Democrats Open Unconventional Convention

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Joe Biden, campaign photo; Kamala Harris, photo by Jeff Malet.

The Democratic convention officially opened today, Aug. 17, at noon. It will run four days, officially launching the party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates on Thursday, Aug. 20, at 11 p.m. But it will be unusual.

Americans and the press may be split politically, differ and argue about many things, but one thing they all agree on in this heating-up election year is that the party nomination conventions will be unconventional, completely different and even “weird.”    

That’s mainly because all the speeches and nomination endorsements, caucuses and council meetings and special guest appearances will be “virtual.” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will be one of the opening speakers and she, like everyone else, will be speaking from wherever she is — for most speakers, from their homes.  

There will be no wildly cheering audience from every state and territory in the union to greet en masse the announcements and pronouncements. No balloon drops will take place with confetti to cover the just-nominated candidates in glory. There will be virtually no touching. 

For D.C.’s Democratic delegation of about 50 — who were looking forward to the hoopla and the chance to network with Democratic activists from throughout the country — the changes have required some adjustment. “But the planning has all gone very smoothly,” said Charles Wilson, chair of the delegation. “Our delegate votes were cast during the first two weeks of August, and Mayor Muriel Bowser will represent us at the roll call the last night of the convention. Some virtual events and public events have been planned by the delegation this week.” 

D.C. events include a convention kickoff at 6:30 p.m. with former Georgia Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, and the opening event at 7:30 p.m. with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Mayor Bowser. On Tuesday, a Women in Politics event is planned. A watch party for the vice-presidential nomination will be held in Ward 6 on Wednesday and a drive-in watch party at RFK Stadium will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. The code for passes for the general public is DNCP@PARKUP.  

Even with the convention events taking place virtually, however, the schedule of the four days is somewhat the same as conventions in 2012 and 2016. During the day, there are open meetings of various caucuses’ and policy and interest groups’ state and national leaders.    

Groups meeting on Monday and Wednesday in two-hour sessions (noon to 2 p.m., 1 to 3 p.m., 2 to 4p.m., 3 to 5 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.) include the interfaith, labor and ethnic councils, as well as the women’s and Hispanic caucuses. On Tuesday and Thursday, meetings are planned for the senior, small business, disability, youth, military families and veterans and environment and climate crisis councils. Meetings also are planned for the Native American and the LGBT caucuses, the Jewish American community and the Muslim Delegates Assembly.  

Preshow entertainment is planned by the convention committee starting at 8 p.m. And between 9 and 11 p.m., the keynote speakers will follow (not just one, but 17). On the program, spread out over the four days, are Democratic stars Barack and Michele Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Jill Biden; legislators such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont), Sen. Chris Coons (Delaware), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York) and House Leader Nancy Pelosi (California); governors including Andrew Cuomo (New York), Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan) and Michele Lujan Grisham (New Mexico); and former candidates Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Wang, Sen. Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.    

Presumptive nominee for vice president Sen. Kamala Harris (California) will be introduced on Wednesday night and former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to be formally nominated as the presidential candidate on Thursday evening. 

The address for the convention website is demconvention.com.

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