Opinion | The Pandemic Could Make Political Conventions Less Terrible – The New York Times

Opinion | The Pandemic Could Make Political Conventions Less Terrible – The New York Times

There has got to be a better way.

As it happens, Democrats have been working on this issue for some time, having realized several weeks ago that they needed to shift to a largely virtual gathering. The fine-tuning is still in progress, but some details are available. Airtime will be slashed and the speaking lineup shortened, Joe Solmonese, the chief executive of this year’s convention, told the editorial board. “We want to be concise and respect people’s time.”

The proceedings will also be more geographically dispersed. Delegates and public officials aren’t gathering in the host city of Milwaukee. Joe Biden will deliver his speech from there, and his vice-presidential pick will be on site for part of the week. But many speakers will be scattered across battleground states and other meaningful locales, based on each evening’s theme.

“We’re going to be very much grounded in the moment we’re in,” said Mr. Solmonese. “So when it comes time to talk about education and the tough decisions parents will make about their kids going back to school, we’re going to go to the places those conversations are happening.” The same holds for the public health responders dealing with Covid-19 and the small businesses fighting for survival, he said, noting that having to think beyond the convention location “creates an opportunity for us to go where we think there are important stories to be told.”

With a nod to social distancing, the stage will feature a multiscreen Zoom layout on which political V.I.P.s and regular Americans will participate in a remote roll call vote. Dreamers and union members and activists will chime in from “iconic or message-based locations in 57 states and territories across America,” according to an internal party memo obtained by The Daily Beast. These will include the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the site of the Bloody Sunday civil rights clash in 1965.

Using resonant locations and nonfamous faces to spotlight important issues is a smart move. Message: This election is not about partisan games or insiders’ egos. It is about the nation’s collective future.

As for the themes conveyed, anything that focuses on comforting and healing the nation is likely to play well in these unsettling times — and speaks to Mr. Biden’s particular brand. For nonincumbents, conventions are about introducing the nominee to voters. There will, of course, be gauzy videos telling Mr. Biden’s life story. Cutting down on the speechifying and focusing on real people’s stories is also less likely to put viewers to sleep.

The Republicans and Mr. Trump are facing a slightly different challenge — with significantly less time to adapt. At this point, most Americans already have a clear view of the president. He will not be introducing himself to the nation so much as he will be attempting to rebrand himself.

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