WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Senator Kamala Harris will make history when she accepts the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday (Aug 19), saying the country is at an inflection point and "we can do better" than four more years of President Donald Trump.
The first Black woman and Asian-American on a major US presidential ticket, Harris can be expected to unleash her prosecutorial skills at the Democratic National Convention as Joe Biden's running mate in the Nov 3 election.
Former US President Barack Obama also will speak, telling the convention that Trump's failures as his successor had led to 170,000 people dead from the coronavirus, millions of lost jobs and America's reputation badly diminished in the world, according to excerpts of his speech released by organisers.
On the third day of a four-day convention, Harris will aggressively press the case against Trump and for Biden, likely speaking directly to millions of women, young Americans and voters of colour, constituencies Democrats need if Biden is to defeat the Republican Trump.
"We're at an inflection point. The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It's a lot. And here's the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more," Harris says in excerpts of her prepared speech.
As the largely virtual proceedings began, Harris made a brief surprise appearance to urge Americans to develop a plan for voting and thwart any voter suppression efforts that could hinder casting a ballot.
Democrats have been alarmed by Trump’s frequent criticism of mail-in voting, and by cost-cutting changes at the US 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.
“Why is there so much effort to silence us? When we vote, things change,” Harris said. “Each of us need a plan, a voting plan.”
She offered a number where people could text to get help voting.
In excerpts made available ahead of time, Obama, whose vice president was Biden from 2009-2017, says 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.
"Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job because he can't. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before," Obama was expected to say.
The coronavirus has complicated life with many Americans expecting to cast votes by mail to avoid crowds at the polls.
Trump has repeatedly and without evidence attacked mail voting as susceptible to fraud, though voting by mail is nothing new in American political life.
Speaking at a virtual fundraiser on Wednesday with elected officials from Pennsylvania, Biden repeated his calls for unifying the country.
"This moment requires us to sort of rise together and get everyone we know involved, remember who we are as a nation, to build back a better future. That's what America always does in a crisis," Biden said.