DENVER — The Democratic National Convention kicks off Monday in an unconventional manner. For the first time ever, the convention will be happening virtually in order to avoid a large crowd during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision to move the convention was a bit of an upset for people like Gisele Diaz Campagna, who is a first-time delegate.
“It was super disappointing, but as somebody with lupus, I really want to watch out for my health. It was the best thing I think I could’ve done. I think we need to set an example,” Campagna said.
She was looking forward to the camaraderie and getting to meet and exchange ideas with other Democrats.
Campagna was particularly interested in hearing about how democrat candidates plan to address DACA recipients and immigrants, but says she sees the virtual convention as a challenge for Democrats to see the kind of movement they can create in an election year.
The decision to go virtual was also a letdown for veteran convention-goers. Polly Baca has been to every DNC since 1964, serving many times as a delegate. She loves the energy and excitement that builds around these conventions but understands the decision to go virtual.
“It’s better than the Superbowl and I’ve been to the Superbowl, so I know what I’m talking about,” Baca said. “It’s an exciting time but, more importantly, it’s that you know you’re having an influence.”
A virtual convention poses its own set of challenges; normally conventions are a time for different factions of the party to come together to discuss ideas.
DNC member-elect Radhika Nath wants to make sure that even during a virtual convention, everyone has a chance to weigh in.
“I think they did a responsible thing. However, we also need our delegates and activists to be able to have a voice,” Nath said. “There are no good answers here, however we have to have a better forum of participation for the people.”
This will also be Nath’s first convention. She was looking forward to hearing from Bernie Sanders and talking about the idea of Medicaid for All.
Nath is a medical researcher and understands the complexities the COVID-19 pandemic and campaigning represent.
Because the convention is happening virtually this year, one of the biggest challenges might be momentum. Normally, party conventions help get the ball rolling to engage and invigorate the base for November.
This time around, without all of the energy and excitement a traditional convention provides, it will be up to each side to figure out how to keep the momentum going through election day.
“Campaigns are very interesting animals. Campaigns need watering and feeding all the time,” Nath said. “This year we find ourselves in a pandemic and we can’t be knocking on doors. We have to do things differently, but we have to keep people engaged.”
Baca, however, sees the virtual convention as both a historic moment that people will tell their grandkids about one day but also an opportunity.
“I think this is a beginning of modernizing our conventions so that people will perhaps be able to participate not just in person, maybe online,” she said.
The headliners for Monday evening’s convention are Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The convention kicks off at 8 p.m. MST and can be watched online.