The Democratic National Convention is going fully virtual this year.
Rather than days of full programming, the convention will be condensed into two hours of televised speeches spread out from Monday, August 17, to Thursday, August 20. Former Vice President Joe Biden is set to accept his party’s nomination on Thursday night from his home in Delaware, rather than the original planned location of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Fears about the Covid-19 outbreak and the potential to spread the virus even with a severely reduced crowd caused the Democratic National Committee to scrap its in-person Milwaukee convention.
Starting at 9 Eastern each night, the Democratic convention will be broadcast on all major television networks, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and streaming services like Apple TV and Roku. The convention will also be streamed live from the DNC’s website.
The DNC lineup features big Democratic names including former first lady Michelle Obama and former President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. The convention will also feature former Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who will deliver an appeal to his fellow Republicans to support Biden for president. The week will culminate with Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris accepting their nominations to be president and vice president.
The lineup has not been without controversy. Ocasio-Cortez has been slotted just one minute to deliver remarks on Tuesday. Many progressives have criticized the decision — she is one of the highest-profile members of the Democratic Party and among its brightest young stars, and she is a compelling speaker. But Politico reported moderate Democrats worried giving her too high a profile would allow Republicans to paint Biden as a “vessel” of the left. The New York Congress member responded by tweeting out a poem by Benjamin E. Mays, “I have only just a minute,” which the late Rep. Elijah Cummings recited in his first speech to Congress in 1996.
“I only have a minute.
Sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, I did not choose it,
But I know that I must use it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Suffer, if I lose it.
Only a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.”
– Dr. Benjamin E. Mays
(and recited by Elijah Cummings) https://t.co/ul9CE7NriV
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 12, 2020
There has also been outcry that former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino candidate in the 2020 primary field, won’t deliver an address during the event. Initially, former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang was left off the list of speakers, but the entrepreneur said he has since been added. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been given a slot as well. Some progressives have expressed dismay at the DNC’s apparent prioritization of figures like Bloomberg and Kasich over Castro and Ocasio-Cortez.
But the show goes on. These bigger names will give speeches Monday through Thursday, alongside American business owners, teachers, factory workers, and front-line health care workers.
Here’s the lineup of speakers at this year’s Democratic National Convention (which is still subject to change).
The DNC speaker schedule and lineup
There will be a slate of speakers each night, including former presidents and sitting US senators, governors, and US representatives. The themes for each day:
- Monday: We the People
- Tuesday: Leadership Matters
- Wednesday: A More Perfect Union
- Thursday: America’s Promise
Here’s the list of speakers, broken out by day.
The first night of the convention has the theme of “We The People,” with a keynote by former first lady Michelle Obama, which means she will be among the last to speak. Full run-of-show is listed below, with descriptions from the Democratic National Convention’s media guidance.
- Introduction by Eva Longoria, American actress
- Everyday Americans will read the preamble to the US Constitution
- Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), convention chair and chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, officially gavels in the 2020 Democratic National Convention
- Pledge of Allegiance
- National Anthem performed by a multicultural choir with singers representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Cheyenne Nation and five territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Invocation by Reverend Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and co-lead pastor of The Lamb’s Church in New York, New York
- Remarks by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WS), the convention’s sergeant-at-arms
- Remarks by Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC
- Performance by American singer Leon Bridges
- A conversation on racial justice between Biden, social justice activist Jamira Burley, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, and author Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in 2014.
- Remarks by House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-SC)
- Remarks by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
- Remarks by Kristin Urquiza, a woman whose father died from Covid-19
- A conversation with healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic
- A performance by Maggie Rogers, an American singer-songwriter, introduced by Sara Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives
- Remarks by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan
- Remarks by former New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman, a Republican
- Remarks by Meg Whitman, the CEO of Quibi and former CEO of Hewlett Packard who once ran for governor of California as a Republican
- Remarks by former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY)
- Remarks by former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate
- Remarks by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL)
- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
- Remarks by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
- A panel of 2020 Democratic candidates for president including Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA); former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX); businessman Tom Steyer; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
- Remarks by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA)
- Remarks by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
- Keynote address by former first lady Michelle Obama
- Performance by American singer-songwriters Billy Porter and Steven Stills
- Benediction by Reverend Dr. Jerry Young, 18th President of the National Baptist Convention
- Jill Biden
- Former President Bill Clinton
- Former Secretary of State John Kerry
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
- Former US Attorney General Sally Yates
- Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE)
- Former President Barack Obama
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) accepts the nomination for vice president
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
- Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, a prominent gun control advocate
- New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers
- Former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the Democratic nomination for president
- Members of the Biden family
- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom
- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
- Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
- Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
- Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
Why the DNC is virtual this year
In previous years, the national party convention would be a moment for unity and celebration. But amid a once-in-a-century pandemic that’s claimed more than 163,000 American lives and counting, Democrats are hoping their virtual convention sends a larger message about how their nominee plans to govern in a time of national crisis.
With an absence of federal leadership from President Donald Trump, the Biden campaign and national Democrats are portraying themselves as the party of responsibility.
“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Biden said at a recent virtual fundraiser, speaking about the virtual convention. “From the start of the process, we’ve made it clear. … Science matters.”
Democrats have known for months that the coronavirus meant the normal throng of thousands of cheering delegates was out of the question. A recent public health order from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett would have limited the convention’s in-person capacity to 250 people, but coronavirus cases in Wisconsin are also still on the rise, and interstate travel comes with risk.
Even with stringent safety measures like mandatory masks and daily temperature checks already in place, some Democrats feared even the sparsest indoors convention could still potentially spread Covid-19. After Trump’s June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, coronavirus cases in that city surged, and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain died of Covid-19. Democrats didn’t want to risk any new cases emerging from their national convention.
“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves. And that’s the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House.”
Democrats want one message to dominate their convention: Where Trump has failed, Biden will lead America out of its current crisis.
“People care about one thing: They care about being safe,” former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told Vox. “It’s a totally different dynamic; we have one message to come out of that convention.”
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