The current COVID-19 pandemic presented both the Democratic and Republican political parties with a unique challenge this critical election year: how to hold a nominating convention which allowed for social distancing, wearing masks and keeping hands sanitized yet presented their candidates in the best way possible. Their solution: virtual conventions.
If anyone had mentioned “virtual nominating conventions” last year at this time, he probably would have been ushered out of the room, or at the very least, given the name of a good psychiatrist. Of course, that was eons ago (or so it seems now), before anyone had even heard of COVID-19.
The pandemic only served to emphasize the political divide that had already been occurring in our country and seemed to shine a spotlight on the importance of the upcoming election. As COVID-19 continued to strike, it became clear that I a “normal “nominating convention would not be an option.
The Democratic virtual convention was televised during prime time (10-11 PM) from Monday, August 17 through Thursday, August 20. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer opened the primetime segment of the convention with comments to the effect that during their tenure, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had unified the country and “saved the auto industry. “ She added, ”Democracy is a team sport – especially now,” and assured her listeners that “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will lead by example.”
In an interesting twist, one of the next speakers was Republican John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio. Kadich noted, “we’re taken down the wrong road by a President who’s putting us against one another.” He added, “I’m proud of my Republican heritage. What I have witnessed these past four years has denied those principles.“ Kasich’s appearance was followed by that of several Republican women who voiced their support for Biden.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, who stood out as a viable contender during the Democratic debates, noted, ”Joe ran for the same reason I did… to be a President for all of America.” She added, “Our country’s motto is ‘’out of many, one.’ It’s also the story of the Democratic primary.”
Bernie Sanders, whom many supported in his bid for President, said that during the “worst public health crisis,” President Trump is “leading us down the path of authoritarianism” and has “put our lives and health in jeopardy.” Sanders emphasized a need for Americans to fight ”greed, oligarchy and bigotry“ and noted that “We yearn for a nation based on the principles of justice, love and compassion.“ Sanders also highlighted various areas of Biden‘s platform,e.g., raising the minimum wage, providing universal pre-K, the creation of “millions of jobs,”Finally, he assured America that “Biden will stop the hate Trump has fostered.“
Former First Lady Michelle Obama began her impassioned endorsement of Biden by stating, “I am here tonight because I love this country with all my heart.” She continued, “Being President doesn’t change who you are… It reveals who you are’” and concluded, “If you think things can’t get any worse, they can and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.“ (Two days later, former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie noted that the former First Lady’s words were those of ”an attack dog.“)
The second night (August 18) of the virtual democratic convention featured a rollcall of the 50 states in addition to endorsements of Biden. A taped message from former President Jimmy Carter was short and to the point: ““Joe has the experience, character and decency to bring us together.” Former President Bill Clinton decried President Trump’s behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, which, he claimed, “hit us much harder than it had to.“ Former Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “This moment is a moment of security for America iand the world.“ Probably one of the most impressive-and unexpected – endorsements for Biden came from Republican General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and chairman of the joint Chiefs of staff. He said that he supports Biden because, “He will stand up to our adversaries with strength and experience, which we especially need now, since “Today we have a country divided.” A Republican stamp of approval was also given when it was noted that the late John McCain and Joe Biden had been friends.
Not all of Tuesday’s endorsements came from well-known individuals, though, as witnessed by the appearance of an immigrant followed by comments from an ALS patient who said, “We are witnessing the tragic consequences of our healthcare system. Everyone in America should get the healthcare they need.”
The second day of the convention wrapped up with comments from Dr. Jill Biden, who chose as her setting the room at Delaware’s Brandywine High School where she had taught English. Dr. Biden delivered a brief history of the Biden family, beginning with the tragic death of Joe Biden’s first wife and their daughter, and then drawing a parallel between Biden’s family history and hiis bid to become President. Dr. Biden stated rhetorically, “How do you make a family whole?” She answered her own question with, “the same way you make a nation whole.” Dr. Biden concluded with, “We just need leader ship worthy of our nation.“
Senator Kamala Harris, whom Biden had chosen as his running mate, started off the primetime segment of the August 19 convention by saying, “When we vote, things change.” Hillary Clinton, who ran against President Trump in 2016, followed with, ”Don’t give up on America. Come November, if we are strong together, we will heal together.”
Next, Senator Elizabeth Warren (who had at one time hoped to be the Democratic pary’s 2020 candidate for President) announced that, “Big problems demand big solutions.” She noted that, if elected, Biden would increase Social Security benefits, cancel student loan debt, ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share, and “promote racial equity.“ Referring to President Trump as “ignorant and incompetent,” Warren went on to say that COVID-19 was his “test“ which “he failed miserably.”
Firmer President Barack Obama spoke next, stating, “I did hope that Donald Trump might take some interest in taking the job seriously.“ He added that Trump has treated the Presidency as “one more reality show.“ He referred to Biden as “a brother” who treats every person “with respect and decency.“
Prior to the “major event“ of the evening, I.e., Kamala Harris‘s acceptance of the vice presidential nomination, Harris‘s sister, niece and daughter (who noted that she refers to Harris as “Mamala”) appeared briefly. Harris began her speech with, “There’s another woman on whose shoulders I stand, and that’s my mother.” She noted that her parents, who divorced when Harris was five years old, marched during the civil rights movement and, in a thinly -veiled reference to current events, added, “There is no vaccine for racism.”
The focus of the last night of the Democratic Convention was, of course, Joe Biden‘s acceptance of the nomination for President of United States. The evening featured quite a few of the individuals who had campaigned for the nomination such as Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang and Cory Booker. Drawing a parallel to Biden’s own childhood, a young man with a stutter appeared briefly. Biden’s granddaughters noted how important family was to their grandfather, and his children, Hunter and Ashley, attested to the fact that their father is “honest, caring and principled“ and said how proud their brother, Beau, who lost his battle with cancer five years ago, would be.
Next, the “audience” was presented with a brief biography of Biden, including how there had been a “problem“ ( the that he stuttered) when Biden started school. His mother told him, “Remember, Joey, you’re the smartest person in that class.” In 1973, as had been stated previously, Biden’s first wife and his daughter died in a car accident, leaving him with two sons. Biden noted that all of this Helped him to understand what other people might be going through.
Biden opened his acceptance speech with, ”The days of cozying up to dictators are over.” He went on to say that the current President offers “too much anger, too much fear, and too much division, and “adding, I’ll be an ally of the light, not the darkness.” He pledged that, if elected, he will work as hard for those who did not support him as he will for those who did. He noted that we currently are facing “four historic crises“: the pandemic, a fractured economy, social injustice, and climate change, concluding “We can choose the path of divisiveness or of hope.” He went on to state that “We will never have our lives back until we deal with this virus. After all this time, the President doesn’t have a plan. Well, I do.”
Considering that this was the first virtual Presidential nominating convention held in the United States, the 2020 Democratic Convention went off without a hitch. It almost was a relief not to have to watch all the hoopla that usually accompanies these conventions. Only time will tell whether or not the Democrats got their message across to the American public.
Pat on August 25, 2020:
Thanks for the comments, Sharlee.
Sharlee on August 25, 2020:
Nicely written.. Is a very telling description of the DNC"convention. One can see the Dems set out to bash Trump while giving no indication of what they offer? They did offer lot's about Biden's past, but a past that showed no real accomplishments. Very bleak representation of President Trump in contrast to last night's RNC convention where American's stood and gave confirmation of how President Trump's administration has made their lives better. real American's, real deeds that helped American's.
I for one found the DNC's convention dark, and nothing was offered to what they would do differently. I consider the Democratic party a party that is unreonizable, their convention confirmed that belief.