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“Don’t Let Them Take Away Your Power”: Obama Slams Trump at DNC & Warns U.S. Democracy Is at Risk

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On the third night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, party leaders argued that U.S. democracy is at risk if President Trump is reelected in November, with a lineup of speeches from former Congressmember Gabby Giffords, senator and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and former President Barack Obama, who grew emotional describing the stakes of the election and urged people not to “let them take away your democracy.” We air excerpts from the night’s events.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin our show with the Democratic National Convention. California Senator Kamala Harris has accepted the Democratic vice-presidential nomination, becoming the first woman of color to run on a major party presidential ticket. Harris is the daughter of immigrants, an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. She accepted the nomination on the third night of the virtual Democratic National Convention, a night filled with the voices of women speaking about gun violence, immigration, climate change, domestic violence and more.

Early in the evening, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords gave her longest speech since she was shot in the head nearly 10 years ago during a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona.

GABBY GIFFORDS: Words once came easily; today I struggle to speak. But I have not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words. We are at a crossroads. We can let the shooting continue, or we can act.

AMY GOODMAN: Emma González, who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, narrated a video about gun violence.

EMMA GONZÁLEZ: People affected by everyday gun violence have to walk by the street corner where their best friend, their brother, their mother, their nephew, where they themselves were shot. And life goes on and on as if we all haven’t just watched a loved one die and get put in the grave.

The whole point of what I’m saying here is, until one of us or all of us stand up and say, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit by and watch the news treat these shootings like acts of God,” gun violence isn’t just going to stop, until there’s a force fighting harder against it. And I’m going to do something to prevent it.

AMY GOODMAN: A number of youth climate activists were also featured prominently during the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night.

KATHERINE LORENZO: My name is Katherine Lorenzo. I’m an Afro-Latina, and I’m a climate activist. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood where pollution rates are often higher than wealthier areas, and a lot of kids have asthma. Switching to renewable energy would mean cleaner air, better health and a steadier income for folks in neighborhoods like mine, because solar PV installers and wind turbine techs are some of the fastest-growing jobs in the country. And Joe Biden’s plan is transformative. He knows that saving the planet isn’t just a challenge to overcome, it’s an opportunity for a better way of life.

AMY GOODMAN: The Democratic convention also featured a video of an 11-year-old girl reading a letter she wrote to Donald Trump.

ESTELA JUAREZ: Dear Donald Trump, My name is Estela. I am 11 years old. My mom is my best friend. She came to America as a teenager over 20 years ago, without papers, in search of a better life. She married my dad, who served our country as a marine in South America, Africa and Iraq. My mom worked hard and paid taxes, and the Obama administration told her she could stay. My dad thought you would protect military families, so he voted for you in 2016, Mr. President. He says he won’t vote for you again, after what you did to our family.

SUZIE SUH: The wife of a U.S. Marine veteran was deported to Mexico.

ESTELA JUAREZ: Instead of protecting us, you tore our world apart.

PAMELA JUAREZ: My mom is a good person, and she’s not a criminal.

ESTELA JUAREZ: We need a president who will bring people together, not tear them apart. Sincerely, Estela.

AMY GOODMAN: That was 11-year-old Estela Juarez. The 18-year-old musical superstar Billie Eilish performed Wednesday night at the virtual convention, urging the nation to vote.

BILLIE EILISH: You don’t need me to tell you things are a mess. Donald Trump is destroying our country and everything we care about. We need leaders who will solve problems like climate change and COVID, not deny them; leaders who will fight against systemic racism and inequality. And that starts by voting for someone who understands how much is at stake, someone who’s building a team that shares our values. It starts with voting against Donald Trump and for Joe Biden. Silence is not an option, and we cannot sit this one out. We all have to vote like our lives and the world depend on it, because they do.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s 18-year-old musical superstar Billie Eilish. The Democrats’ 2016 presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, also spoke Wednesday night.

HILLARY CLINTON: And don’t forget, Joe and Kamala can win by 3 million votes and still lose. Take it from me. So we need numbers overwhelming, so Trump can’t sneak or steal his way to victory.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Elizabeth Warren, who ran against Biden and Harris in the primary, spoke from an early childhood center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Three colorful letter blocks stood out behind her. They spelled out BLM, the initials of Black Lives Matter.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: We build infrastructure, like roads and bridges and communications systems, so that people can work. That infrastructure helps us all, because it keeps our economy going. It’s time to recognize that child care is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation. It’s infrastructure for families. Joe and Kamala will make high-quality child care affordable for every family, make preschool universal, and raise the wages of every child care worker.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Barack Obama spoke just before Kamala Harris accepted the nomination on Wednesday night. Speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Obama warned President Trump is a threat to American democracy.

BARACK OBAMA: I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. 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, that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did.

For close to four years now, he has shown no interest in putting in the work, no interest in finding common ground, no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends, no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job, because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead; millions of jobs gone, while those at the top take in more than ever; our worst impulses unleashed; our proud reputation around the world badly diminished; and our democratic institutions threatened like never before. …

Joe and Kamala will restore our standing in the world. And as we’ve learned from this pandemic, that matters. Joe knows the world, and the world knows him. He knows that our true strength comes from setting an example that the world wants to follow; a nation that stands with democracy, not dictators; a nation that can inspire and mobilize others to overcome threats like climate change and terrorism, poverty and disease.

But more than anything, what I know about Joe, what I know about Kamala, is that they actually care about every American, and that they care deeply about this democracy. They believe that in a democracy the right to vote is sacred, and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballots, not harder. They believe that no one, including the president, is above the law, and that no public official, including the president, should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters.

They understand that in this democracy the commander-in-chief does not use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil. They understand that political opponents aren’t un-American just because they disagree with you — a free press isn’t the enemy, but the way we hold officials accountable — that our ability to work together to solve big problems, like a pandemic, depend on a fidelity to facts and science and logic, and not just making stuff up. …

This president and those in power, those who benefit from keeping things the way they are, they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies, so they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote does not matter. That is how they win. That is how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks.

That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all. And we cannot let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Do not let them take away your democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention virtually. When we come back, we’ll hear Kamala Harris as she becomes the first woman of color to be a major party’s vice-presidential nominee. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Biden’s Dilemma” from the soundtrack to the movie Confirmation, starring actress Kerry Washington as Anita Hill. Kerry Washington hosted last night’s virtual Democratic National Convention.

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