Old and busted: It’ll be 1968 all over again! New hotness: It’ll be 1368 all over again! DNC officials began to raise questions about the wisdom of holding a political convention in July, the Washington Post reports, as Wisconsin’s governor declared a health emergency two days ago. Instead of putting thousands of people into a crowded public venue in Milwaukee, some party officials want “contingencies” explored for a virtual convention, perhaps even a mail-in system:
Some Democratic Party officials this week began to express concern about plans to bring tens of thousands of people to Milwaukee for the July convention, even as the party’s leadership said it was not entertaining canceling the event or holding it remotely.
In Wisconsin, where Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday declared a health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, Andrew Werthmann, a member of the Democratic National Committee, said he intended to raise questions about the need for contingencies. “We have to look at this,” he said.
Concern deepened as state parties took it upon themselves to alter their procedures in compliance with health guidelines. On Thursday, the Nevada Democratic Party canceled county conventions scheduled for next month. And Werthmann said one of his counterparts in California had informed him via text message that meetings to elect new DNC members in the state had been canceled, replaced by a mail-in system.
“Wish us luck,” the California member requested.
It’s not just an issue of when the COVID-19 outbreak might recede. Michigan Democrats also canceled their endorsement convention for March 21, where Nancy Pelosi was due to speak. The more states that cancel these conventions, the more fraught the delegate-assignment process becomes. In fact, the more that people get pushed into “social distancing” — a wise strategy — the less likely they are to show up for the precursor precinct and congressional-district caucuses/conventions that nominate people for those delegate positions. That means that this might be a problem even for parties that hold their state conventions to select delegates.
That’s no small issue, as delegates are more than just a proxy for one candidate or another. They are bound on the first ballot to the presidential preference selected by their state’s voters, but delegates do more than just vote for the presidential nominee. They also vote on the party platform and do other organizing activities — as well as constantly socialize and network. And if for some reason the nomination doesn’t get settled on a first ballot, then the legitimacy and representative nature of the delegates becomes a paramount concern.
If states interrupt those delegate-selection processes, it will at the very least call into question the legitimacy of those delegates who do get selected. That’s especially the case if parties have to hand-pick delegates rather than conduct the normal process of election. In a cycle where Bernie Bros are already on edge over “establishment” opposition to their candidate, it’s just another potential flash point when Bernie Sanders inevitably gets locked out of the ticket.
This isn’t as big a problem for Republicans this year. Their August convention might well outlast the coronavirus outbreak, but even if it did get canceled — or more likely made “virtual” — Donald Trump will be the nominee, and he’s also going to be the platform, too, regardless of who gets elected to delegate positions. The RNC made that call a couple of years ago when it effectively merged with the Trump 2020 campaign. The Charlotte, NC convention is purely for show and socializing, and neither of them mean so much that it requires risking another round of amplifying the COVID-19 outbreak.
For now, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett and DNC chair Tom Perez says “all systems are go” for the mid-July bash:
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday echoed the comments of a top Democratic Party leader when asked about concerns that the coronavirus pandemic could force the cancellation of this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
“There will be a convention in Milwaukee,” Barrett said Wednesday in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “All systems are go.” …
On Tuesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told National Public Radio that he believes the convention plans are moving forward.
“I don’t think the Democratic convention is in jeopardy. We are in contact with federal, state and local authorities on a daily basis, a regular basis,” Perez told NPR. “I met with some folks today, and I’m confident we can put that on.”
It’s far more likely that the COVID-19 outbreak will both be under control at that time and possibly receding sharply with the warm weather, but it’s not a non-zero chance for cancelation, either. One has to wonder whether Democrats might not be better off with a virtual convention this year, though, given all of the chatter about uprisings involving Sanders’ supporters if he’s not on the ticket. It’s tough to go 1968 on a virtual convention, after all.
On the other hand, this is what a virtual convention might look like. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t …
Campaigning in 2020 during #Covid_19…audio of @JoeBiden is a little garbled but we can see him! pic.twitter.com/TDgVdzWEUK
— Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) March 13, 2020
Joe Biden’s campaign is going to try to get Twitter to label this a fake videopic.twitter.com/LtjuZE9xxG
— Cameron Gray (@Cameron_Gray) March 14, 2020