By Steve Peoples
NEW YORK (AP) — Michelle Obama delivered a passionate broadside against President Donald Trump during Monday’s opening night of the Democratic National Convention, assailing the Republican president as unfit for the job and warning that the nation’s mounting crises would only get worse if he’s reelected.
The former first lady issued an emotional call to the coalition that sent her husband to the White House, declaring that strong feelings must be translated into votes.
“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she declared. “He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.”
Obama added: “If you think things possibly can’t get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.”
The comments came as Joe Biden introduced the breadth of his political coalition to a nation in crisis Monday night at the convention, giving voice to victims of the coronavirus pandemic, the related economic downturn and police violence and featuring both progressive Democrats and Republicans united against Trump’s reelection.
The ideological range of Biden’s many messengers was demonstrated by former presidential contenders from opposing parties: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who championed a multi-trillion-dollar universal health care plan, and Ohio’s former Republican Gov. John Kasich, an anti-abortion conservative who spent decades fighting to cut government spending.
The former vice president won’t deliver his formal remarks until Thursday night, but he made his first appearance just half an hour into Monday’s event as he moderated a panel on racial justice, a theme throughout the night, as was concern about the Postal Service. The Democrats accuse Trump of interfering with the nation’s mail in order to throw blocks in front of mail-in voting.
“My friends, I say to you, and to everyone who supported other candidates in this primary and to those who may have voted for Donald Trump in the last election: The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders declared.
Kasich said his status as a lifelong Republican “holds second place to my responsibility to my country.”
“In normal times, something like this would probably never happen, but these are not normal times,” he said of his participation at the Democrats’ convention. He added: “Many of us can’t imagine four more years going down this path.”
The unified message came as Democrats launched the first presidential nominating convention of the coronavirus era. The all-virtual affair was the first without a central meeting place or cheering throngs. And there were real questions about whether the prime-time event would adequately energize the disparate factions Biden hopes to capture.
Biden will accept the nomination Thursday night in a mostly empty ballroom in his home state of Delaware. California Sen. Harris, the first Black woman on a national ticket, speaks Wednesday.
Michelle Obama, whom Gallup determined was the nation’s most admired woman last year, described Biden as a “profoundly decent man” in a video excerpt of her remarks recorded at least six days earlier.
“He was a terrific vice president,” she said of the man who served for eight years as her husband’s No. 2. “He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country.”
The former first lady appeared in a video sitting alone in a quiet room with a sparsely decorated shelf, a burning candle and a small blue Biden sign behind her.
With no live audience for any of the speakers, convention organizers were forced to get creative in their high-stakes quest to generate enthusiasm. There were live appearances from speakers in Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan, but many of the speeches that aired Monday night were prerecorded.
The Monday speakers included plenty of Democratic politicians including Alabama Sen. Doug Jones; Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who is the highest ranking African American in Congress; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and two former presidential contenders: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sanders.
AP writers Michelle R. Price in Nevada and Kathleen Ronayne in California contributed.