POLITICS

Here’s What To Expect At The 2020 Democratic National Convention

The presidential nominating event will begin Monday, but will look very different from previous years thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic National Committee’s presidential nominating convention kicks off Monday after the coronavirus pandemic caused significant delays and changes in the schedule. 

While the host city for the convention was set to be Milwaukee, former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination from his home in Delaware due to the virus. The presumptive nominee announced Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) last Tuesday as his choice for vice president after a drawn-out vetting process that included many women of color and prominent political leaders. 

The historic ticket is moving forward on the campaign message that President Donald Trump is a purveyor of crisis, with Harris calling 2020 a moment of “real consequence for America.”

“This is what happens when we elect a guy that isn’t up for the job,” the senator said on Wednesday during her first appearance with Biden as the presumptive Democratic ticket.

With the convention drastically transformed from a busy arena to a fully virtual space, here’s what to know as the DNC kicks off:

A sign advertises the 2020 Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center, which will be the production hub for the a
A sign advertises the 2020 Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center, which will be the production hub for the almost fully virtual event.

When and where is it?

The DNC will begin on Monday, Aug. 17 and last through Thursday, Aug. 20. The convention was originally planned for the week of July 13, but was delayed due to the pandemic. It is now a week before the Republican National Convention, which is Aug. 24-27.

At the time of the postponement, Biden told MSNBC’s Brian Williams that it was “hard to envision” the convention being held in July and said Democratic officials should “listen to the scientists,” who have advised against large gatherings due to the pandemic.

The convention was set to be held at the 17,000-seat Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee but has since been moved to the city’s Wisconsin Center due to concerns about the virus. The new venue has a 4,500-seat theater and a 12,000-seat arena. It will be the convention’s main production center, though few of the actual proceedings will take place there.

The main events will be aired from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on each of the four nights, although there will also be daytime events starting at 9 a.m. The convention will be broadcast on the DNC’s website as well as on all major television networks, social media platforms and streaming services like Apple TV and Roku.

What traditionally happens at the convention?

The quadrennial presidential nominating convention normally draws tens of thousands of delegates, party officials and journalists to the city hosting the event. 

The four-day convention consists of all-day events and caucus meetings meant to help frame Democrats’ vision for the White House. Delegates and superdelegates gather to officially nominate and confirm the party’s candidates for president and vice president. Attendees respond to notable speeches with loud cheers and applause.

Biden secured enough delegates to win the party’s nomination via state primaries and caucuses in June. The original plans for an in-person convention in July were canceled by the Democratic Party due to safety concerns amid rising coronavirus cases and deaths.

On July 28, 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton gives a thumbs-up as she appears on stage during the final
On July 28, 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton gives a thumbs-up as she appears on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Why is it different this year?

The convention is almost entirely virtual this year thanks to safety precautions taken to protect attendees from the coronavirus. 

Delegates were told in June to not attend the convention in person, and organizers recently said that no speakers from out of town will travel to Milwaukee. Speakers will instead deliver their addresses remotely from across the country, and thousands of delegates have already cast ballots by mail for the Democratic nomination.

Arguably the most significant change is that Biden himself will not be in Milwaukee to accept the nomination for president. Party officials said the decision to have Biden attend remotely was made based on concerns about the coronavirus.

“The upcoming Democratic convention is different than we’d imagined. A lot has changed since we set out on this journey more than a year ago now, but the one thing that hasn’t is Democrats’ commitment to putting health and safety first,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said when Biden announced his decision to accept the nomination virtually. 

“It has never been more important for elected officials to lead by example ― that’s the kind of leader Joe is, and that’s the kind of president we need,” Evers continued. “I know he will continue to have a presence in Wisconsin, virtually or otherwise, and I look forward to doing everything we can to win Wisconsin.” 

What will happen each night?

Organizers have created themes that will guide programming for the convention’s four nights, with the overarching theme being “Uniting America.” Monday’s theme is “We the People,” Tuesday is “Leadership Matters,” Wednesday is “A More Perfect Union” and Thursday is “America’s Promise.”

“The message we aim to deliver is simple,” DNC program executive Stephanie Cutter said in a statement. “Joe Biden is the steady, compassionate and experienced leader America needs right now to bring us together and steer our nation out of Trump’s crises and constant chaos and build a better future for all.”

After a long day of caucus and council events, prime-time convention programming will begin with a preshow and be filled with speeches from notable leaders. There will also be “unofficial” programming by organizations pushing policy reform on various topics.

Who will be speaking?

The convention will be led by a list of high-profile speakers, including activists, experts and lawmakers such as Biden’s former competitors for the Democratic nomination. The DNC has also carved out speaking time for American business owners, teachers, factory workers and health care workers.

Harris will speak on Wednesday to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president. Biden will speak on Thursday, the last night of the convention, to accept the Democratic nomination for president.

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris appear together on Aug. 12 fo
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris appear together on Aug. 12 for the first time as a joint ticket in Wilmington, Delaware.

Here is the schedule of speakers as listed by convention organizers:

Monday

  • Former first lady Michelle Obama
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D)
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.)
  • Convention Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.)
  • Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)
  • Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)
  • Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

Tuesday

  • Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry (D)
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.)
  • Former President Bill Clinton (D)
  • Dr. Jill Biden

Wednesday

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), vice presidential nominee
  • Former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D)
  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)
  • Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)
  • Former President Barack Obama (D)

Thursday

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden, presidential candidate
  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D)
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.)
  • The Biden family

This post has been updated to reflect that Obama is one of the Aug. 19 speakers.