First came the announcement of a downsized convention in Milwaukee that delegates were urged not to attend in person. Now, Democrats are questioning whether gathering in smaller events throughout the country as an alternative is a plausible option after a new surge of Covid-19 cases.
With infection rates exploding in several states, some elected officials, state party leaders and rank-and-file members of the Democratic National Committee are skeptical about the proposed idea of “mini-conventions” across the nation — regional satellite sites for delegates and party leaders, particularly in battleground states.
“We should think, ‘What would Dr. Fauci do?’ And I doubt Dr. Fauci would say go ahead and have mini-conventions across the country,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, who is co-chairing the California delegation. “I personally think it will backfire to be aggressive like the Republicans are.”
In 2010, Republicans won state houses across the country and redrew electoral maps to their advantage. Now, as President Trump trails in the polls, Democrats see an opportunity to take back power.
The Republican National Committee said in June it would move its convention keynote events — including President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech — to Jacksonville, Fla., after the party failed to come to an agreement with officials in Charlotte, N.C., where the event was set to be held in August. Jacksonville ranked third in the nation for metro area Covid-19 growth in the week ending June 27.
Democratic Party officials announced in June that their nominating convention will be almost entirely virtual and encouraged delegates to stay away from Milwaukee. Officials have announced that presumptive nominee Joe Biden will accept the nomination in Milwaukee, but details have not been released about his keynote speech.
The anxiety surrounding the possible regional events demonstrates the difficulty of planning a convention in the Covid-19 era, as well as rising public fears as infection rates go up in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia and many other states. It has also spurred some DNC members to call for party leadership to welcome more input about the convention.
“I’m not sure that any in-person gathering is safe or smart at this point,” James Zogby, a DNC member who sat on the 2016 party platform committee, said of regional events. “This is something we’ve known, or should have known, for a long time. And my concern from the beginning, and I raised it within the party and I raised it with others, was that the discussion of what we do in lieu of an in-person convention should have involved more people than just a small planning staff.”