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The State: of the Democratic Convention After Day 1

News / The State August 18, 2020

Through a series of articles we call The State, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy and Political Affairs team is providing analysis related to "the state of" various aspects of the 2020 campaign season, including the race for the White House and key elections around the country.

Cody Lyon: The Democratic convention began in the most extraordinary fashion borne out of necessity by the Coronavirus outbreak, and likely to be a model going forward. The two-hour event was shorter than usual and conducted virtually, but it achieved its initial goal: humanize Joe Biden and make him likeable, knowledgeable and worthy to be elected President.

As the convention began, I was looking at two factors: how would the technology work to make the case for Joe Biden and what stories would resonate with voters. With the theme of “We the People,” on both the technology and the humanity side, viewers saw and heard from Americans in their homes and in their voices which I believe added authenticity that a stage cannot. Yes, it missed the roaring crowds, but seeing someone like you on your screen worked, in my opinion.

Mike Sistak:  It was the range of Americans which were showcased, each expressing their own challenge and an impact on their lives, that caught my attention. The Biden campaign has been "checking in" for several months - having staff/volunteers call voters just to check in with how they are doing right now. Doing it live on national TV during the convention – talking to the average person – like the small business owner, farmer and the mother/nurse that we met last night – was powerful, letting America hear from people like them and why they are supporting Joe Biden. It was probably more effective than the politicians we heard from later in the night. Then former first lady Michelle Obama hit one out of the park. For all the years I’ve been watching conventions, she gave one of the most passionate speeches I’ve ever heard, setting a high bar for the keynote speakers in the nights to come – and that includes the nominees themselves!

Randy Dwyer: In my mind, the production achieved its two desired outcomes. First, defining Joe Biden the candidate as likeable and capable. In campaigning terms it’s defining your candidate before the opposition does it for you. This was achieved with multiple vignettes of fellow Americans talking about their experiences with the former Vice President and what he’ll bring to the White House. Secondly, to build momentum and enthusiasm for Biden’s campaign and voting. This was driven home by former first lady Michelle Obama’s closing monologue. She hit all the talking points fellow Democrats needed to hear and then some. Her purpose and remarks during the evening were clear: Don’t sit this election out. Many did last time and that was the difference in 2016. I suspect we’ll be hearing much more about voting every evening throughout the week. Conventions are what they are: Showcases for the candidate, building momentum with the faithful and telling everyone to vote.

Cody Lyon: Once the second hour started and the convention moved to primetime network coverage, the politicos came on screen and I believe it lost its relatability until former first lady Michelle Obama closed the night. 

On the second night of the convention, former President Bill Clinton will be on our screens with the theme “Leadership Matters.” We will see how the second night shapes up in this four-night virtual political convention.

For more analysis on the 2020 Election click here. 


Cody Lyon is AFBF’s managing director of advocacy and political affairs.

Randy Dwyer is AFBF’s director of advocacy & grassroots development.

Michael Sistak is AFBF’s director of grassroots program development.

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