A D.N.C. Opening Night for the New Abnormal


For three and a half years of Donald Trump’s presidency, Democrats have repeated a phrase as a reminder, talisman and battle cry: “This is not normal.”

Monday night, they gathered virtually to nominate a challenger, Joseph R. Biden. And boy, was it ever not normal — in ways that even Mr. Trump’s direst critics in 2016 could not have predicted.

The first night of the Democratic National Convention, exiled by coronavirus to the ether of teleconferencing and prerecording, was an experiment in how to sound the theme “We the People” with a “we” constructed entirely virtually.

At its shakiest, it was, like much pandemic-era TV, uncanny, disjointed and unsettlingly weird. (To its credit, though, there were few of the glitches that have riddled so much bandwidth-dependent live television.) At its most engaging, it dispensed with some relics of televised conventions and found faster-paced and more intimate alternatives.

Some viewers on social media said the show looked like a telethon, and it often did, from the stories of hardship to the heart-tugging sea-to-shining-sea musical numbers. (These included Leon Bridges on a rooftop and Maggie Rogers on a Maine shore.)

But why do you hold a telethon? For disasters and diseases. For emergencies.

Some of the most memorable moments in the first hour leaned into this feeling of crisis, like Ms. Longoria’s interviews with Americans affected by the pandemic and economic crash. A testimonial from Kristin Urquiza, whose father voted for Mr. Trump and died of coronavirus, was especially searing. “His only pre-existing condition,” she said, “was trusting Donald Trump.”


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