After a marathon primary that saw 29 major candidates in the Democratic field, the party’s national convention is finally here. On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden will officially accept the nomination, and the countdown to the Nov. 3 general election will begin. However, due to COVID-19, the 2020 DNC is going to be very different from the major party conventions we’ve become used to. Yahoo News Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward explains what to expect — and why virtual conventions may be here to stay.
JON WARD: After a marathon primary that saw 29 major candidates in the Democratic field, the Democratic National Convention is finally here. On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden will officially accept the nomination. And a countdown to the November 3 general election will begin.
However, due to COVID-19, the 2020 DNC is going to be extremely different from the major party conventions we've gotten used to. Here's what you should expect. The biggest change to the 2020 DNC is that it's going to be completely virtual, which means that there won't be the large delegations or fanfare we've seen in years past-- no convention hall, no large crowds, no music, no cheesy costumes. Some of the speeches will even be pre-taped ahead of time.
We'll see plenty of familiar faces from the primary, like Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, as well as rising stars in the Democratic Party, like AOC and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance bottoms. There's also going to be lots of so-called elder statesmen speaking at the convention, like former Secretary of State John Kerry, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Of course, we'll also get primetime speeches from Biden's running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, as well as Biden's wife, former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden. And that's all leading up to the main event on Thursday night, when Joe Biden will accept his party's nomination for president.
One standout in the crowd is former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich is a lifelong Republican who was one of President Trump's top competitors in the 2016 Republican primary. It's not completely unheard of for a convention to feature a speaker from another party, but it is unusual. Zell Miller, a Democratic senator from Georgia, spoke at the 2004 Republican convention, although more people remember his interview with Chris Matthews following his speech than the speech itself.
ZELL MILLER: Get out of my face. If you're going to ask me a question, step back and let me answer it.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: [LAUGHING] Senator, please--
ZELL MILLER: You know, I wish we-- I-- I wish we-- I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel. Now, that would be pretty good.
JON WARD: But having Kasich speak on Monday is a clear attempt by Biden and the Democrats to reach across the aisle to Republicans and conservative-leaning independents who are uneasy about voting for Trump a second time.
Another big change for the 2020 DNC is going to be how the party conducts its business, namely the formal nomination and approving the party platform. This has become a way for both parties to produce symbolic moments of political theater, like when Bernie Sanders brother, Larry, cast a vote to nominate him at the 2016 DNC.
LARRY SANDERS: It is with enormous pride that I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders.
JON WARD: But this business is actually the real reason why parties have conventions in the first place. And this year, the delegates will cast votes to approve the formal nomination and the party platform remotely from their home states, rather than from the floor of the convention hall.
The Democrats have had a long time to prepare for this. Unlike the RNC, the DNC has been slated to go all virtual for several months. But because this is a first of its kind event, there's sure to be room for technical difficulties and other surprises.
Yet it's almost certain that some of these radical changes to format will likely become the new norm. Most political experts agree that the old way of doing conventions had become stale and too predictable. COVID-19 has inadvertently given the parties a chance to innovate.