Opinion: Obama brings the blowtorch

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CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash reacts to former President Barack Obama's 2020 DNC speech, saying his remarks made it clear that his successor Donald Trump is an "existential threat."

Posted: Aug 20, 2020 9:01 PM
Updated: Aug 20, 2020 9:01 PM

CNN Opinion asks contributors to weigh in with quick takes on the biggest moments of night three of the Democratic National Convention. The views expressed in these commentaries are those of the authors. View more opinion on CNN.

SE Cupp: Obama's small but deeply important point

As a conservative commentator, I spent years -- at least eight of them -- railing against both the policies and prose of President Barack Obama. It was my job, and there was plenty of material -- some fair, some unfair, in retrospect.

But in contrast to the first term of President Donald Trump, it's clear looking back that Obama felt the weight of being president, had reverence for the office, respect for the mantle that voters gave him and worked tirelessly to fight for his agenda.

At the Democratic National Convention tonight, he made that contrast crystal clear, saying he hoped Trump "might show some interest in taking the job seriously." He hoped he'd appreciate the office and responsibilities that came with it. "He never did," Obama said. Trump clearly had "no interest in putting in the work."

It was a small point -- Obama rightly went on to promote his former Vice President Joe Biden. But it was an important one, and one that only he could make. The job of president is hard to begin with. It's impossible when the person in the White House has no real interest in doing it, no respect for it, no belief in it.

Some will criticize it as a cheap shot. I disagree -- I think it was fair, effective and persuasive. We need a president who wants the job, not just for the power but for the responsibility that comes with it.

SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of "SE Cupp Unfiltered."

Van Jones: We knew what Kamala Harris meant by "stroller-eye view"

A lot of people may well have watched Kamala Harris on Wednesday night holding their daughters' hands, and what they heard would have touched them and inspired them.

In the past few years, lots of people have begun to lose hope -- especially Black and brown folks in struggling communities. They started to worry and wonder if maybe they would not make it through this moment.

Then on the third night of the Democratic National Convention, they saw a Black woman of poise, strength and warmth take the stage and offer medicine for broken hearts. The love that her family showed her in the introduction was intensely relatable and completely touching. When Harris told us about having a "stroller-eye view" of the civil rights movement, going along with her parents to protests, we knew what she meant. We knew she had been part of the fight her whole life. It meant the world to all of us who have been fighting our whole lives.

Harris praised the rising generation who today are taking to the streets, organizing rallies, and pushing for a better world. She honored the struggle of those young climate, gun control, immigration or Black Lives Matter activists. She may not always agree, but she made it clear she would always listen.

Women are texting me from all over the country ecstatic over Harris being picked as Joe Biden's running mate and how she performed on Wednesday night. I am hearing stories of brown girls in middle school shouting "this is amazing!" and yelling, "being Indian is cool! Women rule!"

A lot of the talk about Wednesday's convention night will focus on former President Barack Obama's tough words lacerating Donald Trump. I appreciate him taking the hard shots. It freed up Harris to be herself. Normally, the vice presidential candidate gets up on stage and takes a blowtorch to the opposition. Instead, Harris created a campfire to bring people together. That is what America needs right now.

Van Jones, CNN host, is the CEO of the REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice organization. He is also the author of "Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together." In 2009, Jones worked as the Green Jobs Adviser in the Obama White House.

Jen Psaki: It's time to permanently ditch the old convention format

Let's not go back to the old way of doing conventions. The third night of the Democratic National Convention was far more powerful and more moving, featuring speeches from inspiring women in their living rooms and empty convention halls, and with a strong focus on issues that have remarkably become the core of the Democratic Party platform.

If the convention was in person, the primetime slots would have been filled with speakers back to back.

Even the people in the convention halls would not have watched the videos, which means they would have missed DeAndra Dycus sitting in her living room in a "Moms Demand Action" t-shirt, calmly telling the story of the day her son, Dre, was struck by a stray bullet when he was 13 .

We would not know Estella, the little girl wearing a "Unicorns are real" t-shirt, who read a letter to President Donald Trump about her family, telling of her father's military service and the deportation of her mother to Mexico.

The videos of children and family in cages at the border would have played during commercial breaks while people in the convention halls waited in line for bathrooms and drink refills.

And we would not know more about what a Biden presidency would do to combat gun violence, to fight climate change and to protect families like Estella's. It isn't just about balloons and fancy halls. It is also about people and about issues.

Conventions highlight the city and the community where they are hosted, and they are an opportunity for party insiders from across the country to get together every four years. But they are no longer the best way to tell the story of who a nominee is, who and what they will fight for, and what they will do as president.

Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is the founder of Evergreen Consulting. Follow her at @jrpsaki.

Scott Jennings: Dems underscore their nervousness that Biden can close the deal

On night three of the Democratic National Convention, I made five observations.

First, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama renewed Michelle Obama's call for Democrats to vote as soon as possible. The exhortations from those three leaders underscore, I think, their nervousness about Joe Biden's ability to close the deal in November.

The more votes Democrats can bank early, the better -- especially if Biden stumbles during the upcoming presidential debates.

Second, Obama, unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, has not receded from the political arena. Though many in the Democratic Party view him as some sort of nonpartisan figure who floats above it all and is a reluctant combatant in this campaign, nothing could be further from the truth.

He campaigned against Trump in 2016, against Trump and the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm -- and he is back at it in 2020.

Third, the Democrats are smartly trying to solidify their single biggest advantage in this election -- female voters. It was on full display tonight, as prominent Democratic female leaders spoke out loudly and proudly.

That's a problem for Trump, since it will be hard for him to win unless he can persuade more women to join his coalition.

Fourth, the attempt to reach out to disaffected Republicans certainly ended with Wednesday's roster of speakers, including Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. And putting Elizabeth Warren on television as Biden's economic spokesperson is not going to persuade any center-right moderates to join his coalition.

Finally, I viewed Kamala Harris' speech, which was too busy and largely fell flat, through the lens of 2024, as she's clearly the Democratic frontrunner for the next presidential nomination, whether Biden wins this year or not. And that's especially true since Biden has described himself as a transitional figure, which I interpret as meaning he's unlikely to run for a second term.

It's not the same on the GOP side. Current Vice President Mike Pence will be a strong contender in a post-Trump world. But he's going to be part of a large group of conservatives posturing for the 2024 nomination -- and these ambitious politicians won't so readily step aside for him.

Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.

Elliot Williams: Diversity in presidential politics is becoming the norm

Diversity is on display at this year's Democratic National Convention. From Eva Longoria, a Latina, acting as the first host as the event opened on Monday, to the stirring roll call of states on Tuesday highlighting the beauty and complexity of the American landscape and people, it is clear that Democrats have been deliberate about trying to convey that their party represents the future of America -- and that that's a very good thing.

Nowhere was this diverse future of the Democratic Party more on display than with the image of Kamala Harris standing on stage to give her vice president acceptance speech Wednesday night.

You would have a hard time finding an individual who better reflects demographic trends in the United States than the racially mixed daughter of Black Jamaican and Indian parents. Today, about a tenth of all American immigrants -- more than 4 million people -- are from a Caribbean country.

Likewise, as an Asian-American, Harris represents an exploding segment of the American electorate. The number of Asian American eligible voters grew 139% between 2000 and 2020 -- now representing almost 5% of expected voters this year. Asia's ethnic vastness and the fact that its emigres to the United States are not a monolith only adds to the complexity that Asian Americans bring -- and will only continue to bring -- to American politics.

Simply put, the notion of what an American looks like is changing. Each successive generation of Americans has gotten more diverse.

Along these lines, Harris, born in 1964, is either one of the last Baby Boomers or first Gen-Xers on a major political ticket. It is almost poetic, then, that this individual who sits on the cusp of two generations is a mixed woman of color with two immigrant parents.

In real terms, this all means not just that my own mixed Jamaican and Asian American children have a particular role model who represents who they are -- or could become. It means that now, after 12 years of presidential tickets featuring combinations of women, people of color, and children of immigrants, a generation of American children -- whether they like it or not -- sees diversity in presidential politics as a norm.

And it means that South Asian and West Indian immigrants of my parents' generation see in Harris the embodiment of why they came -- that their struggle was worth it, that their fully American children can thrive and that truly anything is possible here.

As Harris said about her background in her speech, "that I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me." She's right, with a caveat -- that she was there Wednesday night is perhaps more importantly a testament to the promise of the generations that will follow after her.

Elliot Williams (@elliotcwilliams) is a CNN legal analyst. He is the host of the "Made to Fail" podcast and a principal at The Raben Group, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm.

Angela Rye: Women will be required to lead -- but this time it is not from behind

On Wednesday night, it felt like the Democratic National Convention really started -- and it is not just because I cried multiple times. It is because it seemed like Democrats came to fight and to win.

We are clearly stepping into the year of the woman. From former congresswoman Gabby Giffords' inspirational reminder that she still has a voice to the constant reminders about the importance of exercising our right to vote (let's see how many times the GOP Convention tells its viewers to go vote) and appreciations for the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment this week, it was a real convention.

It was the pep rally I have been looking for the last two nights. I saw my friends, women who look like my neighbors and mentors, in Hillary Clinton's introduction video. And right when I thought it could not get any better: she said, "Black lives matter" and with ease. She was the first of the night to call the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Sen. Elizabeth Warren? Well, she looked like she was hosting woke Sesame Street as she sat with "BLM" blocks in the line of sight and spoke of the plans that will be implemented by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

President Barack Obama -- in addition to reminding us that the future of the country is up to each of us -- laid out an iron-clad case against President Donald Trump like the law professor he once was and passed the legal baton to Senator Kamala Harris, who we all know is the prosecutor Trump loves to hate. On Wednesday night, Harris stood on the world stage and demonstrated why she was the best choice for Vice President. As she opened her speech, I felt seen. She called the names of some of the greatest advocates and activists our community has ever known, but this country has failed to ever truly honor: Mary Church Terrell, Mary McCleod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, Diane Nash, Constance Baker Motley, and Shirley Chisholm.

To the people who questioned Harris' Blackness, if they are students of history their doubts should now be assuaged.

"Kamala Harris For the People" was not just her campaign slogan from the 2020 Democratic primary -- it is her way of being. She neatly made the connection between the devastating impact of Covid-19 and racial injustice by informing some and reminding others that racism has no vaccine and emphasizing "We've gotta do the work."

She called herself up and out. She called Joe Biden up and out. This work is for all of us. Just like the powerful Black women whose names she spoke, women will be required to lead -- but this time it is not from behind. We will be seen, heard and fully expressed as we work together for our collective freedom.

So, as the great philosopher Beyoncé once asked and answered, I leave you with this: "Who runs the world? Girls."

Angela Rye is a CNN political commentator, the host of On 1 with Angela Rye, and the CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy and racial equity firm. She is also a former Congressional Black Caucus executive director and general counsel. Follow her on Twitter @angela_rye and on Instagram @angelarye.

Jill Filipovic: A night of hope, tempered by unease

Night three of the Democratic National Convention was about who makes the party, and America, what it is: Women who marched for the vote and for their rights. Black Americans who stood up, again and again, and demanded that we live up to our founding promises.

Young activists and devastated mothers who are fed up with gun deaths and refuse to let our country remain in bloody complacency. And, of course, Kamala Harris, who embodies so much of America's progress, and so many of its unfulfilled promises.

It was a bittersweet night. When the montage of women finally gaining the right to vote a full century ago flashed across the screen, juxtaposed with women in pink hats marching on Washington, the message was supposed to be an inspiring and optimistic one about female grit, feminist rabble-rousing, and women claiming our time and getting stuff done.

When the convention opened with a segment on gun violence, including a recording of the moving speech Emma Gonzalez gave in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting that left 17 people dead, the message was one of youth power in the face of adult-made problems. Both were powerful and affecting.

And yet, there was Hillary Clinton, talking about cracking a glass ceiling that remains unbroken as the man in the Oval Office uses his power to launch stunning attacks on women's rights at home and abroad -- and there wasn't Anita Hill, a women's rights history-maker whose story is at present politically inconvenient.

There was Gabby Giffords, speaking through sheer force of will after being shot in the head in 2011 -- and yet here we are, with so many more bodies piled up, no closer to reasonable gun laws.

The incomplete story is part of the message. But these tear-jerker segments were also reminders of how fragile progress is. The hopes that swell when we face a sea change sometimes crash as the tides change.

It's been 100 years since women gained the legal right to vote and over 200 years since the first president took office, and yet we've never had a woman in the White House. That could change this year, as it could have changed four years ago.

Anyone with eyes and ears four years ago knew the disaster that would befall us if Donald Trump won the election, and he won anyway, riding on the fumes of white male rage at a Black president being succeeded by a female one. Now, we've seen so many of our worst-case scenarios play out and somehow get worse still, and yet this election could still go either way.

Recognition of past fights and optimism about winning future ones is absolutely the right message for Democrats to send. And throughout the night I felt my heart tugging and my eyes tearing up imagining a post-Trump country with a Biden-Harris team in charge.

But the thing with historical firsts is that they're always preceded by long histories of people who didn't get there -- who were boxed out, forced out, refused entry. Harris' nomination, and the convention fanfare that led up to it, has me feeling hopeful again.

This time around, that hope is tempered with unease, as I worry that our country will again fall short, as we have so many times before.

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book "OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind." Follow her on Twitter @JillFilipovic.

Julian Zelizer: The Party brought receipts on night three

The third night of the Democratic National Convention demonstrated the party's commitment to changing the character of national politics. Rather than relying on the symbolic appeals to diverse constituencies, Democrats showed they have made real progress in the halls of power.

The official nomination of Sen. Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian woman to be on a major political party's presidential ticket, has grown out of the ways that Democrats as a party look more like a majority of the nation than their opponents.

Besides Harris, tonight's lineup showcased three extraordinarily powerful female politicians whose impact will be felt in the history books. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been a human tour-de-force for progressive politics, from her role creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to her perch in the Senate.

She has been a tireless champion for middle class Americans, pushing for legislation to protect them from the devastation of debt and economic insecurity. Like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' historic runs, her presidential campaign helped move progressive ideas closer to the center of mainstream debate.

Hillary Clinton, former first lady, senator and secretary of state, is one of the most influential political figures of modern times. Like Eleanor Roosevelt, she helped to reinvent the role of first lady by playing a pivotal role in the push for key policies like health care.

While her vote for a resolution authorizing then-President George W. Bush to use force in Iraq in 2002 will forever tarnish her record, she also fought against the Bush administration's tax cuts and worked across the aisle to champion legislation to rebuild New York City after 9/11.

As secretary of state, Clinton played a pivotal role in rebuilding America's relationship with allies after the fallout from Bush's disastrous war in Iraq.

Nancy Pelosi, who told viewers "We come together again, not to decry the darkness, but to light a way forward for our country again," has been one of the most consequential Speakers of the House.

During her two terms in the role, Pelosi has proven extraordinarily successful at holding together a diverse party coalition and moving through legislation. In 2006, she delivered a Democratic majority in the House. Her role in the passage of the 2009 economic stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act in 2009-2010 were crucial.

She has been one of the toughest counterweights to the Trump presidency, most recently helping reverse the President's attacks on the Postal Service by calling the House back into session to vote on legislation that will help fund the agency.

Parties talk about change all the time, especially during conventions, but most of the time it's just talk. Too much of American politics still looks like Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2020. But on Wednesday night, Democrats brought the receipts.

There is still a long way to go, but the milestone of being able to hear from Sen. Harris and these three senior stateswomen —as well as the first African American president—marks progress.

Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of the book, "Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party." Follow him on Twitter @julianzelizer.

Karol Markowicz: Democrats took one last spin with the relics of their past

Who is the future of the Democratic Party? The last night of the Democratic National Convention provides no answer.

Typically, the answer would be easy: the person who has the nomination of his or her party to run for president of the United States. But it has to be clear to anyone watching the Democratic National Convention, that Joe Biden is the placeholder for the future.

The answer could also be Sen. Kamala Harris, though she did not get enough support of her own in the Democratic presidential primary, dropping out two months before the first contest, making her "future of the party" ranking tenuous.

On Wednesday night, during a segment on climate change, the pictures of a very young Biden riding the Amtrak train were jarring, as they were in similar pictures Tuesday night. Why? They're a reminder of how long Biden has been in government, that he was a US Senator from Delaware for 36 years before spending eight as vice president. If he had been capable of having an effect on many of the issues he cares about, such as climate change or gun control, why hasn't he done more already?

The real answer is that the future of the Democratic Party is the progressive wing, which has largely been marginalized during this convention in order to appeal to the Republican voters, such as the ones featured in the opening montage.

It's clear to anyone paying attention that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the rest of "the Squad" are the future. They're the loudest voices with the most demanding opinions. They are constantly forcing the party to bend toward them.

Though he holds different positions on paper, during the primary, Biden apparently felt the need to make a feint at supporting their policy goals, like eliminating private insurance for Medicare for All and treating illegal immigration as a civil crime rather than a federal one, tentatively raising a finger at a debate last June when he and fellow debaters were asked for a show of hands on both questions.

Biden might back away from these positions, and the progressives might forgive that, in the name of uniting the party to take down their biggest enemy, President Donald Trump. But they won't for long. On Wednesday night, the Democrats chose to take one last spin with the relics of their past: Sec. Hillary Clinton, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and former President Barack Obama, too. But change is coming and the future is here. It's time the Democrats faced it.

Karol Markowicz is a weekly columnist at the New York Post. She has also contributed to USA Today, Time, Washington Examiner and others. Markowicz was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she still lives with her husband and three children.

Raul Reyes: A daughter of immigrants made history

Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris each faced challenges on the penultimate night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Clinton's address needed to look both forward and backward, drawing upon her unique political experience as the last Democratic nominee.

Harris had to excite the party base while she introduced herself to the many potential voters who are perhaps only now closely tuning into the race. To their great credit, both women performed well, with their words reminding viewers of the power of possibilities.

Clinton came across as authentic and genuine, a far cry from the way she is often characterized by critics and in the media. She managed to seem realistic as well as optimistic, calmly laying out a case against her former rival, now-President Donald Trump.

Her most effective moment was when she recalled for viewers that in 2016, candidate Trump asked, "What do you have to lose?"

The answer, Clinton said wistfully, was "Our health, our jobs, even our lives. Our leadership in the world and, yes, our post office." This line was devastating in its understatement.

She also reminded viewers that Biden and Harris could potentially win the majority vote and still lose the election. "Take it from me," she said. With a straightforward message, Clinton effectively acknowledged the heartbreak and promise of this moment in time.

Harris likewise rose to the occasion, which was no small feat for one appearing after former President Barack Obama. Harris deserves praise for speaking so forcefully, and with such charisma, to a nearly empty auditorium.

But adoring crowds and applause were not necessary. It was powerful to hear the first woman of color to be on a major party's presidential ticket declare, "And let's be clear—there is no vaccine for racism. We've gotta do the work," for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.

On Wednesday night, Americans saw a daughter of immigrants making history. She paid tribute to her parents, important personally as well as politically given that a record number of immigrants will be eligible to vote this year.

Harris' closing was especially strong, when she said that, someday, a new generation will ask about this contentious era. "They will ask us, what was it like?" she said. "And we will tell them. We will tell them, not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did." Brilliant.

And in the midst of what so far looks like the most diverse presidential convention in history, it was refreshing to see so many Latinos, from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to a mixed-status immigrant family to singer/songwriter Prince Royce in Miami. Representation matters -- and Latino voters are watching.

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and a member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.

John Avlon: Barack Obama and Kamala Harris deliver a warning for "Us"

While Barack Obama was calmly accusing President Donald Trump of showing "No interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves," Trump was having a Twitter tantrum -- again.

Presidential campaigns are about contrasts. Usually it's a question of different policies and competing visions of America's future. But the third night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention made it clear that the Democratic Party sees this election as a contrast of fundamental character -- with the fate of our democracy at stake.

"This administration has shown that it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes to win," said Obama. "So we have to get busy building it up -- by pouring all our efforts into these 76 days."

The former President's speech was a balance of slashing attacks against his successor, combined with inspirational invocations of the civil rights movement, which served as an exemplar of America's commitment to forming a more perfect union with each generation.

His also passed the baton to Kamala Harris, who described her childhood's stroller-eye view of civil rights marches with her parents. Hers was a personal speech, an introduction to many Americans of the pioneering figure who could be our country's first woman of color Vice-President.

As the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Harris' spirit shone through in a speech that had to defy the weight of a largely empty auditorium in Delaware.

She rose to the occasion, honoring her background and experience while paying it forward by honoring a new generation fighting for a more perfect union: "You are pushing us to realize the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love. You are the patriots who remind us that to love our country is to fight for the ideals of our country."

In This America: The Case for Nation, Jill Lepore brilliantly writes that "Liberals have failed, time and again, to defeat illiberalism except by making appeals to national aims and ends."

Both Obama and Harris did that tonight, deftly tying the Democrats' vision of America with the fundamental character contrast represented by presidential nominee Joe Biden -- "His resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief" -- as Obama said of his VP-turned "brother."

Together, they set the stage for Biden's big speech tomorrow night, while warning that our democracy rests in the hands of We The People -- another way of saying: "Us."

John Avlon is a senior political analyst at CNN

Abdul El-Sayed: Silver linings in an "un-conventional" cloud

The national mood isn't banners, streamers, and big booming political speeches -- it's intimate and focused on fixing what's broken. So what this convention lacks in raucous stage moments, it has delivered in personal portraits of Americans whose real problems demand answers.

In many ways, the new format has exceeded what a traditional format could have delivered -- especially for a moment like this.

Those lived experiences are what we ought to stay fixated on -- the family longing to be reunited with their deported mother because of President Trump's brutal immigration policies; lives devastated by gun violence; and the young people organizing to save the Earth, literally.

These are the people our politics should serve -- and perhaps this unconventional convention has reminded us of that.

Further, Covid-19 has taken away Vice President Joe Biden's best political asset: his legendary personability. Without the mainstays of a traditional campaign that creates moments for interpersonal interactions with a candidate, Biden's found himself stuck inside a box on Zoom.

Yet glimpses from people like the grandmother of an intern with whom he spoke for half an hour give us insight into that personability in a unique way.

Tuesday's roll call also broke the convention mold. It took a perfunctory and banal procedure and turned it into a trip from sea-to-shining sea.

Though many of the stories shared throughout Wednesday night highlighted the need for strong public policy on immigration, gun violence, small business support, and health care, Democrats could be doing more during the convention to point up the chasm between their public policies and Donald Trump's.

Notably, the only two speeches to focus directly on policy were Senator Bernie Sanders's Monday address and Senator Elizabeth Warren's excellent speech on universal childcare tonight.

Regardless, this will surely be a convention we remember -- not just because we were all stuck at home to watch it -- but because it reminded us who we are, and who we need to yet be.

Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist and former health director for the city of Detroit. He is also a CNN political commentator and author of "Healing Politics: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of our Political Epidemic."

Doug Heye: DNC night three ends with not one but two bangs

How you finish is usually more important than how you start -- and Wednesday night at the Democratic National Conventionended with a bang. Two of them.

Appearing early on, a lackluster Hillary Clinton did not seem to have a real purpose for being there. Lines like "woulda-coulda-shoulda" served to highlight how she fell short in 2016 and gave the country a Trump presidency.

Her self-deprecating joke about losing to Trump fell flat. It's hard to deliver humor in this kind of setting, but for Democrats, is losing to Donald Trump a laugh line?

On to the real show.

Former President Barack Obama was forceful and eloquent, simultaneously touching on Americans hopes and fears. He's good at things like this, to put it mildly. As with his wife's remarks the night before, speaking in an empty room added weight to hiswords that an arena filled with loud supporters in funny hats might have diminished.

Following Barack Obama is a tough task. Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris was not going to hit the heights of an Obama -- few can.

But she tells her personal stories in a relatable way, while appearing natural. And, as we saw tonight, as in the first Democratic debate, she knows how to drop a cutting line: "I know a predator when I see one." It's why the upcoming Vice-Presidential debate will be more interesting than most.

These party conventions are like nothing we've ever seen. And while the Republicans were denying the inevitable decision to move to a virtual convention, Democrats adapted to the new reality.

That planning is clearly paying off: the party has leaned into the virtual and socially distanced requirements to produce a tightly-packaged, successful presentation.

The videos the DNC has produced have been excellent. It will be interesting to see if the Republican National Committee is up to the same task. Early reports suggest we may see more of a grievance-filled Addams Family-esque roster than anything resembling a cogent political plan that will address our nation's current crisis.

Douglas Heye is the ex-deputy chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a GOP strategist and a CNN political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @dougheye.

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