Virtual Political Conventions Becoming a Realistic Alternative   

If the coronavirus pandemic forces large-scale events to be either discouraged or cancelled this summer, American political conventions may be among the country’s cultural casualties. Instead of the four-day festival that fills sports arenas, a virtual convention would connect thousands of delegates from all 50 states, plus U.S. territories, to cast votes on everything from political party rules to selecting who will run for president – all on a Zoom-like platform.  Currently, the two parties are scheduled to hold back-to-back conventions in mid- to late August, with the Democrats convening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, followed by the Republicans gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has hinted that his party may opt for a virtual convention if the pandemic continues to rage on, while President Donald Trump has been emphatic in saying his party would gather to nominate him for a second term.FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., March 12, 2020.But there’s no way of knowing at this point how the conventions will play out, and politicians and political analysts are intensely speculating on what a virtual convention might look like.   “There’s two aspects to this. There’s the legal and the political,” says President Donald Trump walks onstage to speak at a campaign rally, Feb. 28, 2020, in North Charleston, S.C.Virtual or conventional convention? Former Vice President Joe Biden suggested the idea of a virtual convention in early April, days after Democrats moved the dates of their convention in Milwaukee from July 13-16 to August 17-20. That is one week prior to the Republican convention in Charlotte, August 24-27.   Trump has mocked Biden’s virtual convention suggestion. Both Republican and Democratic party chairpersons recently said plans for live, in-person conventions are proceeding.    If circumstances force a change, Brown is interested to see which party produces a better virtual experience. “We have watched parties do national conventions for years. They know what are the best ways to gain attention and excite their partisans. But this would be a whole new world. And what that means in terms of the creativity and the ingenuity is really an unknown. And there might be a differential advantage for one party or another as they proceed down this path.” Kamarck notes the final decision on how to hold the convention is not necessarily in the parties’ control. “If, in fact, we are still in this kind of very difficult situation, there’s going to be people in Milwaukee who don’t want to work at the convention. There will be people at Charlotte who don’t want to work at the convention. There will be people in both cities who do not look forward to having 20 to 30 thousand people from all over the country,” Kamarck observed. 

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