Nothing felt more real, more searing, on the first night of the surreal 2020 Democratic National Convention than the words of a grieving daughter, Kristin Urquiza, laying the blame for her father s death from coronavirus at the feet of President Donald Trump.
"My dad was a healthy 65-year-old," she said sharply, "his only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life."What could matter more when choosing a president in the middle of a pandemic than a candidate s ability -- his determination -- to do everything in his power to keep people from dying? Listening to her tell the story of her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, made concrete the sorrow behind the Covid-19 death toll that keeps climbing, even as Trump relentlessly seeks to minimize the threat and undercut the measures that save lives.
The story of this pandemic is one of the themes of the convention, as it should be. In many ways, this convention could be called the "It Didn t Have to be This Way Democratic Convention."
Maybe Urquiza s words touched me because I lost my father early in my life. I understand the pain, the frustration, the anger after such a crushing tragedy; I have always felt a lingering emptiness in that spot, somewhere in the solar plexus, where a daughter s special connection to her father resides. I felt Urquiza s words emanate from that place, newly wounded, still smoldering and tender.
It s not time for my story, but hers -- one that too many Americans are now experiencing, and one that could drive millions to the polls to defeat the man Urquiza rightly blames for her father s death.
How many people did Urquiza touch on Monday night? At least 170,000 multiplied by children, spouses, siblings, friends and co-workers. In short, the millions of Americans who have lost loved ones. And why?As she related what occurred over images of her dad smiling before he became ill, of the family gathered, undoubtedly expecting many more years together, gradually giving way to images of him ill, we heard what happened.
Her father voted for Trump, trusted him and took the President at his word. He "listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said coronavirus was under control and going to disappear; that it was OK to end social distancing rules..."
When restrictions were lifted in Arizona, he went to a karaoke bar with his friends. We saw a picture of her father, beaming, microphone in hand. Before long, he fell ill. We saw the wrenching image of him, hospitalized, the end approaching. He was put on a ventilator. "After five agonizing days," Urquiza said, "he died alone, in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand." That was it. Another tragic statistic.
Urquiza was one of many everyday Americans featured prominently on the first night of the DNC. Her story, and others, sought to unite Democrats while touching a chord among Republicans. It became part of a convention that aimed to portray the party as a broad coalition, with room for people from all walks of life.
Tellingly, one of the first speakers on video, a farmer, said, "First of all, I d like to offer condolences to the Trump family," for the loss of Trump s brother Robert. And the invocation at the very beginning asked God to bless all Americans, Republicans, Democrats and independents. It was an effort to show Democrats in the mold of their candidate, Joe Biden: conciliatory, healing, decent, aiming to restore the country to a sense of national unity.Speeches by Republicans and Democrats, eloquent words such as those from Michelle Obama, went a long way to make that case. But Urquiza s message was visceral. This is a convention like no other. When else have we seen an in memoriam scroll of people lost only recently to such a terrible disease?
More than anything, Americans are united today in grief, in suffering, in the strangeness of daily lives that would have been inconceivable until the virus struck, and made deadlier, costlier, by the current President s twisted priorities. It didn t have to be this way. Like Urquiza s dad, millions of Americans voted for Trump, trusted him to make America great.
It turned to disaster. It didn t have to be this way.