Biden, Trump set to accept nominations as DNC, RNC go virtual - CNET

The Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday, will take part online. The Republicans' event kicks o

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The Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday, will take part online. The Republicans' event kicks off a week later.

Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images
This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

The Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, long mainstays of the US presidential election cycle, have been forced online, creating the biggest test yet of conducting life remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robbed of the energy of convention halls, the parties will seek to recreate that enthusiasm in high-production streaming events that beam political luminaries from around the country to online audiences. The Democratic convention, which began on Monday, opened with a slickly produced two-hour broadcast that avoided technical difficulties and ended with former first lady Michelle Obama. It was followed on Tuesday with a virtual roll call that took viewers on a tour of the country that ended with the formal nomination of former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Wednesday night was full of heavy hitters for the Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who offered a scathing rebuke of the Trump presidency. The evening ended with the historic nomination of Kamala Harris, the first Black and the first South Asian American vice-presidential candidate.

The Republicans, who will make their case for four more years in the White House, grab the spotlight on Aug. 24. In addition to pre-taped events, the GOP will send a small group of delegates to Charlotte, North Carolina, to re-nominate President Donald Trump. 

Despite the absence of cheering crowds, over-amplified rock music and blizzards of confetti, the Democrats and Republicans are hoping to harness the internet to galvanize support for their candidates. If technical glitches hobble the proceedings, the parties risk broadcasting a mammoth Zoom call derailed by freezes, connection mishaps and mute fails. So far, the Democrats have avoided that pitfall.

"For decades, the conventions have been splashy media events that have always involved an awful lot of choreography," said James McCann, a professor of political science at Purdue University in Indiana. "The challenge will be whether they can replicate or devise some functional equivalent virtually to create that excitement."

Nothing about 2020 is normal, and the conventions are just the latest example of our new bizarro lives. Court cases are conducted online. School is held remotely. Baseball is played without fans in the stands. The Democrats and Republicans moving to virtual conventions is more evidence of how our world is intermediated by the internet, particularly during a pandemic that has already killed more than 166,000 Americans.

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