PHILADELPHIA – The Democratic National Convention took a somber tone Wednesday night as speakers highlighted a series of recent mass killings and called for gun control.
“We have had enough!” declared Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a major backer of gun control legislation. “There is no reason to feel helpless about the horrifying trajectory of cascading massacres.
“Smart gun policy, like background checks, can change this,” he said.
In a night that expected to increasingly focus on safety at home and the threats abroad, Democrats sought to create a stark contrast between their approach to those issues and the Republican convention last week in Cleveland.
Murphy pledged that Clinton will fight for gun control, despite the political risks, while Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, will “do the bidding of the gun lobby.”
The convention also heard from a the mother of a young man who was one of 49 killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Christine Leinonen said her son Christopher was a “huge” fan of Hillary Clinton.
She was followed by Erica Smegielski, whose mother was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. And then from two women who survived the racially motivated attack on a Charleston, S.C., church in 2015.
“I’ve mourned far too many officers killed by guns,” said former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “And as a nation, we’ve mourned far too many people who have fallen victim to gun violence.”
Democrats piled on the criticism of Trump on a wide rage of issues, calling him unfit to lead the military and criticizing him for failing to make good on his promises to donate to veterans charities and for denigrating prisoners of war.
“Donald Trump is a scam artist. He is trying to pull off the ultimate scam pretending he cares about veterans,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a Marine veteran.
Gallego cited a report from the Washington Post, which found that Trump had not donated money he promised to charities until reporters began asking questions.
Gallego was followed on the stage by Jamie Dorff, whose husband was killed in the line of duty while serving in the Army. Dorff praised Clinton for working as a senator to raise the allowance given to families of fallen servicemembers.
“Looking back on it, I didn’t realize who was responsible,” Dorff said. “I didn’t see her as a Democrat or a Republican, I simply saw a fighter for people like us, for families like mine.”
A parade of Democratic lawmakers who took the stage on Wednesday night highlighted the diversity of the party and harshly criticized the Republican Party’s nominee.
“Donald J. Trump, your words have been hostile, bigoted, and insulting,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “You have used every opportunity to talk about your wealth; to denigrate people who don’t hold your views, even within your own party.
“You are not qualified to serve as president,” he said.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley called Trump a “bully” and a “coward.”
“Unlike that immigrant-bashing, carnival barker, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton understands the enduring symbol of the United States of America is not the barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty!” O’Malley said.
As the third day of the party’s convention began, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was unanimously nominated to be the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate on Wednesday, kicking off the third session of the party’s convention that will be focused on Hillary Clinton’s national security experience.
Speeches by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Kaine were set to headline the third night of the convention, and each are expected to argue that Clinton has the experience necessary to be commander-in-chief.
Their prime-time speeches came just hours after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on Russia to hack into Clinton’s email server to recover tens of thousands of missing emails and on the same day that Pope Francis warned amid fresh terror attacks across Europe that the “world is at war” amid fresh terror attacks across Europe.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said during a freewheeling and tense news conference at his South Florida resort.
The comments prompted widespread condemnation from Democrats, who called it unprecedented.
Kaine, meanwhile, began the biggest day of his political life by attending a breakfast hosted by Virginia Democrats. In remarks to a friendly crowd, he focused on Trump’s rhetoric and his frequently controversial remarks about women, minorities and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States.
“Is it too much to ask to have the first woman president rather than someone who offends women every time he opens his mouth?” he said on Wednesday morning.
Kaine, whose Marine son deployed overseas Monday, also said Trump has fought to avoid paying taxes that pay for the military – a potent message in veterans-rich Virginia.
“Who’s funding veterans’ programs?” he asked. “Who’s funding veterans’ services? Folks like you and me, but Donald Trump’s too big to have to fund veterans, too big to have to fund our military . . . too big to have to fund the things that make us a great nation.”
“I guess that’s just for suckers to have to pay for the society we have,” he said, as the audience of friends and supporters cheered.
Kaine is expected to focus on Clinton’s national security and foreign policy plans in his prime-time address, topics that are consistent with the theme that Clinton officials have crafted for a third night of the convention, as foreign policy and terrorism have risen to the fore in the 2016 election. Trump has seized on those issues, casting himself as the candidate more focused on keeping the country safe.
Clinton’s pick of Kaine as her running mate drew praise from many quarters, but the former Virginia governor faces a challenge in convincing some progressive groups that he will champion their issues. Longtime watchers of Virginia politics say the question during much of Kaine’s career there has actually been whether he is too liberal for their state.
“I think progressives are looking for him not only to talk about progressive issues, but to talk about them with authenticity and sincerity,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “He has a real chance to introduce himself to the Democratic Party and electorate at large.”
Murphy, the senator from Connecticut, who sits alongside Kaine on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the Virginian on Wednesday as “a next-level intellect.”
“There’s nobody better on that committee to distill these complicated issues into easy, digestible ways,” Murphy said in a Washington Post Live interview in Philadelphia. “I think he’s going to bring a readiness and humanity to this role. And all the press he gets about being a nice guy – it’s all true.”