Before voters got to see Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) make history by accepting the Democratic vice presidential nomination on Wednesday, Aug. 19, former President Barack Obama addressed the nation. Obama hasn't been very vocal about his successor in the nearly four years since he left the White House, but he took a different tone on Wednesday night. Barack Obama's 2020 DNC speech took aim at President Donald Trump, and the former president didn't mince words when it came evaluating the Trump administration.
Speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Obama began by acknowledging it's not "a normal time." He centered his message on the importance of protecting the democracy embedded in the Constitution, which he warned is in jeopardy as long as Trump as in office, and he honed in on presidential expectations. "We should expect a president to feel a sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of all 330 million of us — regardless of what we look like, how we worship, who we love, how much money we have — or who we voted for," he said
Obama said he'd hoped "Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously," but that "he never did." The former president went on to make a full-throated rebuke of the current occupant of the Oval Office:
For close to four years now, he’s 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.
He cited the over 170,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States as of Aug. 20 and economic devastation as the most recent evidence of Trump's failures. Obama stated, "Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t."
The remainder of Obama's speech was a full-fledged endorsement of his vice president of eight years, Joe Biden. He said Biden, with whom he shared the White House from 2008 to 2016, "made [him] a better president," and he praised Harris as the "ideal partner" for his former VP.
In addition to highlighting Biden's experience in helping jump start the economy during the 2008-2009 recession and expand health care by pushing for 2010's Affordable Care Act, Obama ended his speech with an appeal to voters to use their vote to push back against cynicism, and to believe in the democracy which civil rights leaders and other marginalized communities have fought for throughout history.
Obama followed the lead of his wife and former first lady Michelle Obama in criticizing President Trump's track record. On night one of the convention on Monday, Aug. 17, Michelle made the case against Trump, saying, "Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. 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."
For his part, Trump responded to Michelle on Twitter on Tuesday, Aug. 18, tweeting: "Somebody please explain to [Michelle Obama] that Donald J. Trump would not be here, in the beautiful White House, if it weren’t for the job done by your husband, Barack Obama. Biden was merely an afterthought, a good reason for that very late & unenthusiastic endorsement." And following Obama's speech on Wednesday, Trump tweeted a video peddling a conspiracy theory about the Obama administration spying on him, with the caption, "Welcome, Barack and Crooked Hillary. See you on the field of battle!"
The fourth and final night of festivities on Thursday, Aug. 20, will include speeches from former Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and if they follow suit, there are sure to be more criticisms leveled at the current administration. Finally, the convention will come to a close with Vice President Joe Biden formally accepting the Democratic nomination for president.