Biden: “Hard to envision” an in-person Democratic national convention

No baseball for the foreseeable future. No NBA. No Euro 2020 soccer tournament.

No matter what sports you enjoy watching, you’re missing out on pleasurable experiences above and beyond the joys of going out and about.

But there’s a bright side. The Democratic national convention may not take place in its usual form.

That’s what Joe Biden says. In his view, it’s “hard to envision” an in-person Democratic National Convention taking place in July as planned. “The fact is, it may have to be different,” he told MSNBC yesterday.

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee. By then, I hope, draconian stay-home type orders will be a thing of the past. However, a mass gathering in an arena of delegates, media, and enthusiasts might still be out of the question.

At times, Democrats seem willing to risk political suicide, as well as the economic strangulation of the country. However, I doubt they are willing to risk the mass infection of their political leaders.

What are the alternatives? A virtual convention is one possibility. It would feature speeches, but not before a live audience, or at least a big one. If Bernie Sanders is still in the contest, voting would be done remotely. If he isn’t, Biden could, I suppose, be nominated by some form of virtual acclamation.

Another possibility is to push the convention back to a later date. But that might be a logistical nightmare. Nor is it clear that, even by late August or early September, it will be safe to hold a normal convention.

The Republican convention is scheduled for August 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. President Trump says there’s “no way” he’ll cancel that event. But Biden was saying something similar not long ago.

Candidates often get a “bounce” from their political conventions, although the bounces seem less substantial these days. Conventions can also boomerang. The 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, with its riots in the streets and deep divisions inside the convention hall, is the best example.

If the Democrats convene in Milwaukee, the possibility of a mini Chicago 1968 exists. Bernie Sanders’s supporters might not take kindly to the coronation of Joe Biden, especially in the context of an abbreviated primary season.

Thus, the absence of a convention might work in Biden’s favor by avoiding televised unpleasantness on a large scale. On the other other hand, the inability of Sanders’s fans to vent at a convention, coupled with the inability to extract concessions from Biden through a normal convention process, might make it more difficult for Democrats to unite the party.

The absence of a convention would also deprive Biden of the opportunity to overcome the image that he’s not quite all there. No better opportunity exists to combat that image than reading a canned, well written, and thoroughly rehearsed speech from a teleprompter in front of a huge cheering crowd.

In the end, though, I question whether the absence of a normal Democratic convention would harm Biden’s chances in November, even if the Republicans hold one. This election seems destined to turn on how the public views President Trump’s response to the Wuhan corornavirus and whether it believes the president can deal more effectively than Biden with the fallout.

Even a great speech by Biden at a convention in July, coupled with a Biden-Sanders love fest — the best case scenario for the Dems in Milwaukee — wouldn’t be likely to figure much in the electorate’s evaluation of these matters come November.

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