters of the stakes.

Experts like Sierra Club’s Justin Onwenu made it clear that climate change doesn’t hit communities equally—and that swift climate action can help rectify these long-standing inequities.

Speaking in front of a New Mexico solar farm, the state’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, offered an example of what’s possible when leaders are on board. “We are laying a road map here for what America can and should look like in the 21st century,” said Grisham. “We have the chance this November to attack the climate crisis, invest in green 21st-century jobs, and embrace the clean energy revolution our country and our young people are crying out for, and the leadership the rest of the world is waiting for.”

Young people—who have transformed climate action from a sidebar issue to a global movement, millions strong—also laid out what’s on the line: their futures. “For young people my age, every aspect of our lives, from where we go to school to what kind of careers we’ll have, to whether or not we can raise a family, depends on us taking climate change seriously right now,” said Alexandria Villaseñor, climate justice advocate and the founder of Earth Uprising. “I am asking you to join us. Don’t let our futures go up in flames.”

Harris Showed She’s Up for the Job

Following fellow power stars like Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Nancy Pelosi, VP pick Kamala Harris closed the night with her debut in the general election. Her speech touched on her identity as both a Black woman and woman of Indian heritage, her accomplishments as California attorney general, and her determination to rise to this occasion, at the confluence of catastrophic crises, both new and old.

Dems Hammered Home the Nitty-Gritty of Voting

Nearly every speaker made the same plea: Ensure your ballot is counted and, if possible, counted early.

Rarely in election history has such an emphasis been made on the logistics of voting—perhaps because never before have our voting rights been so in peril.

President Barack Obama Sounded the Alarm

Obama delivered a blistering and historic rebuke of his successor and a resounding endorsement of Biden. “For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president, and he has got the character and the experience to make us a better country,” Obama said, reminding voters that “Donald Trump has not grown into the job—because he can’t.”

Obama also made it clear that saving our democracy will quite literally require the involvement of each and every citizen at the voting booth.


Andrew Harnik/AP 

The grand finale of this year’s historic convention spent time looking forward—to what kind of future is possible with a Democrat in office—and ended with a fiery speech from Biden himself. Here are the speakers whose moments mattered most.

1. The last of this week’s hosts, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus spent the evening slinging one-liners at Trump on everything from his use of force against peaceful protesters to his yet-to-be-released tax returns. The Veep star also told stories of her friendship with the real-life former VP—like the time Biden personally called to congratulate her on her profile in Amtrak’s free onboard magazine.

2. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms teed up a powerful memorial to civil rights legend, congressman of 34 years, and Atlanta native John Lewis—and reminded voters that “the baton has been passed to each of us” to fight for justice. “We have gathered in our streets to demand change, and now, we must pass on the gift John Lewis sacrificed to give us,” Bottoms said. “We must register, and we must vote. In his parting essay written to us, Congressman Lewis expressed his pride in the activism that has swept our country, and he reminded us that if we fail to exercise our right to vote, we can lose it.”

3. Burgeoning environmental advocates Ryan and Riley Curry—who appeared alongside their parents, NBA star Stephen Curry and his wife, TV host Ayesha—showed they have a firmer grasp on presidential responsibilities (“taking care of the earth and the people”) than the folks currently running the show.

4. Speaking from Indigenous land, New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland reminded viewers that we “can’t take our democracy for granted, especially now as people are dying, land is abused, and as our constitution is under attack,” she said. “Whether we vote, and how we vote, will determine whether our nation’s promise of social, racial, and environmental justice will outlast us.”

5. The U.S. Postal Service was a star in its own right. Never before has the USPS been so appreciated—or so necessary—as it helps to bolster our democracy and protect our health during the pandemic. Last night’s ode to our federal mail service from voters across the country was also a call to action against the Trump administration’s attempts to incapacitate the postal service ahead of an election reliant on mail-in voting.

6. Speaking just a mile away from one of more than 370 wildfires currently raging in California, Governor Gavin Newsom made clear that the climate crisis—and the extreme weather events it helps fuel—is not some far-off threat but a clear and present danger. “If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” he said.

7. After four nights spent rallying around Biden’s plan to build back better, Biden took the stage himself to accept the Democratic presidential nomination and speak directly to the American people.

He addressed what he called “one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced—four historic crises, all at the same time, a perfect storm. The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the 1960s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.”

But he offered hope too.

He touted the economic opportunity presented by investing in clean energy.

And he offered a vision of the future, led by young people who believe in fulfilling the promise of justice for all. “One of the most powerful voices we hear in the country today is from our young people,” Biden said. “They are speaking to the inequity and injustice in America—economic injustice, racial injustice, and environmental injustice. I hear their voices.”

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