Opinion: The Democratic and Republican Conventions Both Lacked Several Components of a Successful Co
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
The past two weeks were arguably the most important weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign with both parties holding their own grand conventions back to back. Typically, conventions cram thousands of passionate Americans into large stadiums for a publicized and energetic week. However, such plans were impossible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, causing both parties to make their events predominantly virtual. During the conventions, both the Democratic and Republican parties lacked certain essential qualities of a successful convention.
Clarity & Vision
The primary purpose of any party’s national convention is to unify the party and its supporters in preparation for the task of defeating the opposing party on Election Day. Both parties naturally attempted to do this which led to mixed results.
Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, there was little possibility for a clear vision for the 2020 campaign. At this point, the Democratic party’s most significant priority is defeating President Trump and preventing his re-election. Essentially, the election is less Trump–Biden election than it is a Trump–Not Trump election. Considering this priority, it was imperative for the Democrats that the convention featured politicians, public figures, and everyday Americans.
These groups all pledged their support of Joe Biden to defeat Donald Trump. The convention featured remarks from moderates such as Former President Barack Obama (D) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); progressives such as Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); as well as Republicans such as Former Governor John Kasich (R-OH) and Cindy McCain, wife of the late Former Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Although it was obviously of most importance to the Democratic Party to portray the Biden–Harris ticket as one that can appeal to all Americans, the unfortunate reality for the party was that it is impossible to entertain such a wide range of political beliefs. At the same convention where there were Republicans attempting to convince their voters to cross the aisle due to Biden’s centrist voting record, there were progressives calling for drastic change such as Medicare for All—change that many Republicans and centrists are uncomfortable with. The only common ground amongst the participants seemed to be the desire to defeat Trump.
Amidst all of this, moderates like Joe Biden attempted to be the glue that connects both sides. However, such glue is far too weak for the Democratic Party to unify the political spectrum against Trump while also maintaining a vision of their own apart from defeating Trump. All in all, the lack of common desires among the convention speakers cast the Democratic Party as burdened with internal disagreement on policy, a detriment to its clarity compared to that of the GOP.
On the other hand, the GOP convention remained firmly united throughout its week, partly due to the Trump-centred nature of this election. All speakers seemed to focus on re-electing Trump, not defeating Biden—a clear contrast from the Democratic Convention. During their convention, Democrats continued to ridicule and criticize Trump’s personality as well as his handling of key crises including the coronavirus pandemic and the civil unrest caused by race riots. In contrast, the GOP convention focused far less on the opponent and more on Trump himself. The convention featured praise of Trump’s coronavirus response, foreign policy, and other policies as well as anecdotes, memorably from Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH). Furthermore, there was almost no contradiction amongst the speakers. All speakers endorsed policies supported by Trump—including the opposition of abortion and resistance to violent demonstrations and riots. Unlike those at the Democratic Convention, where socialists attempted to push the platform to the left and Republicans crossing the aisle attempted to keep the platform firmly in the middle, no speaker at the GOP convention tried to push Trump’s policies towards a certain side or change the platform in any way.
With respect to viewability, the Democratic Convention did phenomenally. The convention featured humor and sarcasm, remarks and performances from celebrities, and a warm energy from Biden’s family including his wife, children, and grandchildren. The Democrats even took advantage of the virtual setting, making the normally mundane roll call an exciting montage of remotely shot videos that showcased the diversity of America.
On the other hand, the GOP Convention was rather monotonous throughout the week. Speakers took turns, one after the other, mostly in the same empty hall. Unlike that of the Democrats, the roll call was not shot remotely, and instead featured delegates indoors pledging their states’ votes to Trump. Additionally, Trump’s closing speech, which totalled 1 hour and 10 minutes, was far longer than Biden’s speech, which clocked in at 25 minutes. After the lengthy speech, satirists across the country mocked Trump for the mundane nature of the convention.
The fact that the Democratic convention was far more viewable than that of the GOP proved itself in the number of views. On the opening night of the convention, the Democratic convention drew 19.2 million views on television, while the Republican convention drew only 17 million views.
Regarding the public opinion, the Democratic convention beat that of the GOP by a long shot. Especially considering the timely centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in America, the amount of female representation at the Democratic convention was comforting to women across the country, with 54 female speakers compared to the Republican convention’s 35. Furthermore, the Democratic convention had a far larger emphasis on race than the Republican convention, with speakers focusing heavily on the racial injustice in America today. These speakers included past President Barack Obama and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), the first woman of color to be featured on a national ticket in American history.
Meanwhile, the Republican convention ignored the fights for racial justice and did not condemn the discrimination, notably by police, that minorities suffer from on a daily basis. Furthermore, the GOP as well as the Trump administration were subject to criticism after a crowd of 1500 spectators, the vast majority of whom were seen not wearing masks or following proper social distancing guidelines, viewed Trump’s closing night speech at the White House.
Both the Democratic and Republican conventions set the stage for the remaining campaign. Only time will tell whether the conventions were significantly impactful with respect to voter turnout and election results.