The national political conventions have always been about more than just the party’s presidential nominees and their acceptance speeches.
Every four years, thousands of the nation’s most dogged political junkies descend on one American city or another to perform the high duty of formally electing their party’s White House nominee. The party delegates, representing all 50 states and several U.S. territories, are as much a part of the show as any of the convention speakers — dancing, singing and waving placards for hours in what has long been the formal kickoff for the final stretch of the campaign.
And for this role, the party faithful have dressed the part — arriving for their moment in the spotlight in over-the-top patriotic ensembles that have only grown more elaborate over the years. Rhinestone donkey brooches for the Democrats; cowboy boots branded with the GOP elephant for Republicans. And in a rare show of bipartisan unity, American-flag-themed dresses, shirts, jackets and pants for everyone. The more unique the outfit, the more likely one might attract the spotlight of the C-SPAN pool camera, the roving eye of these increasingly made-for-TV affairs.
But like most everything else in the year 2020, the covid-19 pandemic has derailed this year’s political conventions. Democrats announced Joe Biden wouldn’t travel to Milwaukee to accept the party’s nomination and that in-person events had been canceled. And President Trump scrapped his planned acceptance speech in Jacksonville. While Republicans still plan to meet in Charlotte, attendance has been limited and much of the schedule has been canceled because of health risks.
That has left many party delegates with no choice but to watch the convention from home — their flashy ensembles saved for another day.
Alisha R. Bell
Edwin and Jenny Boyette
Alvin Portee Jr.
Republican, South Carolina
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Photo editing by Natalia Jimenez and Karly Domb Sadof. Additional reporting by Lisa Bolton, Tyler Charwat, Omari Daniels, Ria Manglapus, Terence McArdle, Leilah Reese and Rushawn Walters.