Going online, the Democratic State Convention highlights Biden, Sanders and a to-do list that takes on virtually ‘life or death’ consequences.
It may have looked at times like a public television pledge break, but the virtual state convention held by Wisconsin Democrats on Friday evening still managed to communicate the two normal by-products of these party meetings: reaffirmation of unity and clarity of the mission ahead. And it did so without balloons, bunting, canned music or marathon speeches.
Presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke for little more than two minutes in his taped address, telling online delegates “the very soul of America is at stake. That’s why I’m running for president.”
The coronavirus outbreak rendered this year’s convention a virtual event. DPW Chair Ben Wikler and First Vice Chair Felesia Martin wore face masks until just before the start when, standing socially distanced inside a production studio, they took turns introducing taped segments and sharing messages about the importance of supporting, volunteering, donating and of course voting in the November 3 election.
“What happens in Wisconsin will affect the course of human history,” Wikler said. “We have a belief in people power. A belief in you. A moment when the stakes have never been greater but when the ability of our organizing has never been deeper.”
Biden and other VIP speakers echoed the sentiment.
The former vice president used much of his time to focus on the national conversation about the need to confront America’s long history of systemic racism, the silent but harmful ways in which African Americans for generations have been disadvantaged in ways white Americans did not have to confront until phone cameras and social media made it impossible to deny, ignore or wish away.
“It’s time for us to take a hard look at uncomfortable truths,” Biden said. “It’s time for us to face the deep, open wound of systemic racism in this nation. Nothing about this is going to be easy or comfortable. But if we simply allow this would to scab over once more without treating the underlying injury we will never truly heal.”
Biden said America needs to move on from Donald Trump, a theme hit by other convention speakers such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“We absolutely must defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said. “I know there are folks within the Democratic Party who will have differences of opinion on this issue or that issue, and I certainly am someone who does have differences with many others. But at this particular moment, our job clearly must be to elect Joe Biden as our next president and defeat Donald Trump. Let’s all go forward in doing that.”
State politics, of course, was also on the minds of convention speakers including Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Evers underscored the importance of legislative elections, acknowledging that Republicans need only to pick up a handful of seats in the State Assembly and Senate and they would be able to override his vetoes and pass anything they please.
“Gov. Evers and I have been doing everything that we can to put the safety of Wisconsinites first,” Barnes said, “But the same unfortunately can’t be said for the Republicans who control our legislature. In this crisis, we’ve seen them file more lawsuits than bills to help people get by.”
Barnes said a GOP veto-proof majority would lead to “rolling back reproductive freedoms, workers rights and environmental protection.”
Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley from Bayfield County said there’s work to be done at the legislative level as well to address systemic racism.
“Our inconveniences are nothing like what too many Wisconsinites experience every day: insecurity, hunger, poor health, addiction, mental illness, imprisonment and discrimination,” she said.
There were virtual visits from a Who’s Who of Wisconsin Democrats including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Congressional representatives Gwen Moore, Ron Kind and Mark Pocan, U.S. Sen.Tammy Baldwin, who noted Biden’s role in helping pass the Affordable Care Act, and newly elected Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley who emphasized the importance of this “new type of organizing,” a nod to the online voter outreach that Democrats credit for April’s election of Jill Karofsky to the state Supreme Court.
Certain convention elements like debates on resolutions and platform language were suspended until 2021.
Because Wisconsin has neither a gubernatorial nor a U.S. Senate race in 2020, both Evers and Baldwin say they will use their extra time to elect Biden as president. And Biden made clear he will fight hard for the state’s 10 electoral votes in order to bring the nation together.
“We have to stand up as a nation. Stand with Black and Brown communities. Come together as one America to deliver justice for all, and I mean all, Americans. If we stand together, we’ll win the battle for the soul of this nation. We need to do this, we can do this, and we will do this.”