Aug 29, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How the national conventions have changed forever

Illustration of a laptop with red and blue balloons on its screen.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many of this year's on-the-fly convention innovations — including Democrats' virtual roll-call road trip and Republicans' use of the White House for political pageantry — may well outlast the pandemic.

Why it matters: Conventions have entered a new era where the TV show will push aside many of the parties' charming but archaic traditions.

The big picture: These pandemic-constrained conventions caught the populist winds of the moment.

  • The breakout stars weren't politicians: they were a teen with a stutter and pardoned criminals, grieving parents and spouses, immigrants and Black men challenging stereotypes.
  • President Trump's stagecraft further diminished the expectation that U.S. presidents should separate raw politics from governance. Future presidents will have more running room — unless lawsuits or investigations curb the experiment.

The bottom line: Presidential nominating conventions once were about messaging to party insiders to secure consensus. They haven't been that for decades — but this year's experiments finally gave both parties permission to cast aside the pretense and go straight to the voters.

Go deeper: The most viral 2020 national convention stories

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