Democrats Skip Keynote for 17 Mini-Tributes by Rising Stars

The second night of the Democratic National Convention opens Tuesday with a collage of 17 keynoters, each given just enough time to voice support for Joe Biden before a virtual roll call of states will make his presidential nomination official.

Rather than the traditional convention keynote that can fuel one star’s rise — then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton had the keynote in 1988 and speaks again Tuesday as a former two-term president — Biden’s team chose an array of Democrats to share the coveted duty on Tuesday. All reflect his center-left philosophy.

A video montage released in advance jump-cuts from speakers in living rooms and an industrial-style building to the Navajo Nation. “This year, all of us are on stage, and we’ve got a lot to say,” the keynoters say in unison, before participants count off concerns about the coronavirus, unemployment and exhausted parents juggling work and childcare.

The speakers include Representatives Colin Allred of Texas and Representative Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, both political moderates who flipped Republican seats after Donald Trump was elected president. Others were Biden supporters during the Democratic primary season: South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson, Nevada State Senator Yvanna Cancela and Pennsylvania State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta.

The highest-profile figure among the keynoters will be Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her 2018 bid for governor in Georgia, which would have made her the first Black woman to lead a Southern state. Abrams didn’t endorse a presidential candidate during the primaries, but Biden considered her as a running mate, and the two share a pragmatic approach to politics.

Alexandria Ocasico-Cortez of New York, a star of the party’s progressive wing, also will get to speak — but only for about a minute, a limit her supporters have complained about. Trump is portraying Biden as a captive of what he calls the party’s “Radical Leftists.”

The theme for the second night of the virtual convention is “Leadership Matters,” with speeches by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Clinton — his legendary verbosity constricted through a prerecorded address — and John Kerry, the former secretary of state and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. It will feature live and prerecorded presentations with segments on health care and national security.

“Donald Trump says we’re leading the world,” Bill Clinton says in an excerpt released in advance. “Well, we are the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple. At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos. Just one thing never changes — his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame. The buck never stops there.”

Jill Biden

Jill Biden, the candidate’s wife, will speak from the classroom at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware, where she taught English in the early 1990s.

Invoking the personal tragedies endured by the former vice president — who lost his first wife and young daughter in an auto accident and one of his grown sons to cancer — Jill Biden says in an excerpt released in advance, “How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding — and with small acts of compassion. With bravery. With unwavering faith.”

Democrats will repurpose the traditional roll call Tuesday night from the drill of delegates calling out the votes for “the great state” they represent. Instead, there will be a virtual televised tour across 57 states and territories. The Biden campaign said it will show a mix of live and prerecorded segments over 30 minutes with speakers at businesses, inside homes and in front of landmarks.

Delaware’s Honor

A tradition that won’t change: The nominee’s home state — Delaware for Biden — will pass in the alphabetical roll call and then return to put him over the top with the 1,991 delegate votes needed.

On Wednesday, the party will hear from Biden’s vice presidential choice, Senator Kamala Harris. On Thursday, Biden will close the convention by delivering his acceptance speech.

— With assistance by Emma Kinery

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