WASHINGTON – With guests and segments streamed in from across the country, Democrats and their presumptive nominee Joe Biden plan to use four nights of videos and speakers at the party’s convention to highlight stories of everyday Americans struggling during a global pandemic and economic upheaval.
In doing so, they will cast blame on President Donald Trump for simultaneous crises and argue that Biden, the former vice president, is the person America needs to lead the nation out of chaos.
Biden and the Democratic National Committee have chosen “Uniting America,” according to convention planners, as the primary theme for the four-day day Democratic National Convention, originally planned for Milwaukee but now to be conducted by video from satellite locations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The theme for the DNC’s unprecedented virtual convention is meant to show a sharp contrast to Trump, who Democrats say has divided the nation amid one of its most trying periods.
The convention, set for Aug. 17-20, is expected to air live nightly on cable news channels from 9-11 p.m. EST, with the second hour expanding to networks. The Biden campaign will also stream the entire convention live on 15 platforms, including the party’s convention web site, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon Prime.
The party’s regular business, including caucus meetings and adopting a platform, will take place virtually during the day.
Heavy focus on video storytelling
Each night will have a different sub-theme with messaging tailored toward each: Monday is “We the People,” Tuesday is “Leadership Matters,” Wednesday is “A More Perfect Union,” and Thursday is “America’s Promise.”
Biden will deliver his acceptance speech from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday night, but party officials would not disclose the location. It won’t be from his basement or house, however. Planners did not rule out Biden appearing other nights as well.
Biden’s vice president selection – a woman expected to be named next week – will address the convention on Wednesday night, convention planners confirmed.
Creative elements include a mix of live and pre-recorded segments, video storytelling, as well as digital components and a focus on Americans across the county, not just a slate of elected officials. Organizers likened the programming to four two-hour “TV shows” each night that will include different hosts “to keep the program moving” and segue to different videos and guests.
“You’re not going to see that many people speaking behind podiums,” Stephanie Cutter, program executive for the 2020 DNC convention, told USA TODAY, providing the clearest details yet on what the convention will look like. “You’ll see people in their living rooms, on factory floors, in schools, on town squares. We’re lifting up the stories of everyday Americans as they struggle with the Trump economy, as they struggle with how we get out of this pandemic.”
For months, the DNC has worked to build a convention format that, because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, will not include the usual in-person pageantry of a packed arena.
On the Republican side, the summer’s spike in coronavirus cases forced Trump last month to pull out of Jacksonville, Florida, where he planned to give his acceptance speech and celebrate the convention.
The president has not said where he will accept the party’s nomination instead. But party business for the Republican National Convention, set for Aug. 24-27, a week after Democrats meet, will remain in Charlotte, North Carolina, the original site of the RNC convention.
DNC convention speakers and programming will frame Biden as the “steady and experienced leader America needs” to bring the country together and steer the nation out of crisis, according to DNC officials.
Throughout the four days, they will paint the former vice president as the candidate willing to listen to doctors and scientists and work with governors and mayors to eradicate COVID-19. They will also hammer home his message of “building back a better economy” that puts working people first and small businesses, “not billionaires and big corporations.”
Expected speakers include Kasich, Sanders, both Clintons
The DNC has not formally announced the schedule of speakers.
Speakers, who will address the convention remotely by video, are expected to include former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich and Biden’s former Democratic primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. They will speak the same night, Politico reported, in a display of support from opposite ends of the political spectrum.
The lineup will also include former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama; President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. and, according to Bloomberg, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who gained a national spotlight when his state was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
Harris is among the finalists being vetted for Biden’s vice presidential nominee, but her speaking role doesn’t indicate either way whether he will choose her.
“This convention is for all Americans, no matter who you voted for in the past,” Cutter said. “We will unite America around the critical task of electing Joe Biden as president in November so we can begin to build a more just, more democratic, kinder and stronger country – a better America.
“The message we aim to deliver is simple: 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.”
It is unclear whether U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a progressive star, has a speaking slot, according to Politico. Ocasio-Cortez backed Sanders during the primary, but quickly said she would vote for Biden after he emerged as the presumptive nominee.
To unify the party’s progressive and moderate wings, Ocasio-Cortez was tapped to co-chair a unity task force assembled by Biden and Sanders to make party platform recommendations. But one of Trump’s campaign strategies is to depict Biden as a “tool of the radical left,” launching TV ads this week that feature images of both Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.
Breaking down the different nights
On Monday night, the opening day of the convention, the “We the People” programming will focus on “Americans rising up to take our country back” by singling out what the campaign calls the nation’s three crises – the pandemic, the struggling economy and racial injustice.
Tuesday’s “Leadership Matters” will feature small business owners, front line health care workers, racial justice leaders, veterans, activists and others who the Biden campaign says are “looking for leadership” out of the White House. “It will raise the question, what does leadership mean?” a DNC official said, and seek to contrast Biden’s leadership style with Trump’s.
Democratic speakers will argue a leader is someone “who will unite us, tell us the truth, take responsibility, listen to experts and be an example for the nation” – and someone who “rises up during crises” not shies away.
The aim of Wednesday’s “A More Perfect Union” will be to tout Biden’s “Build Back Better” plans for the economy and recovering from the pandemic.
On Thursday, when Biden will accept the party’s nomination, Democrats will turn to the “America’s Promise” theme as they cast Biden as a man of character, decency, compassion and resilience – “a fighter” who gets back up. The night will lean into Biden’s biography and his long record in Washington.
Citing safety concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic the Biden campaign this week said the former vice president won’t travel to Milwaukee to give his presidential acceptance speech – nor will any of the other speakers slated to address the convention.
It ended Milwaukee’s role as a convention host city. The change came after the Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett instituted a 225-person limit on people assembling in one place because of the coronavirus threat.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Biden said. “I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis.”
Wisconsin, a state Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in the 2016 election, was picked for the convention in a push to win back a battleground state that’s critical to both Biden’s and Trump’s chances in November.
Historically, candidates can emerge from party conventions with a polling bounce as they head into the homestretch of a campaign.
This year’s DNC convention “will certainly look different than previous years,” Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention, said. But he said it still provides an opportunity to “engage and unite more Americans than ever before and to launch Joe Biden to victory this fall.”
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Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden’s campaign announces DNC virtual convention details