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Zoom across America: What to expect from Biden's big convention week

The four-day event begins from Monday.

files-barack-obama-endorses-joe-biden-for-president Former vice president Joe Biden during the 2008 Democratic convention. Source: Douliery Olivier/PA Images

THIRTY-TWO YEARS after he first sought the Democratic nomination for president, Joe Biden will finally be named as the party’s candidate this week. 

Biden won’t get his convention moment on stage with confetti, balloons and cheering crowds. Indeed, he won’t even be on location to accept the nomination.

If he does unseat Trump from the White House on 3 November, Biden probably won’t care much about the circumstances of the nomination, but they nonetheless show how much Covid-19 has upended the usual schedule.

The final pre-convention question was answered on Tuesday when Senator Kamala Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate.

Harris was the expected choice for Biden but has already had more focus on her than previous vice presidential candidates. Tim Kaine, anyone?

The former attorney general of California is due to speak twice over the four days of the convention, but what else should we be expecting?

First of all, what is a convention?

The party conventions in US politics are the quadrennial events where the two main parties gather members from all corners into a single convention centre, nominate their presidential candidate and decide on policies.

The Democratic convention runs from Monday to Thursday with the Republicans taking their turn the following week.

u-s-philadelphia-dnc-hillary-clinton Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in 2016. Source: PA Images

The nomination of the candidate is usually a foregone conclusion come convention-time, with party delegates from each state casting their ballots based on how candidates did in primaries there.

This is the case this week, with Biden previously winning enough votes in the statewide primaries to mean he’ll be officially nominated when the delegates cast their ballots.

In normal times, the candidate will accept the nomination on stage, drink in the adulation and squeeze in as much TV airtime as possible.

Where is the Democratic National Convention taking place?

Technically the event is being held in Milwaukee in Wisconsin, but due to Covid-19 the voting delegates and speeches won’t actually be in the convention centre. Instead they’ll be doing their duties remotely.

The Democratic Party has said it is limiting the in-person presence at the convention to “only those necessary to orchestrate the event”.

This decision has been taken for some time, so speakers will have been prepared to make their speeches via the internet.

election-2020-biden-convention Joe Biden will not be traveling to Wisconsin. Source: Morry Gash/PA Images

Democrats have promised that there’ll be contributions from people in “all 57 states and territories”. As a result, the event is being titled the ‘Convention Across America’.

The plan is a huge change from the ecstatic cheers speakers usually expect and it remains to be seen exactly how it will all feel.

So who will be speaking?

Despite the virtual nature of the event, Democrats are still bringing out all their heavy hitters.

Each day is being held around a lofty theme (We the people, Leadership matters, A more perfect union, America’s promise) with two Bidens and two Obamas each making speeches.

Michelle and Barack Obama will each deliver keynote speeches on Monday and Wednesday respectively, with Jill and then Joe Biden on Tuesday and Thursday.

michelle-obama-on-the-bet-awards Expect to see many bookshelves during the four-day event. Source: Brian Cahn/PA Images

There’s a whole host of other high profile speakers across the four nights including Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others.

Republican former Ohio Governor John Kasich will also be crossing the virtual aisle to speak out against Donald Trump.

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Kamala Harris is scheduled to accept the vice presidential nomination on Wednesday and will also speak Thursday.

How can I watch it?

It won’t be hard to follow the action if you tune in to US news channels as there’ll be something close to saturation coverage over the course of the four days.

If that’s not enough for you, the Democrats will be streaming the event across a variety of platforms.

The only thing that might hold you back is the ungodly hour for Irish viewers, with the prime time speeches taking place from 2am-4am each night.

Four years ago, Trump managed to wrestle much of the attention from Hillary Clinton by urging Russia to hack her emails during the week of her convention.

While a similar stunt can’t be ruled out this time, it will be a worthwhile to note how much the incumbent is able to dictate the narrative this time around.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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