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Virtual DNC Creates Intimacy Despite Isolation, But Gives Mixed Messaging On Platform

Dustin Chambers
Getty Images
Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to a crowd at a Democratic National Committee event at Flourish in Atlanta.

This year’s Democratic National Convention promised to be an extravaganza here in Milwaukee. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the convention was almost entirely virtual with speakers joining in from places around the country.

It was a real letdown for the City of Milwaukee - but the convention was still historic in many ways. The virtual conference allowed a wide swath of Americans to participate in a convention which can sometimes feel exclusive or elitist. There were also a lot of people representing different political ideologies, banding together to support democratic nominee, Joe Biden. 

UW-Milwaukee professor, Mordecai Lee, says that this variety of speakers led to some mixed messaging during the convention.

"They were on the one hand saying, 'Yeah, we're the progressive Democratic party,' on the other hand they were saying, 'Those of you who are conservative, those of you who have voted all your lives for Republicans, those of you who voted four years ago for Trump: here's the case not to [vote for Trump],'" says Lee. "Now, those are very different messages and very different constituencies." 

But despite the mixed messaging, there was still a feeling of unity among the speakers who were rallying behind the Democratic party. And although people were socially distanced around the country, in some ways the convention felt less isolated than it had ever been before.

"His tone really shifted around the middle of the speech, when he started talking about his family tragedies and started talking about much more personal things. He really shifted from orating - that sort of doesn't work on TV in this kind of context - to conversation... He's in your living room, he's talking to you, he's chatting with you," says Lee. 

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.