Major party political conventions are, by their very nature, weird events to watch. They’re essentially a multi-day hype party designed to create enthusiasm for a candidate that most of the people tuning in are already planning to vote for. It features speeches from party power brokers, up-and-comers, and a bunch of other weird stuff to fill the airtime in between.
And like most things 2020, this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) is sure to be extra weird and depressing.
It starts with Joe Biden, the candidate Democrats plan to vote for but who no one really loves. His campaign generated buzz by naming Kamala Harris as his running mate, but like Biden, people aren’t terribly excited by her either. Everyone knows the 2020 election is a referendum on Donald Trump rather than an anointment of Biden as the Democratic savior. Even still, conventions centered around a non-beloved candidate feel like forced fanfare—say what you will about Hillary Clinton, her most fervent supporters followed her into the pits of hell (aka the Javits Center).
To drum up enthusiasm on opening night, Democrats have predictably turned to Republicans. Former Ohio Governor John Kasich will deliver an address tonight as one of the most prominent GOP members to endorse Biden. Why feature a party member when you can recruit a Republican who enacted 21 abortion restrictions and banned collective bargaining in his home state? And as if that weren’t enough, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former New York Rep. Susan Molinari, and political activist/CEO Meg Whitman—all Republicans—are on the docket tonight, too.
New additions to the Democratic National Convention's speaker schedule tonight. THREE additional Republicans: former Gov. Christine Whitman, former Rep. Susan Molinari, and Meg Whitman.
Also note that they're right before Alabama Sen. Doug Jones. pic.twitter.com/uwhljOpqrP
— Daniel Strauss (@DanielStrauss4) August 17, 2020
Democrats have always pined for “reasonable” Republican support. Seeing it happen again in 2020 as progressive challengers unseat ensconced Democratic Party loyalists in House races across the country is disheartening. Once again Dems have chosen to prioritize the ever-shrinking moderate over progressive voices and voters under their own umbrella. If the 2020 DNC serves as any kind of coronation, it’s that of moderate Democratic ideology lording over progressives. Senator Bernie Sanders has been relegated to speak tonight, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, arguably the party’s brightest rising star, will present just 60-seconds of pre-recorded remarks on Tuesday. Other (more centrist) failed presidential candidates have featured speaking slots, all leading up to Biden, the physical embodiment of antiquated status quo Democratic politics. Despite everything going on in the world, that might be the most depressing fact of the convention.
The 2020 DNC will be like no other in history in terms of scope and execution. It will be odd to watch familiar faces deliver speeches from their homes as the country continues its struggles with coronavirus, evictions, economic hardship, and an administration trying to destroy the Post Office (among many other heinous things). The DNC, at least optically, will serve as the beginning of the final push against outright American fascism. Still, in so many ways, it feels like a feckless return to form.