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Michelle Obama: Joe Biden will return competence and decency to the White House

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VIDEO | 18:41
Michelle Obama attacks Trump’s lack of empathy at Democratic Convention (full speech)

Michelle Obama says vote for Joe Biden “like our lives depend on it.”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama told Americans on Monday night that the bitterness, division and racism that have defined the Trump presidency don’t reflect what the country really is and that Trump “simply cannot be who we need him to be for us.”

“It is what it is,” Obama said of what she called Trump’s unfitness for the office during her impassioned, nearly 20-minute Democratic National Convention speech. She was apparently referencing a remark the president recently made when discussing the U.S. death toll from COVID-19, saying the death rate “is what it is.” More than 170,000 people in the U.S. have died from the disease.

Obama took repeated digs at the president while calling on Americans to summon their “better angels” by voting for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

She painted a near-apocalyptic vision of a second Trump term — a country tearing itself apart from within, with the president using the bully pulpit of his office to incite his fellow citizens.

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At the Democratic convention, George Floyd’s brother and Eric Garner’s mother call for an end to racism and police brutality in the U.S.

She spoke at length of the power of empathy to heal the nation’s racial wounds and make people who share nothing in common see themselves in one another. But she said Trump is incapable of mustering empathy as a man or in his capacity as president, even though the nation needs more of it from its leaders as it copes with the deadly pandemic, massive joblessness and the nation’s history of racism.

“We know that what’s going on in this country is just not right,” Obama said, drawing out the words “just not right” for emphasis. “It’s not who we want to be.”

Obama told Americans that Joe Biden is an honest, decent man who has the capacity to learn from his mistakes, and that he’ll govern as someone “who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognize.”

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Her comments making the case for a Biden presidency came with a warning to anyone thinking of not voting in November’s general election: Think again.

The former first lady said this isn’t the time to resort to the excuse that an individual’s vote doesn’t matter — or to vote for a candidate who doesn’t have a chance of winning in order to protest against Biden, who many Democrats see as not progressive enough to tackle systemic racism, income inequality and other woes.

“We have got to vote like our lives depend on it,” Obama said.

Taking on efforts around the country — and by the Trump administration — to reduce turnout by blocking mail-in voting and casting doubt on the security of ballots, Obama said Americans should push back by requesting ballots early, standing in line late into the night if necessary and voting for Biden “in numbers that can’t be ignored.”

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Obama amassed a loyal following as first lady and has become a beloved public figure since leaving office in 2017. A poll by market research firm YouGov named her the most admired woman in the world in 2019, beating out Oprah Winfrey and Queen Elizabeth II. Her 2018 memoir “Becoming” is one of the biggest-selling autobiographies of all time.

With that sort of popularity and clout, and as a Black woman, Obama has been able to call out injustice and strike a chord with Americans like few figures of her stature can.

She drew cheers at the 2016 Democratic National Convention for giving this piece of advice to voters as a way to counter the sexism, racism and xenophobia of the then-Republican presidential nominee: “When they go low, we go high.”

But since Trump took office, hate crimes have spiked and the president has inflamed tensions. The president has amplified the baseless suggestion that Joe Biden’s Oakland-born running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, may be ineligible for the vice presidency because her parents were Indian and Jamaican immigrants, the same way he once smeared the Hawaii-born Barack Obama as possibly not U.S.-born.

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“Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation,” Michelle Obama said.

The nation’s children are learning what happens when an expression like “Black lives matter” elicits derision, she said, “when that lack of empathy is ginned up into disdain.”

Obama acknowledged that some question the logic of her admonition to stay above the fray as the nation’s politics sink deeper into divisiveness — and as the president calls anti-racism protesters criminals and un-American.

Her response: “Going high is the only thing that works.”

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Otherwise, Obama said, “we degrade the very causes for which we fight.”


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