This week was originally slated to be the week of the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, when presumptive nominee Joe Biden would accept the nomination in the key battleground state of Wisconsin. Due to the pandemic, the convention has been postponed until August and subsequently moved to a smaller venue. Then, in June, DNC head Tom Perez announced that the entire convention would be transformed from a traditional physical gathering into a mostly virtual one with delegates and attendees connecting remotely in satellite locations across the country.
While it’s possible to hold the convention virtually, does doing so make it virtually impossible to hold a proper convention?
Conventions are not just meant to be nomination galas with lots of balloons and drunk journalists. Every four years the convention is supposed to reassess and redefine a party’s policies and its principles while rallying support behind the party candidate. In 2008, Democrats were desperate to get then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in front of the people to inspire and appeal to voters with his rhetoric of hope and change. In 2020, we all know that the Democrats are embracing the COVID crisis in order to keep their candidate under control and away from the public eye.
If COVID had hit in 2008, the Democrats would have breathlessly tried to do anything to get Obama out in front of the cameras to keep that thrill going up Chris Matthews’s leg. Joe Biden, by contrast, speaks to groups of children about the blonde wet hairs on his leg. Less is more, as far as his public appearances are concerned.
The 2020 Democratic primary season was wide-ranging and contentious. With over 20 candidates battling it out for the top spot to go against Trump in the general, American voters witnessed a clash between traditional moderates and aggressive progressives. The party looked lost and confused as to how to appeal to their perceived base. In a desperate attempt to swing the pendulum as far as possible from Trump’s unique brand of conservatism, many candidates, most notably Joe Biden, felt compelled to tout many more radical ideas than previously preached.
After eight years of backing Obamacare as the public health policy that would save us all, Biden followed the progressive lead and advocated for taking it even further. He was influenced by the tremendous traction Bernie gained by pledging Medicare-for-All. Offering ‘free’ college tuition and whether or not to fall in line with the Green New Deal were other points of contention that desperately need to be addressed by Biden and the party. Without a full convention, can we expect this to happen?
Joe Biden is still expected to accept the nomination in Milwaukee, but the DNC has specifically asked for the delegates not to join.
The Democrats have altered the rules so that delegates can vote remotely in the two weeks leading up to the convention. According to a letter written by DNC secretary Jason Rae, delegates will be sent a ballot in the mail which requires them to answer questions about the party’s platform and the nominee. The ballots will be sent to the delegates’ state delegation chair who will then send a tally to be counted on August 15 just before the convention.
Though months of COVID shutdown mania has better trained us all to be cyber-communicators, this untested convention structure creates a flurry of new concerns and poses questions about the efficiency and integrity of debating and voting on these ideas.
Taking precautions to keep people safe is honorable in the middle of a pandemic. But it’s just a bit too convenient that DNC’s new structure creates a hands-off apparatus around gaffe-prone Joe Biden and the party’s flaws. The Democrats have seized the opportunity to comply with physical distance recommendations and enthusiastically kept their doddery candidate stowed in his basement. Biden is campaigning by omission. What the Democrats fail to consider, however, is that the longer they keep Biden in isolation the worse it could be. When Sleepy Joe tossed into the spotlight during the first debate against Donald Trump, his dysfunction will be fully exposed.
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