Is it just me, or did last night’s Democratic National Committee broadcast have the feeling of a slightly strange, slightly strained telethon?
With no live audience to address, the actress Eva Longoria, the evening’s host, stood before a stage adorned with red, white, blue and aquamarine highlights, cuing speakers who beamed in via livestream.
What this telethon was selling, of course, is the ticket of Joe Biden — who was described over the course of the night as empathetic, relatable and ready to lead on Day 1 — and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California.
But what it was not selling felt even more important: four more years of President Trump, whom the speakers blamed for badly mismanaging the coronavirus crisis and turning his back on the movement for racial justice in the country.
Like a concert without a crowd
As a writer, I split my time between covering politics and music, and yesterday’s broadcast highlighted something they have in common: the importance of connecting with your audience. In both realms, the interaction between the performer and the listener is what matters most.
A party convention without tens of thousands clapping their hands and waving placards is like a Rolling Stones show at Madison Square Garden without any listeners. The music would ring tinny and hollow, bouncing off the arena’s empty walls.
The D.N.C.’s planners clearly identified this problem: That’s why they included dozens of everyday Americans in the broadcast, cutting to them intermittently as they watched the convention via Zoom and applauded in between speeches. But those jump cuts only served to reinforce the uncanniness of the whole thing: solitary speakers over here, isolated audience members over there.
Ultimately, the major TV networks came out looking wise for deciding to broadcast only the second hour of the event, skipping over many of the lesser-known speakers and leaving viewers to wait through less uncanny convening before they got to the heavy hitters. Still, TV viewership was way down compared with the Democratic convention four years ago.
What’s on tap tonight
When it comes to simulating the interactive vibe of a normal convention, the Democrats have a tall task tonight. That’s because this evening features the roll call vote — the headiest and most photogenic moment of any convention, where delegates officially cast their votes to select their party’s nominee.
Typically, each state and U.S. territory’s delegation would be assembled on the convention floor, and the M.C. would call on them alphabetically, with state representatives responding on a microphone and announcing how many votes they were casting for each candidate.
Tonight, the D.N.C. will do its best to replicate the process virtually, in what it is calling the “Roll Call Across America.” In the course of 30 minutes — far less than the hour-and-a-half roll-call vote in 2016 — delegations will cast their votes virtually, calling in from all 57 states and territories, as they take a moment on national TV to strut their local style and show some regional pride.
Up first is Alabama. Its spokeswoman, Representative Terri Sewell, plans to invoke the memory of John Lewis, the Alabama-born civil rights leader, in calling for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, according to materials circulated by the D.N.C. in advance of the event.
Both Mr. Biden and his runner-up, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, will be nominated. Mr. Sanders is expected to receive over 1,000 delegates based on the results of the primaries.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York will give a nominating speech for Mr. Sanders. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware will deliver one for Mr. Biden.
Among those scheduled to give individual speeches are two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, and Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden.
John Legend will close out the evening with a musical performance.
Things get going tonight at 9 p.m., and just like yesterday you can watch the entire thing and follow our reporters’ live analysis at nytimes.com. The major broadcast TV stations will air only the second half of the two-hour event. The same goes for Fox News, but CNN, MSNBC and PBS will show the full two-hour broadcast.
Mr. Sanders, the lion of the left, delivered a resounding endorsement of Mr. Biden’s candidacy last night. He ticked off a laundry list of liberal policies that his former foe has committed to enacting, including a $15 minimum wage and a plan to aggressively combat climate change. And he admonished his loyal supporters in no uncertain terms: “We need Joe Biden as our next president.”
But just moments before all of that, as a crew helped set up his livestream, he was fretting about where to place his hands on the podium, kidding with his wife and grinning, lemon-faced, for the camera: “Who’s gonna tell me? You gonna tell me? OK.”
How do we know all of this? Twitter, folks.
In other news …
Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, announced today that he would suspend cost-cutting initiatives at the Postal Service, bowing to pressure from protesters, lawmakers and civil rights groups who have argued that the changes could make voting by mail in November prohibitively difficult for many Americans.
“To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded,” Mr. DeJoy said in a statement.
But at the White House, the president continued to throw doubt on the process of mailing in ballots, saying that the election might need a do-over if voting by mail is prevalent. He offered no specifics of how such a redo would be carried out, or under what authority it would be called.
The Senate Intelligence Committee delivered a nearly 1,000-page report today that largely affirmed the findings of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.
The product of a three-year investigation by a Republican-led committee, the report outlines a tangled web of contacts between Trump campaign affiliates, Russian government officials and people tied to Russia’s intelligence services.
Like the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the Senate committee stopped short of stating outright that the Trump campaign had engaged in a coordinated conspiracy with the Russians. But the committee’s report affirms the major findings of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, which uncovered a high-level effort by the Russian government to sway the election in Mr. Trump’s favor, and the willing participation of some of his closest advisers.
There are few things that Mr. Trump dislikes more than ceding the spotlight. That explains why the president’s re-election campaign organized a series of rallies across Wisconsin featuring the president and his surrogates this week.
And maybe it has something — OK, everything — to do with his announcement today that he would issue a posthumous pardon to Susan B. Anthony, the famed women’s suffragist, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s adoption. She had been arrested in 1872 after seeking to cast a ballot illegally and was fined $100.
And the Trump campaign has just released a withering attack ad, titled “What Happened to Joe Biden,” that will take over the YouTube masthead for four days and is timed to overlap with the D.N.C. The 75-second spot seeks to sow doubt about Mr. Biden’s mental acuity by comparing clips of him speaking clearly and persuasively in 2015 and 2016 with clips from this year that show him stammering and struggling to collect his thoughts.
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