Local Democrats say the messaging was strong during virtual Democratic National Convention

Published 12:05 am Sunday, August 23, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Though not the traditional event, local Democrats say the message was not lost in this year’s all-virtual Democratic National Convention.

They agreed the message among numerous Democrats, former elected officials, everyday Americans and even some Republicans was one of compassion, resiliency, true leadership and the urgency to vote. Rather than arenas filled wall-to-wall with delegates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this year’s Democratic National Convention brought the convention to American homes virtually from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20.

Local Democrat Veleria Levy was a delegate for the convention. Delegates cast votes to officially nominate a presidential and vice-presidential candidate, establish the party platform and unify the party. Traditionally, delegates spend most of their time attending and voting in caucuses throughout the convention.

Levy said having the convention virtually was much nicer, and she hopes conventions can be held similarly in the future, even if only two of the four days are virtual. Attending the convention virtually allowed Levy to show her family and community the convention process.

The draft platform, released by Democrats in late July, included joint task forces organized by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and primary campaign challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, with a goal of bridging the gap between Biden’s moderate approach and Sanders’ progressive stances. Some of the party’s platform for 2020 highlights the goal of achieving low- to no-cost health care coverage by building off the Affordable Care Act, combating climate change with the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2035, as well as a $15 minimum wage, mandatory paid family leave, more federal gun control and broad changes to federal sentencing guidelines and drug laws.

Levy said the overall message throughout the convention was empathy, love, trust and, most of all, leadership. Former First Lady Michelle Obama “hit it out the park” with the speech she delivered on Monday night, Levy said, adding that, like Michelle’s notorious line, the Democrats do a good job of “going high” when others go low.

She said 13-year-old Brayden Harrington’s speech, which highlighted how Biden helped him with his stuttering challenge, resonated with her because she’s also the mother of a son and knows it can be difficult for young boys to present even regular speeches at school. She added that, unlike President Donald Trump in the past, no one mocked or ridiculed Brayden for his disability.

“A true leader makes you step out of your comfort zone,” she said.

She also appreciated former president Barack Obama, as a constitutional lawyer, delivering his speech from Philadelphia Wednesday night. Historians have likened Philadelphia to the “birthplace of America” as it was the site of the First and Second Continental Congresses.

Geoffrey Hoy, the county’s Democratic Party chair, said the DNC was “outstanding, wonderful and unbelievably good.”

He said the decision to include people from all across the nation with the nightly roll call vote was “beautifully representative of the nation” and people within the Democratic party.

Hoy added that Biden knows how to govern and has the ability to be a responsible leader. The best speeches, Hoy said, came from VP nominee Kamala Harris and both of the Obamas. Hoy said they are people who know government, policy and democracy, adding that they were “quite heartfelt.”

Biden, in particular, “knocked it out the park” with his speech, Hoy said. Biden told a personal story of him overcoming tragedy, as well as his battle with a stutter. Hoy added that Biden said it best when he told Americans, if elected, “he will be the president of all people.”

Levy said she cried during Harris’ speech when she officially accepted the vice president nomination Wednesday night because she was watching history be made right in front of her eyes.

“It’s not just a Black story. It’s an American story,” Levy said, citing Harris’ HBCU background, status as both a Black and Asian woman and daughter of immigrants. For that, she said, Harris “knows the fight that we have” ahead.

“These two candidates are America,” she said.

Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins said this year’s convention was one of the best, and that it spoke to the nation’s greatest strengths and aspirations.

“Given the constraints of COVID and the profoundly divisive language we’ve endured from top elected officials over the past four years, the speeches from Republicans, Democrats and everyday people left me feeling inspired and hopeful,” she said.

Witnessing Harris accept the VP nomination was moving and historic, Heggins added.

Also at the DNC, some Republicans spoke in support of Biden and in opposition of Trump. They included former Ohio Gov. John Kasich; former Rep. Susan Molinari, R-NY; former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman; and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Additionally, Cindy McCain, the wife of late Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, spoke about the decades-long friendship her husband shared with Biden.

Hoy said he appreciated their honesty and blunt criticism and knows the decision to speak out against the party nominee isn’t one taken lightly.

Levy said Republicans speaking out at the convention shows another example of what true leadership looks like. She commended the Republican speakers for going beyond party lines to stand up for America.

“Americans know what is at stake right now,” Levy said.

Salisbury City Council member Tamara Sheffield said she was unable to catch all of the convention since she also works full-time. But Sheffield said the convention delivered the message that one can be compassionate and tough at the same time.

For example, Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman from Arizona who was shot and wounded in a 2011 shooting, was among the speakers on Wednesday night. Giffords highlighted her struggle to speak today, but Sheffield said Giffords “showed true resiliency” by delivering a message that it’s not about losing your voice. Instead, you’ve got to put one word behind the other, and put one step in front of the other.

Sheffield praised Harris for the message of having a sense of community, and fostering a community where everyone belongs. And though Sheffield doesn’t believe Harris dwells too much on her status as a Black and Asian woman, Harris understands the importance of representing those who have felt they didn’t get a seat at the table, Sheffield said.

“Having those examples really sets the table for that,” Sheffield said.

Hoy and Sheffield echoed an urgency to vote, and Hoy added that he hopes Republicans have a good convention this week.

The Republican National Convention starts Monday and had been scheduled to occur in Charlotte. Some Republican leaders will be present in North Carolina, but most of its convention will be virtual as well.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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