There was a lot missing from last week’s virtual version of the Democratic National Convention — and that’s not a bad thing.
Missing were throngs of delegates wandering around a convention hall wearing corny hats and vests identifying them as members of a particular state’s delegation, cheering and waving signs whenever the lens of a television camera swung in their direction.
Instead of drawn-out speeches with numerous interruptions for mandatory rounds of halfhearted, often undeserved applause, there were crisp, tightly edited and mercifully brief video presentations by party luminaries, along with live commentary from hosts of the day, who ramrodded the program along.
Gone, but not particularly missed, was the predictable nomination night balloon drop, although a few dozen ribbons appeared to have been shoved through a gap in the ceiling tiles above and behind Joe Biden’s head following his acceptance speech.
In the absence of a live audience of conventioneers, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris gazed at television monitors showing Democrats clapping and cheering for them from various locales across the country. Like politicians everywhere, the nominees pointed and grinned at people on the monitors they appeared to recognize, and clapped their hands in response to the incoming applause.
The COVID-19-altered convention required a fair amount of improvisation, including my favorite part of the whole affair, barring a surprise ending — the roll call vote.
Thirty-second video clips from all 50 states, five territories, the District of Columbia and Americans living abroad were aired in a 30-minute segment that showcased local history, exotic scenery and costumes, corn fields, cattle, and above all, calamari.
State Representative Joseph McNamara became the star of the segment by standing at the edge of an Atlantic shore at Warwick, Rhode Island, where he announced one vote for Bernie Sanders and 34 for Biden “from the calamari comeback state of Rhode Island.”
Standing an appropriate social distance away from McNamara was a sturdy, ninja-like guy in a black outfit with black Coronavirus mask and gloves and black hat, who said nothing and remained stock still while holding out a tray of tasty looking, golden-fried, cherry pepper-studded calamari.
I had not been aware that Rhode Island fishermen angled for octopus, or that calamari was a thing in the Ocean State, let alone the official state appetizer, now on the comeback trail.
I also enjoyed a roll-call clip from Montana, where recent college grad Rachel Prevost stood on an expanse of wind-whipped rangeland on her family’s ranch.
During her senior year, the pandemic arrived, forcing Prevost to return home to complete the semester via distance learning that arrived intermittently, due to broadband issues and her remote location. A short distance behind her, more than a dozen angus grazed peacefully, not one of them performing a bodily function as the spot was recorded.
Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands are American citizens, but like those living in the four other U.S. territories, are not eligible to vote in presidential elections. “We don’t get to vote for President, so don’t waste yours” by voting for anyone other than Biden, islanders wearing flower hats and shawls urged those living stateside.
After seeing the lush greenery in the Marianas, rugged volcanic peaks in American Samoa, and a Sonoran Desert scene with giant Saguaro cacti in Arizona, I was hoping for a Seneca Rocks, New River Gorge, or Harpers Ferry scene by the time the alphabetic roll call reached West Virginia.
Instead, we got the lobby of the American Federation of Teachers building in Charleston, from which educator and organizer Fred Albert urged parents and teachers to work together to keep the spirit of optimism alive and instilled in their children during the pandemic before casting the state’s votes for Biden.
Albert, whose message was admirable, told MetroNews he had wanted the spot to be shot next to the statue of “Hidden Figures” mathematician Katherine Johnson at West Virginia State University, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
Should the film clip roll-call format remain in effect four years from now, I nominate Joe Manchin to announce the vote while flying under the New River Gorge Bridge, as other convention delegates tandem BASE jump to the shore of the New River 850 feet below.
Chew on that, Calamari Comeback State.