To say that the Democratic National Convention has been hobbled by the absence of a live audience would be an understatement. While it’s had its share of standout moments—Michelle Obama’s call-to-action necklace, Jimmy Carter’s impassioned plea to restore integrity to the White House—the virtual convention has so far felt like an extended infomercial. It’s no wonder why ratings are off by as much as 25% from 2016.
Political conventions are meant to inspire, but the DNC 2020 has mostly been a sad reminder of, well, 2020. Before the event began on Monday, no shortage of pundits speculated about how organizers in the coronavirus era might be forced to reimagine the future of conventions in bold new ways. Instead, they’ve only proven that live audiences still matter. Maybe that’s why TV hasn’t improved upon the format in 60 years.
It’s for all those reasons that one aspect of the convention worked so perfectly well. The Roll Call, a 34-minute segment that featured the official nomination counts, felt like a unifying moment because of the format’s COVID restrictions, not in spite of them. A lively montage of self-isolated voters across 56 states and territories, the segment won instant praise on social media as the delegations read their vote counts and announced their nominations. It was a brilliant showcase of America’s diversity, tenacity, and breadth. Many viewers expressed how the segment was exactly what they needed to see right now:
This DNC virtual roll call is one of the first examples of a convention aspect that seems stronger than the traditional way of doing things. It’s fascinating to see the diversity of the United States and Americans in so many places with cultural and geographic differences.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 19, 2020
This DNC digital roll call, with each state’s delegation leader zooming in from a unique setting, is pretty cool. Reminds me of the Olympics opening ceremony when each country’s team walks out and gets their 30 seconds of fame.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) August 19, 2020
This roll call has been absolutely AMAZING. No matter what you think of the rest of the #DNCConvention, this is TRULY something special. I’ve laughed and cried and yelled. This is great. #rollcall #DNCC #DNC #DNCConvention2020
— Eliza Orlins (@elizaorlins) August 19, 2020
The DNC deserves endless interrogation but that roll call was the first time I’ve really *felt* something like solidarity in a long time
— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) August 19, 2020
Wow, when was the last time a global audience got such a snapshot of the rich, diverse culture of all the states and territories that comprise these United States of America?
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) August 19, 2020
To be honest, we agree. Did you miss it last night? You can check out the full segment on YouTube or via the embedded video below.