Five things to watch as Democrats kick-off national convention

The Democratic Party convenes on Monday night amid the coronavirus pandemic in a virtual, made-for-television event designed to appeal to the broad centre of American politics.

Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, the progressive presidential candidate, will appear in the same lineup with Republican stalwart, former Ohio Governor John Kasich and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Originally intended to take place in Milwaukee, the largest city in key swing state Wisconsin, the convention is being broadcast by satellite to delegates across the United States. Programming, much of it pre-taped, starts at 9pm EST (01:00 GMT) Monday through Thursday.

Here are five things to watch for on Monday as the convention begins:

Sanders will strike an unqualified note of support for Biden, an establishment figure, after losing insurgent campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination twice – first to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and now to Biden.

The key question is whether progressive voters, disappointed by Biden’s refusal to embrace Sanders’ push for universal healthcare, will heed his call. The odds are most will, but the fault line between the left and establishment wings of the Democratic Party remains.

Four years ago, when Sanders was at the microphone to nominate Clinton on the convention floor in Philadelphia, the bitterness between their two camps was apparent, and it wounded Clinton against Trump.

But Trump now is not just a hypothetical president as he was in 2016. He is the president, and Sanders, and Biden, have made clear that they see Trump’s potential re-election in 2020 as an existential threat to the United States.

Sanders and Biden are personally more friendly to each other than Clinton and Sanders were, and Biden’s team reached out to Sanders’ people in an organised way to develop the Democratic platform, giving progressives a greater voice in developing policy proposals.

Sanders can take credit for doing more than any other Democratic presidential contender, other than Biden, in shaping the Democratic Party today. But he will have to balance his own ideological fervour with his personal affinity for the party’s nominee and their shared mission to defeat Trump.

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