Michelle Obama at virtual DNC: Vote ‘like our lives depend on it’

August 20, 2020

Michelle Obama called Joe Biden a “profoundly decent man” who will “tell the truth and trust science” in her Monday night, August 17, 2020, convention speech, seeking to draw a sharp contrast between President Donald Trump and her husband’s two-term vice president.

Mrs. Obama is warning Americans to “vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it” during her speech at the Democratic National Convention.

In remarks that capped off Monday night’s event, Mrs. Obama offered a sharp rebuke of the Trump presidency, telling viewers that 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,” she said.

She added that “if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can.” Mrs. Obama emphasized the need for all Americans to vote, making reference to the voters who stayed home in 2016 and helped deliver Donald Trump the win that year, even as he lost the popular vote.

She said, “We’ve all been suffering the consequences.”

In contrast, she described Biden as a “profoundly decent man” who “knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country.

“He will make smart plans and manage a good team, and he will govern as someone who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.”

It’s part of what longtime adviser Valerie Jarrett said is a speech emphasizing Biden’s competency and character in contrast to the Republican incumbent.

“This election is very personal for her,” Jarrett told The Associated Press. “She’s going to take this opportunity to speak about Vice President Biden in two ways: competency, which she had a chance to observe firsthand while he served as her husband’s vice president, but also his profoundly decent character.” Republican Donald Trump succeeded Democrat Obama in 2017 and promptly set out to undo many of Obama’s achievements on health care, the environment and foreign policy, among others. Trump also routinely criticizes Obama’s job performance.

On Monday, Trump took a dig at the former first lady’s speech, noting that her remarks were prerecorded and that his own speech at the Republican National Convention next week will be live.

“Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech?” he said at a rally in Wisconsin.

Biden’s sense of empathy was also a focus of Mrs. Obama’s speech.

Tragedy has followed Biden, from the deaths of his first wife and baby daughter after he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, to the death of his son Beau from brain cancer in 2015.

Mrs. Obama, who leads an effort to help register people to vote, also spoke about the importance of voting in the Nov. 3 election, which will take place amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans and infected more than 5 million in the U.S.

Her remarks come as debate rages in Washington about U.S. Postal Service changes that are delaying mail deliveries around the country. Trump, who lags Biden in some national and state polls, has denounced efforts by some states to expand voting- by-mail options because of the pandemic.

“She knows the lengths that people are going through, around our country, to suppress the vote and it’s why she has poured so much of her energy into getting folks registered and educated about voting,” Jarrett said.

In keeping with the virtual nature of the convention because of the coronavirus, Mrs. Obama’s remarks were recorded before Biden’s announcement last Tuesday that he had chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.

But Mrs. Obama wrote lengthy posts on her Facebook and Instagram accounts praising Harris, a Black woman born to Jamaican and Indian parents, after she joined the Democratic ticket.

Nearly four years after leaving the White House, Michelle Obama remains hugely popular with the Democratic base, and among Black women in particular, as well as with some of those outside the party. Her speech on the convention’s opening night was tantamount to the endorsement of Biden that some supporters had hoped she would make during the early primaries, when his candidacy was struggling.

Although Mrs. Obama doesn’t see herself as a political player, Jarrett said it’s important for Biden to have the former first lady’s voice on the convention’s opening night.

“There will be no doubt in your mind who she thinks makes the far better president of the United States,” Jarrett said.

Monday’s speech was the fourth Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama, who first introduced herself to the nation during her husband’s groundbreaking campaign. She spoke again in 2012 to urge voters to give him a second term.

Michelle Obama returned to the convention stage in 2016, backing former first lady Hillary Clinton over Trump, who had spent years pushing the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and was ineligible for the presidency.

She spoke of the code her family lives by: “Our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

A key difference between those speeches and Monday night’s address is that Mrs. Obama is better known now than she was in 2008, Jarrett said. Millions of people in America and around the world have read her bestselling memoir, “Becoming.”

“I think her hope is they will trust her, and that this isn’t about politics,” Jarrett said. “This is about the future of our country.”