Diane Abbott's Daily Reports from the floor of the DNC: Day Two
It took a black woman, in the shape of Michelle Obama, to bring some semblance of unity to the Democratic National Convention on its opening day on Monday. Boisterous Bernie Sanders supporters had booed loudly every time Hilary Clinton's name was mentioned from the platform. They even booed when their hero, Bernie Sanders himself, tried to entreat them to support both Hilary and her centrist Vice-Presidential pick Tim Kaine.
But First Lady Michelle Obama finally brought the convention together with soaring speech urging support for Hilary which brought tears to the eyes of many delegates. One of the most moving passages was when Michelle described how she woke up every morning "in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States." And the speech was all the more moving because it is widely understood that, after the bruising 2008 primary battle between Barack and Hilary, there was no love lost between Michelle and Hilary.
Today black people will also be centre stage at the Convention. On the actual stage will be a group of black women described in the program as "Mothers of the Movement" They are all the mothers of black men who have died at hands of police and vigilantes. Among them will be the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and others. After a "summer of blood", in terms of police brutality against black men, this is probably appropriate. But it also the case that showcasing black campaigns in this way, was the least Hilary Clinton could do. Because without black voters, Hilary could not have won the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders policies may have been better for ordinary black people. But black Democrats chose to follow Barack Obama in forgiving Hilary her, borderline racist, 2008 Democratic primary campaign. They also went with the Clinton brand that they knew, rather than Sanders who was unknown to them until the beginning of the primary season.
But there will also be another black intervention at the Convention today. There will be a major march to the Convention centre by the Black Lives Matter movement. Unlike the "Mothers of the Movement" they will not be endorsing Hilary Clinton. Instead they want to encourage her to adopt more radical policies on race and civil liberties.
By contrast with the Democratic Convention's attempt to engage with race, Donald Trump's speech to the Republican National Convention was used to announce that he would be the most overtly racist nominee from either of the two main parties in the modern era. His politics are similar to those of the racist and segregationist George Wallace, who repeatedly failed to win Democratic Party nomination.
Trump describes himself as the 'Law and Order Candidate'. Under President Trump all black people, all Latinos as well as what he terms 'border-crossers' had better watch out. In a context where black people and all people of colour are being killed by police and others Trump says he will remove all checks and restraints on them. Trump blames immigrants for the decline in US wages - a message which is increasingly echoed by racists the world over. In reality of course, the economic crisis and low wages are not caused by immigration. They are caused by exactly the policies that Trump is an extreme advocate for, under-investment by government, falling tax revenues and abolition of protective regulations on the environment, workers' rights and consumer rights.
Despite the justified criticisms from the Black Lives Matter movement, the Democratic Party today will be attempting to show that they are moving forward on race and immigration. Sadly the Republican Party is unashamedly going backwards.
Diane Abbott is the shadow health secretary and Labour MP for Hackney North. She is currently attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as an international delegate representing the Labour Party
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more