Illinois Democrats plan virtual at-home convention program; delegates still get swag
The Democratic COVID-19 pandemic virtual convention kicks off next Monday, a pure television and social media primetime event with the Democratic Party of Illinois producing its own 90-minute daily pre-convention online program, the Chicago SunTimes has learned.
In past conventions, the Illinois delegation huddled at breakfast meetings, where state and local political intrigue was dished up with the high-calorie buffet while lobbyists, operatives, donors, elected and appointed officials plus reporters lurked in the background.
A byproduct of the pandemic is that the political drama that has been a staple of in-person Illinois delegation morning meetings is less likely to take place in 2020. In 2016 in Philadelphia, then-Democratic governor potential candidate Chris Kennedy, after delivering a great speech to the delegation, cut into his success when reporters memorably chased him into an elevator wanting to know if he really was going to run. The spectacle was televised back home in Illinois.
In 2020, the 182 delegates and 13 alternates from Illinois, instead of heading north to Milwaukee, will caucus each day starting at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom or some other platform until the convention starts at 8 p.m.
DPI executive director Mary Morrissey told the Sun-Times the state party wants to turn the virtual nature of the delegation meetings into an advantage, that is, “to use this as an opportunity to broaden our outreach beyond our delegation.”
Those Monday through Thursday virtual caucus sessions will be open to the public, with the aim, Morrissey said, to convert what had been an insider morning play into a party-building event by letting everyone into the room. The party hasn’t finalized the link yet.
The slogan for the week is the “Convention from Home,” with the state party logo retooled to be covered with a face mask.
DPI chair Mike Madigan, also the Illinois House Speaker, under a cloud in the ongoing Commonwealth Edison scandal with a few Democrats calling for him to step down from his leadership roles, will preside over each Illinois delegation daily meeting. “The plan is he would welcome everyone, just like he’s done in the past,” Morrissey said.
Illinois ‘Convention from Home’
Illinois convention plans include:
♦ In order to give Illinois delegates some special experiences, the party will throw a virtual welcome reception for them Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. with possible speaker Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Delegates will still get souvenir convention swag bags — details below.
♦ Each night, the Illinois party will do programming around themes speaking to core Democratic constituencies.
On Monday, the focus is on “lifting up” workers; Tuesday, women leaders and women’s rights; Wednesday, “fighting for economic and racial justice” and on Thursday, when Joe Biden accepts the Democratic nomination, a “call to action,” with details of the speakers still being worked out.
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle will speak at the convention, and it’s likely Sen. Tammy Duckworth, in the running for Biden’s vice president pick, will have a speaking role as a convention vice chair, even if not tapped by Biden.
Obama is an Illinois delegate. The Obamas have been asked to speak to the delegation, as has Chicago native Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential nominee. With Illinois a safe state for Biden, the hometown ties won’t matter much if their time is better spent cranking up swing state Democratic delegations.
Duckworth, Sen. Dick Durbin, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, plus other statewide officials, will also likely address Illinois delegates with time slots not yet finalized.
Lightfoot will speak at some of the daytime virtual national caucus events, stopping by the Tuesday LGBTQ session and the Black caucus meeting Wednesday, with other events pending on her schedule.
♦ Special interests doing business in Illinois in past years sponsored convention events, and that’s one thing that’s not different in 2020. Groups who had agreed to help underwrite in-person convention costs will still donate and be recognized as sponsors even though everything is virtual. They are: Advocate Aurora Health, the health care system; Pepsico, the snack and beverage company; Ullico, the insurance company; LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America; RAI, Reynolds American Inc., the tobacco company; and Wisconsin Energy, the parent company of Peoples Gas, with customers in Chicago and North Shore Gas, which operates in the northern suburbs.
♦ Swag bags will be mailed to delegates, and items include a Pepsico insulated cup; a Peoples energy thermal lunch bag; an Ullico convention T-shirt and souvenir buttons and placards.
♦ Illinois delegates will be able to watch the convention together in an open Zoom channel and chat among themselves. Waving placards have been an important part of the in-person convention visuals and experience, and delegates can still do it, just not together. The delegate signs say, besides Illinois for Biden, “Bring Back Kindness” and “Unity Over Division.”
Illinois Democratic Party Chair and House Speaker Michael Madigan at the 2016 Democratic convention. He will preside over the state’s 2020 virtual delegation meetings.