ATLANTA – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden insists he can unify a fractured nation, and he'll test his theory with an unusual nominating convention intended to span the spectrum of U.S. politics.
The Democratic National Convention, a virtual production since the COVID-19 pandemic led party officials to cancel all in-person plans in Milwaukee, will feature presenters from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Republican John Kasich, a former Ohio governor who sought the GOP presidential nomination four years ago.
A detailed but incomplete list of speakers released Tuesday also features many of Biden's 2020 primary rivals, congressional leaders close to the former vice president and several everyday Americans, including some who supported President Donald Trump in 2016.
Party officials and Biden aides describe the agenda as a way to pitch the nominee as a steady, consensus-building figure in contrast with Trump's turbulent tenure. Yet the unusual format, with just eight hours of prime-time programming spread over four nights from Aug. 17-20, will test Biden's ability to project a cohesive message to a splintered electorate wrenched by a pandemic, a devastated economy and an ongoing reckoning on systemic racism.
“We had two goals in mind: to include more Americans than ever before and to ensure that all Americans see themselves reflected in what they were viewing,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic strategist who is directing the program for Biden.
Programming is set to be broadcast and streamed online each night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT.
Attempts at unity and diversity – racial and ethnic, gender and ideological – are apparent in each night’s headliners. Many other details, including who will speak live and whose remarks will be pre-taped, are not finalized. Biden also has not named a keynote speaker, who will be featured Tuesday, the same night Biden will be formally nominated by a pre-recorded roll call vote of the 57 state and territorial delegations.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who has twice finished as runner-up for the nomination, will appear Monday, the same night as Kasich. Former first lady Michelle Obama and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also will be featured that night, though Whitmer would move to Wednesday if Biden selected her as his running mate.