WASHINGTON — The almost entirely virtual 2020 U.S. Democratic National Convention (DNC) kicked off on Monday night.
During the four-day event, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will accept the nomination and California Senator Kamala Harris will be nominated for his running mate. The quadrennial event’s host city this year — Milwaukee, Wisconsin — will not see tens of thousands of people gathering for the occasion like in previous years, since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced convention organizers to scale back the event by moving most of its activities online, with each of the four nights’ events being broadcast from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
Originally, the in-person convention with the number of attendees expected to be around 50,000 was planned for July, but organizers postponed it due to safety concerns during the pandemic.The nominal main venue in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Center, is being used for announcing voting results and as a control center to coordinate the livestreaming feeds, keeping the number of people on-site below 250 following an ordinance by city authorities that also requests the wearing of masks in indoor and outdoor public places.
Guest speakers for the inaugural day, including former first lady Michelle Obama, and Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont and Biden’s last rival during the Democratic primaries, were to address a series of challenges facing the nation, including the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recession, and the persistent racial injustice and inequity most recently exposed by the death of black man George Floyd in the hands of white police in May. During her speech, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ripped into what she said was U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to fan “the flames of racism” while “plotting” to suppress peaceful protesters demonstrating near the White House in June during the heyday of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, called upon the nation to “carry on the fight for justice,” saying the actions will be legacies of Floyd and other black people killed by police brutality.Saying the country is “in crisis,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was once the national epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, said that over the past few years, “America’s body politic has been weakened, (and) the divisions have grown deeper.” “Only a strong body can fight off the virus, and America’s divisions weakened it,” he said.
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of the few Republicans invited to address the DNC, said while he was “a lifelong Republican” and “proud” of his Republican heritage, “that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country.” Kasich said it “would probably never happen” in normal times for a Republican like him to cross the political aisle and endorse a Democratic candidate. “But these are not normal times,” he said.Biden’s former rivals in the Democratic presidential primaries, including New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, also attended the event to vouch for the candidate.
Sanders, a leading figure of the Democratic Party’s progressive camp, offered his vehement compliment for the former vice president. Listing a number of Biden’s policy proposals that are desiged to bridge income gaps, combat climate change, expand healthcare, reform the criminal justice system and address racial injustice, Sanders asked his and other former Democratic presidential candidates’ supporters to “elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president,” adding “the price of failure is just too great to imagine.”
The last speaker on Monday night, former first lady Michelle Obama, delivered a thinly-veiled political speech, sweepingly denouncing Trump’s presidency and bluntly calling him “the wrong president for our country.” “I know Joe, he is a profoundly decent man guided by faith,” Obama said of Biden in a video clip that was pre-taped. “He was a terrific vice president. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic and lead our country.” Trump, who was at a campaign event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Monday, reacted to Obama’s attacks, saying: “Who wants to listen to Michelle Obama do a taped speech? No you’ve got to get her up there.”
In addition to Wisconsin, three other swing states of Minnesota, Arizona and Pennsylvania are also on the president’s travel schedule this week, where he has planned to give pointed speeches to counter the DNC. The Trump team has also been running a four-day, multi-million-dollar digital ad campaign that not only takes over video-sharing site YouTube, but also occupies the websites of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Fox News.