The 2020 Democratic Convention Probably Will Not Go On, At Least Not As Planned

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, during a campaign event in South Carolina, February 28, 2020. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

Joe Biden says, reasonably, that the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee scheduled for mid-July probably won’t be able to go on as planned. He didn’t propose any specific changes, merely telling Brian Williams of MSNBC, “It may have to be different.”

Besides the ongoing coronavirus concerns, there are four related factors that could really complicate any event designed to officially name Biden the party’s nominee:

(1) Any significant health issue for the 77-year-old Biden, whether it is connected to the coronavirus or not, will generate an effort to replace him as the nominee.

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(2) Any polling suggesting Biden will not be able to beat Trump will generate similar discussion of replacing him. (Right now, the polling for Biden looks fine.) Democrats did not move en masse to nominate the former vice president out of a deep-rooted love for Biden himself or some sort of “Bidenism” philosophy; it was the belief that Biden was more likely to beat Trump than Bernie Sanders. If Biden doesn’t look like a safe bet in November, Democrats will have second thoughts.

(3) The Andrew Cuomo buzz. Why shouldn’t Democrats at least consider a governor who has already proven, with the whole country watching, how he handles an unprecedented crisis? The challenges that the president will face in January 2021 already look completely different from how they did back on Super Tuesday — economic challenges, lingering public-health challenges, national-security challenges, the U.S. relationship with China, global instability, and more. Democrats may reasonably ask why they should remain locked into a decision they reached before the coronavirus forced far-reaching, sudden, drastic changes in American life.

(4) A widespread sense that even if Biden is still competitive in the polls, he just can’t adapt to campaigning during the time of the coronavirus.

No one knows exactly how long “social-distancing” rules will last, but it will probably only be safe to interact with people in large crowds “when enough of the population — possibly 60 or 80 percent of people — is resistant to COVID-19.” At this point, authorities are still trying to figure out when it will be okay for Americans to gather in large groups — the kind we’re used to seeing at sports events, concerts . . . and of course, political rallies and campaign events. Suddenly retail political skills mean nothing; candidates cannot interact with strangers, and may not be able to for a long while.

Joe Biden’s remote appearances from his basement in livestreams and television interviews are . . . mixed. Biden’s garbled verbiage and wandering off-the-cuff statements don’t seem as bad when he’s interacting with a crowd. Trump is a similar personality, and most politicians draw energy from the reactions of a live audience in front of them. Trump is on the airwaves every day. How does a presidential campaign build support when it can’t . . . you know, campaign?

During a chat on the Remnant podcast yesterday, our old friend Jonah wondered if we would see campaign-themed facemasks at the convention, if it happens. Whatever you do, don’t decorate your facemask with campaign buttons!

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