Doug Schoen: Democratic convention — What worked and what didn't on third night

Barack Obama says Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the presidency because he can’t.

The third night of the Democratic National Convention featured notable speeches from former President Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, among others.

In terms of what worked on Wednesday night, former President Obama compellingly communicated the case for Biden’s candidacy, delivering an effective call-to-action and a strong rebuke of President Trump.

“I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously. But he never did,” Obama said.

BIDEN'S POLICY AGENDA TAKES BACKSEAT AT DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION AS SPEAKERS HAMMER TRUMP ON CHARACTER

However, while Obama is an important surrogate for Biden, it is also clear that there are limitations to the former president's influence.

Put simply, Biden cannot win the election by riding on Obama’s coattails. This is especially true as Biden and the Democrats have struggled throughout the convention to communicate a positive, cohesive narrative surrounding Biden’s candidacy that is more than a reaction to Trump’s polarization and division—and is Biden’s own version of Obama’s “Yes We Can.”

The first three nights of the D.N.C. reveal that the Democratic Party is employing the same strategy that was used in 2016—building an anti-Trump coalition, rather than offering an agenda of change for America. 

Furthermore, Kamala Harris also delivered an inspirational speech about American values and the need to unify around Biden, as well as a pointed criticism of Trump.

“Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” said Harris, later on saying that “we must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work. A president who will bring all of us together—Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous—to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden.”

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While it is evident that Harris will be an effective attack dog for Biden throughout the campaign, it is also clear from Harris’ speech that she, too, does not have a consistent vision for the country other than opposition to Trump.

And to be sure, the Democrats banking on opposition to Trump to win the election—instead of focusing mainly on policy-oriented promises to middle-class voters, particularly those who grew disenchanted with the party in recent years—is eerily reminiscent of the 2016 election.

Indeed, in terms of what did not work tonight, Hillary Clinton’s speech reminded many Americans why they chose not to vote Democrat in 2016.

While it is evident that Harris will be an effective attack dog for Biden throughout the campaign, it is also clear from Harris’ speech that she, too, does not have a consistent vision for the country other than opposition to Trump.

“For four years, people have said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how dangerous he was.’ ‘I wish I could go back and do it over.’ Or worst, ‘I should have voted.’” Clinton said.

Thus, taken together, the first three nights of the D.N.C. reveal that the Democratic Party is employing the same strategy that was used in 2016—building an anti-Trump coalition, rather than offering an agenda of change for America.

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And while the party’s platform is more moderate than many progressives would like, it is also clear that the Democrats are running more anti-Trump as their unifying theme.

Though Biden is still ahead of Trump nationally and in swing-states, recent polls showing a tightening race, with some polls showing that the race is within the margin of error. And given that voters are looking for real answers and solutions to the struggles they face—on the economy, health care, and addressing the coronavirus—it is clear to me that this election will be far closer than most are predicting now.

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