While Democrats plan for a virtual convention, Republicans are sticking to an in-person gathering
The United States is still in the middle of a pandemic but that won't stop election season. As November approaches, the partisan divisions in responses to coronavirus are blatant. This week, Democrats announced they would officially hold an all-virtual convention to minimize risk, though Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee, plans to accept the presidential nomination in person. Meanwhile, Republicans are preparing for an in-person convention in what may be the U.S.'s newest coronavirus epicenter.
In April, Democrats postponed their national convention which was originally planned for July by one month. While the convention will still be held in Milwaukee on Aug. 17-20, Democrats are switching things up quite a bit. Namely, the Democratic National Committee plans to use a combination of live broadcasts and online streaming to bring the event directly to viewers and state delegates. In fact, delegates have been specifically asked not to attend in person.
"After consulting with public health officials about the COVID-19 pandemic, convention organizers are announcing today that they have determined state delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should plan to conduct their official convention business remotely," the DNC said in a statement.
The convention is important because it will confirm Biden's presidential candidacy. Right now, he's the presumed Democratic candidate, but there has yet to be an official nomination; that process typically takes place at the summer conventions. The DNC said, "A process is being developed to ensure all delegates can cast their votes on all convention matters, including the presidential nomination, remotely during the convention."
While delegates are being asked to remain home, Biden will appear in-person to accept the nomination. It's doubtful that there will be much of an audience there to see it, though. Still, holding the convention in Wisconsin is also important because it was one of the key battleground states in 2016. Per Business Insider, President Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes — which is less than 1 percentage point.
“The city of Milwaukee has been an incredible partner and we are committed to highlighting Wisconsin as a key battleground state at our convention this August," Jen O'Malley Dixon, Biden's campaign manager, said. "This will be a convention for all Americans who wish to join our mission to win the battle for the soul of this nation and build a fairer, more united country for us all.”
While Democrats prepare for a virtual rally, Republicans stand in stark contrast. Originally, the Republican National Committee planned to hold a big convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. But in a letter to Republican officials earlier this month, the state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper wrote, "As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely."
With Cooper writing that neither he nor public health officials "will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee" that an in-person convention will be allowed to take place, Republicans decided to make new plans. While the RNC will still conduct its official business in Charlotte, Trump will accept the presidential nomination in Jacksonville, Florida.
However, the party isn't entirely welcome there, either. Activists are already planning to hold a counter-rally during the convention, and Politico reported that Trump's team is looking to avoid a Tulsa-style debacle, when the president spoke to a lot of empty seats in Oklahoma last weekend. Public health experts have also warned that Florida may be the next epicenter of coronavirus; on Wednesday, Florida added 5,508 coronavirus cases, which is a record high.
While Tulsa made headlines for its sparse crowd, the rally was also notable because Trump's team basically ignored that the pandemic was still happening. While the campaign made attendees sign a coronavirus disclaimer, it didn't do much more than that. So far, eight Trump staffers who attended the rally have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Now, Republicans are saying there will be safety precautions in place. An RNC spokesperson told Politico that "these include but are not limited to temperature checks, available PPE [personal protective equipment], aggressive sanitizing protocols, available COVID-19 testing, and regular phone calls and coordination with federal, state and local health officials.”