Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Democratic Voters From Different States Discuss Their Takeaways From The DNC


In his acceptance speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden called for the end of, quote, "this chapter of American darkness." Biden tried to get beyond the usual Democratic calls to remove President Trump from office, and he attempted to show how things would be different if he were elected. We're going to hear some reaction to that from Democrats we met over the course of this past primary season, starting in Fayetteville, N.C.

PEARLIE HODGES: This is Pearlie Hodges. I am a registered Democrat, 66 years old, behavioral therapist and military retiree.

CORNISH: In New York City. Welcome.

DAVID SIFFERT: Hi. My name's David Siffert. I'm a legal researcher and activist.

CORNISH: And, finally, we also have a guest from Dearborn, Mich. Introduce yourself.

AMER ZAHR: My name is Amer Zahr. I'm a stand-up comedian, a adjunct law professor, and I was a national surrogate for Bernie Sanders. Also, congratulations on the baby. Last time I saw you, you were about to pop. So...

CORNISH: (Laughter) I was very pregnant, yes. So now that I'm back from maternity leave and some of their favorite candidates have fallen to Biden, I wanted to check in once again, find out what they thought of the party nominee and Joe Biden's effort to ignite support.

SIFFERT: This is David. Joe Biden talked a lot about using purpose to get him through hard times, and I thought this was poignant and powerful and that he pointed out to me three sources of purpose that, I think, his generation really have relied on, which is faith, community and family and jobs. And I worry that while purpose is just as important as ever, if not more important, all three of those are not applicable in the same way to our generation.

CORNISH: What do you mean by that?

SIFFERT: I'm 36. Fewer and fewer people in my generation believe in God and are religious. People are less likely to marry, less likely to have kids. They're likely to have kids at a later age. Community means something, I think, very different to our generation. And in some ways, the biggest difference is jobs, where I think that a lot fewer people who are under 40 really get a sense of purpose out of their jobs.

ZAHR: This is Amer. I think the real question that's going to be answered over the next, you know, 2 1/2 months in this campaign is, does the campaigning and rhetoric of, really, like, the '70s and '80s - is it going to work in 2020?

CORNISH: That's what you hear when Joe Biden speaks (laughter), the '70s and '80s?

ZAHR: Yes, that's what I hear. I mean, look - I grew up on the Pennsylvania-Delaware corridor. I grew up with Joe Biden. And I'm 43, and when I was a kid hearing about Joe Biden, he was an old guy then. You know, this sort of campaigning - kind of what David was talking about. Not that there's anything wrong in substance with those things, but people under 40 change jobs five or six times in their life without thinking about it. And so we are much more concerned with these big, macro ideas of policy.

Yes, there are immediate concerns, but we are actually much more concerned about how the world is going to look 10, 15, 20, 30 years from now in terms of the environment, foreign policy and all these other kinds of things. We think about these things, and those are the things we campaigned on, and we haven't heard any of that, really, from Joe Biden. It's been very platitudinal and very poetic and very theatrical. And I think that works for a certain amount of time. But 2 1/2 months, for those of us in politics, who've worked in politics, know that that's an eternity. And a lot of questions are going to come up about these things. And I just don't see the harm in the Democratic Party and Joe Biden appealing to that progressive base of the party that says, we want these real policy concerns voiced.

CORNISH: Pearlie, I want to give you a chance to jump in here, either to respond to what these two are saying or to talk about what you heard from Biden's speech yourself.

HODGES: I agree with Biden - purpose, faith, community, family, jobs. We have to incorporate the progressive wing of the party, but there's something to be said about longevity and age, vintage. Whatever your faith is, purpose, community - those are strong bulwarks. They're - would hold, I think, I believe - and I'm 66 years old, so I'm not too far behind Joe Biden. And I believe, again, it says something - longevity and having been in the fight, in the struggle, for a minute, as some younger people say. But I do believe that there's room for integration and bringing the younger generation - let's make this thing work, but let's not start the bickering before we get Donald Trump out of office.

SIFFERT: This is David. I should add that I agree with a lot of that, and I don't want to sound too negative about Joe Biden or about his speech. I thought it was, largely, a pretty good speech, and the three things that I was talking about that might not provide purpose so much to my generation, I think, have done an important job in providing purpose for a lot of Americans and a lot of Americans who are voters. I don't want to be too critical. And I do completely agree with Pearlie that there's an emergency right now, and we need to be on the same side, and we need to deal with this emergency.

Joe Biden is speaking to a relatively broad constituency, even if there are some folks that Amer and I are concerned about who don't necessarily feel spoken to as much. I think maybe we're a constituency that has dealt with that in the past and doesn't want to keep dealing with it. But, nonetheless, we understand that, again, there's an emergency. We have to be on the same side. But that doesn't mean that we're not going to push to try to have our voices heard both during this process and, most importantly, once Biden is elected.

HODGES: Absolutely. Absolutely. And can I say this just last, being a military person - if you're out on the battlefield and you come upon a wounded soldier, and he has both a bleeding head wound and a broken arm, you've got to take care of that bleeding head wound before you address that broken arm. And I see us in this situation - we have a bleeding head wound that we have to take care of and make sure that's taken care of. And then we can attend to that broken arm.

ZAHR: I get it. Trump is a menace, and I think everyone sort of understands that, and a lot of people are going to be voting anti-Trump. What I'm really worried about is that this governing or campaigning from the moderate position is going to lead to some communities being thrown under the bus if he wins. And I'm really afraid of that for my community, for the Arab American community. We are an important electorate, but we've so often been vilified in politics. I'm really worried that this coalition that gets put together to perhaps win Biden the White House is going to celebrate and have parades for, like, six months, and our community will get thrown under the bus. That's my biggest fear, and that's why I think it's important to - while we might all get in line and vote for him - to voice our objections now while people are listening.

SIFFERT: I actually do want to agree with that, too. I don't think it is fair to communities that are rightfully worried about these things, that have been ignored not just by Republicans but also have been harmed by Democrats as well, to be worried that Joe Biden might not wind up doing all the things that we want him to do. And I don't think it's fair to say that they have to be quiet until the election's over and not voice these concerns. So I think that both Amer and Pearlie are making important points.

CORNISH: You guys were incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

ZAHR: Thank you, Audie.

HODGES: Any time.

SIFFERT: Thank you.

CORNISH: That was David Siffert, Pearlie Hodges and Amer Zahr talking about the Democratic convention. And come back next Friday, when we'll talk with a group of Republicans about their party's convention.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.