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US elections 2020

Kamala Harris accepts historic nomination for US vice president

Biden's running mate says Trump costs American 'lives and livelihoods'

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris accepts the Democratic vice presidential nomination during an acceptance speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, U.S. on Aug. 19.    © Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. Senator Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday, imploring the country to elect Joe Biden in November and accusing President Donald Trump of failed leadership that had cost lives and livelihoods during a pandemic.

Making history as the first Black woman and Asian-American on a major U.S. presidential ticket, Harris made a direct appeal to Black Americans and other crucial constituencies that Democrats need in the Nov. 3 election.

"The constant chaos leaves us adrift, the incompetence makes us feel afraid, the callousness makes us feel alone. It's a lot," she said, speaking from an events center in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, that was largely empty because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"We must elect a president... who will bring all of us together - Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous - to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden," Harris said.

On the third night of a four-night convention that has featured a crush of women headliners, moderators and speakers, Harris pressed the case against Trump, saying his divisive leadership had brought the country to an "inflection point."

Former U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking just before Harris, also delivered a sharp rebuke of his Republican successor, saying Trump had used the power of his office only to "help himself and his friends."

Obama, whose vice president was Biden from 2009-2017, said he had hoped that Trump would take the job seriously, come to feel the weight of the office, and discover a reverence for American democracy.

"For close to four years now he has shown no interest in putting in the work... no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves," Obama said, in unusually sharp criticism by a former president of a sitting president.

Trump issued three tweets in all capital letters during the last half of the convention program, angrily criticizing Harris and Obama and questioning their allegiance to Biden.

In a speech from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Obama warned Trump and Republicans were trying to make it harder for Americans to vote and called Trump's leadership a threat to democracy.

"We can't let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Don't let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you're going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote too," Obama said.

Democrats have been alarmed by Trump's frequent criticism of mail-in voting, and by cost-cutting changes at the U.S. Postal Service instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump supporter, that could delay mail during the election crunch. DeJoy said recently he would delay those changes until after the election.

Former first lady and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who lost to Trump, told the convention she constantly hears from voters who regret backing Trump or not voting at all.

"This can't be another woulda coulda shoulda election." Clinton said. "No matter what, vote. Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line, because they are."

Clinton, who won the popular vote against Trump but lost in the Electoral College, said Biden needs to win overwhelmingly, warning he could win the popular vote but still lose the White House.

"Joe and Kamala can win by 3 million votes and still lose," Clinton said. "Take it from me. So we need numbers overwhelming so Trump can't sneak or steal his way to victory."

Biden leads Trump in opinion polls, bolstered by a big lead among women voters. Throughout the convention, Democrats have appealed directly to those women voters, highlighting Biden's co-sponsorship of the landmark Violence Against Woman Act of 1994 and his proposals to bolster childcare and protect family healthcare provisions.

Democrats also broadcast videos highlighting Trump's crackdown on immigration, opposition to gun restrictions and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told the convention she had seen firsthand Trump's "disrespect for facts, for working families, and for women in particular - disrespect written into his policies toward our health and our rights, not just his conduct. But we know what he doesn't: that when women succeed, America succeeds."

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive who ran against Biden in the 2020 primary, spoke to the convention from a childcare center in Massachusetts and cited Biden's proposal to make childcare more affordable as a vital part of his agenda to help working Americans.

"It's time to recognize that childcare is part of the basic infrastructure of this nation - it's infrastructure for families," she said. "Joe and Kamala will make high-quality childcare affordable for every family, make preschool universal, and raise the wages for every childcare worker."

In her speech, Harris outlined her background as a child of immigrants from India and Jamaica who as a district attorney, state attorney general, U.S. senator from California and now vice-presidential candidate shattered gender and racial barriers.

The choice of a running mate has added significance for Biden, 77, who would be the oldest person to become president if he is elected. His age has led to speculation he will serve only one term, making Harris a potential top contender for the nomination in 2024.

Biden named Harris, 55, as his running mate last week to face incumbents Trump, 74, and Vice President Mike Pence, 61. The Republican National Convention, also largely virtual, takes place next week.

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