By Ben Amis

The 2020 Democratic National Convention this week is like none other in history. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delegates join the activities from their homes: everything from the evening speeches to the morning state delegation breakfasts. It is a very different experience from what any other delegates have had in the history of the Democratic Party and the history of U.S. national political conventions.

On the other hand, the virtual nature of the Convention has given unprecedented access to Convention activities for non-delegates so that even those of us in the “cheap seats” can see the previously un-broadcasted aspects of Convention, including meetings of DNC Caucuses and Councils, candidate trainings, and more. Those wanting to follow along and see what there is to see can go to the 2020 Democratic National Convention website and look at the Convention schedule. Links to livestreams for all these events are provided in the schedule and the DNC will be streaming Convention activity on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also ask smart devices like Amazon Echo to “Play the Democratic National Convention”, view streaming by Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV and there’s even a Twitch channel!

As I write this, we have just experienced the first night of the Convention. I’m struck by the pride of place given to the young protesters for racial justice and criminal justice reform that have taken our nation by storm this summer and by the general sense of common decency and coming together of people to build a more perfect union. In that vein, I’m also struck by the diversity of speakers brought to us tonight. Of course, our Democratic Party reflects our diverse nation. We saw men and women of various backgrounds and identities, but this is not surprising. What really caught my attention was the ideological diversity of speakers. On this same night, we heard from Senator Bernie Sanders, who in the last few years has rekindled the progressive fire within our party that has given us so many young, vocal champions for our future as well as conservative Republican, former Governor John Kasich, both having plenty of disagreements on policy with our nominee but still standing together and supporting Vice
President Biden and Senator Harris. We also heard from two other Republicans, former Governor Christine Whitman and Congresswoman Susan Molinan as well as so many well-known party figures from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to Senator Amy Klobuchar and Former First Lady Michelle Obama.

I cannot remember the last time such an ideologically diverse group came together and spoke on behalf of a nominee for President, from the standard bearer of the party’s farthest flank to multiple elected officials of the opposing party. This first night didn’t really feel like one party making its case to the American people, as we usually do, but as a group of Americans coming together to make the case for good government, experience, competence, and sound policy. Of course, the next three nights will likely
be more like what we’re used to hearing from a national convention, but we have started out not simply making our case for Democratic values, but for sane governance in the midst of various crises, both natural and manmade.

However, as a young progressive, I must admit it gives me some pause. While I recognize the need to come together and win this election, I also worry about the long term. About whether we can take this coalition, win with it, and then accomplish the truly monumental goals we need to tackle climate change, overhaul our criminal justice system, right our vast and growing economic disparity, provide healthcare to every person in our nation and so much more. We know that incrementalism is how this
nation has almost always conducted its affairs, but we also know things are getting worse quickly and our time is running out. I’m not alone in this concern. The Women’s Caucus of the Young Democrats of America released a statement over their own concerns with inviting Gov. Kasich to address the Convention. I think our generation feels the shifting tides, I think we recognize that leadership of this nation will be falling to us sooner rather than later and we are preparing to take those reins with no hesitation and make our voices be heard.

I was speaking just the other day with a member of my local county party about this shift, particularly about a group of young high schoolers who have recently gotten involved with the party, and he made the observation that they all seem to share this bewilderment of how little progress has been made in recent years, almost as if we say to his generation, “What have you been doing all this time?” I think that’s a fair assessment of how we all feel right now, and it seems to me that many Young Democrats
are ready to push harder and go farther than we have before, although we aren’t quite driving the ship yet and so we’re stuck in-between knowing that our time will be soon, and many of us are already deeply invested and involved in the party, but we aren’t in charge just yet. It’s an odd feeling, peering over this precipice of generational shift, and yet I think many also feel hopeful and encouraged by tonight, certainly by the words of First Lady Michelle Obama who closed us out facing the reality of the problems in our nation and telling us to speak truth, but also encouraging our better angels to reach for the future, to see the light that is to come, to see what the United States of America can be.

I’m looking forward to the next three days of the convention, the many meetings, caucuses, and councils that can be streamed online and hearing from all the great speakers in the evenings to come. I do feel like we can and should come away encouraged and ready to run this race to November. We aren’t perfect, our work will never be done, there is always further to reach, there will always be another mountain to climb, but regardless of who we supported in the primary, regardless of our particular ideological stances, I think the most true thing about tonight’s message and the message we must take home above all others is that our Democratic Party is one that will strive to improve our nation and will work hard for all the people to build a fairer, more just, more perfect union.