Democrats preparing for virtual convention

By Albert Traver and Lucia Leal

Washington, Aug 16 (efe-epa).- The Democratic Party on Sunday adjusted the list of speakers at its upcoming virtual convention and confirmed that there will be relatively few Latinos taking the rostrum at the event, a choice that has sparked criticism and which the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden attributes to the agreed-on format for the conclave.

The convention – at which Biden will accept the party’s nomination for president in the Nov. 3 election, when he will face off against President Donald Trump – begins on Monday and will last for four days, but for the first time in US history it will be held online due to the coronavirus crisis.

The party has reduced the lengthy list of speeches that normally has characterized such conventions to just two hours during prime time each day, that is between 9 pm and 11 pm Eastern Time.

To fill the reduced amount of television time, the party – which controls the US House but hopes to wrest the Senate and the presidency from the Republicans – has opted for a list of speakers that includes representatives from well-established factions and African-American politicians but is extraordinarily short on Latino leaders.

On Tuesday, on the convention’s second day, about 4,000 delegates elected during the party primaries will vote remotely for Biden to be the Democratic presidential nominee and for California Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate.

Harris’s acceptance speech will come on Wednesday, while Biden will close the convention the next day with his own acceptance address.

Former first lady Michelle Obama will address the convention on Monday, prospective first lady Jill Biden on Tuesday and former President Barack Obama (2009-2017) on Wednesday – each of them closing out the convention proceedings on those days, a clear sign that the Democrats still consider the Obamas to be their greatest asset.

The selection of the speakers reflects the desire of the party to cement Democrats around Biden by giving the podium to the party’s former presidential hopefuls, whom he bested during the primaries.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the leader of the party’s leftist wing and Biden’s main rival during the primaries, will speak on Monday just before Michelle Obama, a nod to the Vermont politician’s nearly 10 million supporters, who constitute some 26 percent of the party, and a clear sign of hoped-for party unity.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Cory Booker and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg – all of whom mounted their own campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, will also speak at the convention.

Also slated to deliver speeches will be former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday and former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 Hillary Clinton on Wednesday.

The future of the party will be represented by New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday, although it has been leaked that she will be accorded only 60 seconds to deliver her remarks, something that she alluded to on Twitter by citing the poem “God’s Minute” by the late African American activist Dr. Benjamin Mays, a commentary on the brevity of life.

“I only have a minute. Sixty seconds in it. Forced upon me, I did not choose it, But I know that I must use it,” the poem reads. “Give account if I abuse it. Suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute, But eternity is in it,” Ocasio-Cortez posted.

Ocasio-Cortez will be one of the six Hispanic speakers among the 49 orators who will address the convention – and viewers nationwide – on its four nights, and that scarcity of Latinos on the rostrum has sparked criticism, above all because in 2020 Latinos for the first time will represent the country’s largest minority, having recently surpassed African Americans.

Former aspirant for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who served in Obama’s cabinet, said in an interview with MSNBC that he was disappointed over the fact that more Latinos were not included on the speaker list. He went on to acknowledge, however, that convention organizers had had to make some tough decisions due to the two-hour television time constraint for each night of the event.

The other Hispanic speakers will include Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, on Monday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, on Wednesday.

Convention organizers on Sunday announced that they would incorporate a total of 17 young speakers into a single address, dedicating it to the next generation of party leaders.

The key member of that group will be Stacey Abrams, the former candidate for Georgia governor and an activist against voter suppression. Abrams, 46, was on Biden’s short list of VP contenders until his selection of Harris was announced.

The other three Latinos on the speaker list include Yvanna Cancela, the daughter of Cuban immigrants and the first Latina state senator from Nevada; Victoria Neave, a lawyer with Mexican roots and a Texas state lawmaker; and Robert Garcia, the first openly gay mayor of Long Beach, California, who was born in Peru and came to the US when he was five.

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