The Electronic Convention

Vice President Joe Biden 08/09/2019. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Time for a prediction.

The Democratic Convention speeches kick off tonight, and they will include Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama. I expect both of them will rally their fans behind the nomination of Joe Biden. Sanders will provide plenty of sound bites to turn away moderates and flaking Republicans. During the convention, attendees will attempt to focus on their pet issues when they are given the opportunity to speak in front of the press. These are all normal things.

Also normal is the tightening of polls in August and post-convention bounces. What is not normal is a remote convention.

This format will hinder Biden’s growth in the polls. Like it or not, many people are moved by the desire to be part of a group. The conventions, giant rallies with thousands of cheering people, are as much (or more) about the visuals than the actual speeches provided. They present an image for people, something that tells them that they belong.

Anyone who doubts the value of this should consider why rallies are held so often. There are other psychological benefits – a person who attends one, even if they were hesitant about supporting a campaigner before the rally, has been shown to be more likely to view the speaker positively afterward.

These are going to be concrete losses to the enthusiasm for Joe Biden. He will benefit from additional coverage of the convention because of the historic nature of being the first remote convention, but it’s not likely to balance out the enthusiasm losses.

The Biden campaign will likely see their benefit from another avenue: messaging.

Many of the demands in some wings of the rank-and-file Democrats remain unpopular with the general public – the guaranteed living wage, for an easy example, or college debt forgiveness. The conventions typically provide ample opportunities for divisiveness to be spurred by the opposition parties, as attendees are interviewed on the floor by reporters. The virtual convention will allow far greater control over messaging by the Democrat Party. To date, Biden and the Democrats have been excellent at controlling their messaging.

There will be many accurate accusations of wrongdoing by President Trump on display. Because it is the key news item of the day, there will be consistent and regular attacks on the lack of funding to the post office – the attack dogs, like Sanders, will presume guilt on the part of DeJoy and frame the entire thing as a grand conspiracy because it is their role; Biden will be Presidential and instead question the situation and call for investigation while highlighting Trump’s attacks on mail voting. There will be deep concessions made to Black Lives Matter in a similar breakdown, because that was the key news item of a few weeks ago. There will be a considerable focus on covid-19 and the novel coronavirus, because Trump’s failures there have resulted in more than 170,000 dead Americans. That issue will be tied to health care, on which the failure of the Trump administration to address the issue has undermined what little credibility they were granted in 2016. By focusing on their most successful topics, Biden is likely to see not the usual large post-convention bounce based on the appearance of popularity but a smaller post-convention bounce based on the topics of current concern for the American people.

This bodes well for the Biden campaign in the long term, but if the bounce they see from topics is not significant, it will be framed by Republicans as a failure to connect and it will be excused among Democrats because Biden’s margin against Trump is already large enough to make dramatic shifts seem difficult.

The Republicans will have the benefit of going last, and being able to learn from any mistakes the Democrats make in the remote format. They are also going to be aided by having basic platforms which resonate well with middle america – being for law enforcement, self-reliance, a strong national security and more. Their problems will come from Trump’s repeated undermining of those stances and the consistent choice from both politicians and punditry to back Trump instead of remaining true to their principles. They will have a convention where they will be scrambling to present the image of a crowded room – that will be their focus, trying to find a way to simulate crowds – and their issues are addresses in a simplistic way so as to minimize the inevitable rebuttals and refutations. The electronic convention format hurts Trump far worse than it hurts Biden.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.