Historically, both Democrat and Republican party conventions have been draped in fanfare and pageantry, but 2020 party conventions needed to look a little different this year. With COVID-19 still a prevalent issue, parties have opted for a more virtual conference. So, as the DNC finished off its 4-day event, it’s important to take a look back and discover if a virtual DNC held the same impact.
Night one was more than just the kickoff for the DNC; it was a test to see if they could deliver the same ceremony without a live audience. The fact that they managed to convey strong emotions, clear messages, and unity, all without technical glitches, is a testament to how effective night one was. For me, Michelle Obama’s speech was the highlight. She delivered a message of unity in the usual grace and poignancy that the American people have become accustomed to. However, the true strength of night one (and really, all the nights), came from their ability to interweave average Americans into the otherwise star-studded event. In the DNC’s COVID-19 memorial, Kristin Urquiza gave a heart-wrenching speech about her father’s death at the hands of the disease. Her chilling words echoed through news outlets as she placed blame for the loss of her father on President Trump, saying that “His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.” All in all, night one of the DNC did precisely what it was supposed to do. It brought an emotional hook, filled with beloved keynote speakers, in order to set the stage for the next three nights.
From Republicans to Democratic Socialists, the speakers of night two carried the theme of unity from night one. As night two marked the official presidential nomination for Joe Biden, the DNC made it abundantly clear that as November approaches, America must move forward as one. Despite cries from party leaders that Democrats need to move forward, plenty of speakers from that night were ghosts of DNC’s past, such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter (a staunch blow to the Progressives in the party). Instead of picking a single keynote speaker, as is custom, a variety of Democrats, from Stacey Abrams to Robert Garcia, spoke throughout the night. However, the real star of the night was Jill Biden. As Jill told stories, she appealed to emotions, humanizing both herself and her husband, in an attempt to persuade the party that Biden wasn’t just someone to settle for.
Night three was supposed to feature Kamala Harris’ V.P. acceptance speech. When in reality, as the night closed, Harris’ speech was the last thing on viewers’ minds as the night closed with high-profile speakers such as Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Barack Obama highlighted the night with one of the most emotional speeches he has ever delivered. “What we do these next 76 days will echo through generations to come,” Obama stated as he pleaded with Americans to vote in November. He delivered a poised attack on Trump while simultaneously reaffirming that Biden is the right choice to save American democracy.
For Biden, this was quite possibly the biggest night of his campaign. He delivered a speech filled with emotional depth and relatability—it was everything an acceptance speech needed to be. It contrasted beautifully with the typical nomination acceptance speech. There was no unnecessary pomp or roaring crowds; it was calm, collected, and even presidential. However, I found that the speech that best helped his campaign wasn’t his own but one from 13-year-old Brayden Harrington. Brayden delivered a charming speech, explaining how Joe Biden was the one who gave him the courage to address the nation about his disability.
The 2020 DNC wasn’t without its flaws. From Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ painful comedy routine in night four to Kamala Harris’ forgettable speech, there was room for improvement. There was still plenty of establishment that was lacking, namely in terms of presenting the Progressive agenda, indicating that change to the Democratic party is not yet there. However, this DNC did exactly what it needed to do. It unified leaders from the Democratic party (and even some leaders from outside of the party), refocused media attention back to the 2020 Election, and provided plenty of memorable moments. It may be too early to see the exact effect in the polls, but this week brought Biden the support he needed.