A Big Ol’ Virtual Experiment

A Big Ol’ Virtual Experiment

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[The Democratic National Convention Guide: Speakers, Start Time, Schedule and More.]

I’ve tested the speed of my Wi-Fi connection, hooked up my flat-screen and laid out my comfiest leggings.

It’s Democratic National Convention week, baby, and I am ready to go — 2020-style.

My colleagues have described the event as “a combination of April’s National Football League draft, which ping-ponged from city to city, the produced montages of ‘Saturday Night Live at Home’ and a political telethon.”

Honestly, I have no idea what any of that means, other than a big ol’ virtual experiment.

One dynamic that is obvious: This week is likely to be the Democrats’ main shot at breaking through to voters.

Between President Trump’s ability to dominate the news cycle with a seemingly inexhaustible stream of controversy and the never-ending pings of breaking news alerts about the coronavirus crisis and protests over racial injustice, the party has struggled to draw airtime during the campaign.

How Democrats use this week may not change the outcome of the election (convention bounces have been shrinking for years), but it will give the country a sense of what the party stands for in the Trump era as it dreams of a new Democratic majority.

I’ll be writing you every morning with the biggest thing you need to know from the night before. And, of course, The New York Times’s politics team will be covering every minute of the week, with our chat, live briefing and analysis.

Here’s some of what I’ll be watching:

Last week, Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee’s chairman, described the core theme of the convention to me as “uniting America.” But beyond defeating Mr. Trump, unity around what, exactly?

With such a diverse roster of speakers, Democrats face a real challenge in pressing a cohesive future agenda. John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, and Senator Bernie Sanders — both of whom are scheduled to speak on Monday night — clearly disagree over the path Democrats should take if they win the election. It’s hard to imagine those differences won’t come up in their remarks. A kumbaya convention can seem superficial if it’s not clear what everyone is uniting to do.

I’ll be watching to get a sense of whether Democrats can articulate a clear plan for what happens next, should they win in November.

Joe Biden has been in the national spotlight for nearly 50 years. As a man who once called himself a “gaffe machine” certainly recognizes, it hasn’t always gone well. Even though he won the nomination, his performance in the primaries was uneven.

While Mr. Biden is known as an emotional and arresting speaker when giving prepared remarks, his address on Thursday will be the biggest of his career. There is simply no room for unforced errors.

But beyond questions of performance, Mr. Biden has yet to articulate a pithy vision for his candidacy other than defeating Mr. Trump. It’s a pretty basic rule: Voters tend to back candidates when they understand what, exactly, they’re being promised. Ousting the last guy is a given.

Think about it. Trump: Drain the Swamp. Obama: Hope and Change. George W. Bush: Compassionate conservatism. Clinton: It’s the economy, stupid.

The sound bite is the promise.

Mr. Biden has campaigned on a message of restoring the soul of America, a slogan that doesn’t go down quite as easily as those winning campaigns. Will Americans leave the convention with a bumper-sticker-size understanding of what Mr. Biden stands for?

At a convention in which most speakers will get one or two minutes of speaking time, Mr. Sanders has negotiated an eight-minute spot for himself. The question is how he — and the other progressives getting a turn on the virtual stage this week — will use that time.

In recent months, the deep desire among Democrats to oust Mr. Trump has papered over serious divides in the party surrounding fundamental issues like the economic recovery, health care and foreign policy. Since the end of his presidential campaign, Mr. Sanders has stayed on message — backing Mr. Biden at every turn. But facing the biggest audience they’re likely to get for a while, do Mr. Sanders and his ideological compatriots use their time to lend their power to Mr. Biden or argue for their own agenda?


The convention will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time every day, Monday through Thursday. There are several ways to watch:

  • The official livestream will be here. It will also be available on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch.

  • ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News will carry the convention from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day. C-SPAN, CNN, MSNBC and PBS will cover the full two hours each night.

  • Streams will be available on Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire TV by searching “Democratic National Convention” or “2020 DNC,” and on Amazon Prime Video by searching “DNC.”

  • The convention will air on AT&T U-verse (channels 212 and 1212) and AT&T DirectTV (channel 201). It will also air on Comcast Xfinity Flex and Comcast X1 (say “DNC” into your voice remote).

  • You can watch on a PlayStation 4 or PSVR through the Littlstar app.

  • If you have an Alexa device, you can say “Alexa, play the Democratic National Convention.”

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