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What's A Political Convention Without Crowds? Democrats Will Find Out


So what is a political convention without the crowds? We're going to find out tonight as the Democratic National Convention gets started. The four-night event is all virtual because of the pandemic. The Republicans hold their convention next week, also mostly virtual. And let's bring in NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid. Hi, Asma.


GREENE: OK, so what - I mean, no one's going to be there, right? So how exactly is this convention this week going to play out?

KHALID: Well, David, it's going to be a convention that really sounds and feels unlike any other convention we've ever seen. It's a highly produced, made-for-TV show, just with a mix of recorded speeches, as well as some live speeches. And it'll also be shorter. Every night's only going to be two hours. And what I will say, David, is I'm really interested to see what it all feels like because the biggest difference will be no crowds, no applause, no balloons, no pomp - all that stuff we're used to seeing at a convention.

GREENE: Well, one thing that hasn't changed is all the interest in the speakers list. I mean, we're going to see Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders - also a Republican, former Ohio Governor John Kasich is going to be speaking at the Democratic convention, and we're hearing from Kasich on the show this morning. But why a Republican speaking at this convention?

KHALID: I know. It's really interesting. I mean, we should point out that he has long been a critic of President Trump. He's a part of a number of vocal Republicans who have lined up against him and have decided to support Joe Biden this election season. I will say, it's interesting to see how much influence they actually have on the election because when you look at self-identified Republicans in polling, a large number of them are still lining up behind President Trump.

But, David, I think it speaks to a broader issue, which is that there really is this unique Biden coalition that we've begun to see coalesce. And they're not people who are united by policies; they are essentially people who are united by one, singular feature, and I would argue that is to get rid of President Trump. That all being said, you know, there are definitely progressive activists who are not thrilled that John Kasich, a Republican, is going to be there when there's limited speaking time being given. They wish they would have seen more, you know, Muslim speakers, Latino speakers, more progressive speakers on stage.

GREENE: Well, we will hear from Biden, also Kamala Harris, his new running mate, on Wednesday and Thursday. What are their goals in this event?

KHALID: I mean, the main goal is to show party unity and party unity in defeating President Trump. The Biden campaign says they want to showcase leadership and make this clear contrast between themselves and President Trump. You know, they also want to lay out their vision for combating the pandemic. But what I will say is it's important to remember that the president is going to be counterprogramming this whole week. He's going to be in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona and Pennsylvania. And Democrats made this a made-for-TV event, but the president is really a master at reality TV. So that dynamic's going to be really, really interesting to watch.

GREENE: NPR's Asma Khalid. Thanks so much, Asma. We appreciate it.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.