2020 Democratic National Convention Viewer's Guide: Biden anchored in Delaware, a virtual nomination and history to be made

The DNC begins on Monday and stretches over four nights.

August 17, 2020, 3:16 PM

The Democratic National Convention, which begins on Monday and stretches over four nights, is poised to be an all-virtual gathering that will look unlike any other.

Traditionally, political conventions are painstakingly choreographed live productions that are planned years in advance. But the coronavirus pandemic has reduced the nominating celebration to a minimal footprint in Milwaukee -- with major programming and production details still in flux just days before it is set to begin.

Still, the convention is set to make history as former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the nomination, and the party nominates the first Black and first woman of Indian descent as a vice presidential candidate: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. As Democrats aim to project a united front from remote locations across the country for the gathering, which marks the official start to general election season, it will feature some of the party's old guard, young rising stars, former 2020 presidential candidates and even a Republican.

Here's what you need to know about the 2020 DNC:

When and where is the convention

The convention, which was initially planned to be hosted at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, has transitioned to a virtual event, billed as a "Convention Across America" that is set to weave in programming from all 57 states and territories.

The convention will take place Aug. 17 to 20 from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET each night.

In Milwaukee, the convention's anchor will be at the Wisconsin Center, a smaller venue a few blocks from the Fiserv Forum, but delegates and members of Congress were told to not travel to Wisconsin amid the pandemic. The DNC's production team, tasked with coordinating live and taped video feeds for the event each night, are based at the event space.

Biden, too, is planning to stay in his home state of Delaware, delivering his acceptance speech on Thursday night from the Chase Center, a large event space on the waterfront in Wilmington. Until last week, he was still planning to travel to Wisconsin -- a largely symbolic gesture after Democrats were criticized for overlooking the state four years ago.

Harris is also planning to give her speech from the Chase Center on Wednesday evening.

A sign advertises the convention at Wisconsin Center, home to the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on Aug. 11, 2020.
Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

Who will be speaking

The Democratic National Convention will feature a star-studded array of the country's most prominent party leaders, key allies of the presumptive Democratic nominee and rising stars in progressive circles.

Organizers for the event unveiled a wide-ranging speaker schedule less than a week before the event. Several speakers throughout the week will be based in Wisconsin, while the rest of the slate will speak to viewers from across the country in a mix of live and taped addresses.

Former first lady Michelle Obama, former second lady Dr. Jill Biden, former President Barack Obama and Biden will headline each of the four nights, according to a schedule released by the Democratic Party.

For Monday night, the speakers include: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., convention chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Michelle Obama.

On Tuesday, former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., former President Bill Clinton and Jill Biden will take the stage.

Also on Tuesday, a group of 17 "rising stars" within the party will deliver a keynote speech meant to capture the "diversity of ideas and perspectives" within the party. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb, Texas Rep. Colin Allred, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor Randall Woodfin are among the officials set to participate in the keynote.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walk through falling balloons during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE

Wednesday will feature House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and former President Obama.

The entire event culminates on Thursday with a range of speakers that all lead up to Biden's speech, during which he will formally accept the party's presidential nomination, including: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and the Biden family.

The convention will also feature a lineup of everyday Americans throughout the two-hours of prime time.

What to watch for

Without the fanfare that typically marks a convention to excite the party's base, planners made unprecedented adjustments on the fly in the weeks leading up to the convention.

While so much of the gathering has been altered, some of the four-day event's highlights will be among the most traditional aspects of a convention.

The party's virtual festivities will kick off on Monday with opening ceremonies.

On Tuesday, the presidential candidate nominating and seconding speeches are set to take place, and delegates -- who won't be in the convention hall after being told not to travel to Milwaukee -- will nominate Biden by a roll call vote that is expected to take place over the course of 30 minutes. The "Roll Call Across America" will happen across 57 states and territories and include voters, delegates, parents, teachers, small business owners, activists and leaders in the Democratic Party.

The convention will also feature a unique aspect this year, with a lineup of everyday Americans across the four nights, which include a one-time Trump voter in Pennsylvania who is now backing Biden; a paramedic and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient in Florida; a teacher from Wisconsin; a pastor and cancer survivor from Nevada; a mother who started a nonprofit for families and survivors of gun violence after her son was shot and sustained major injuries; an auto worker from Michigan; a bus driver from Georgia; and a retired teacher from Wisconsin.

The organizers are also planning to feature nearly 1,000 crowdsourced videos from voters and delegates throughout the convention.

The inclusion of these working class Americans appears to be an overture to Biden's own roots and public persona as "middle-class Joe."

"That's been my handle for the last 40 years. But I know what made the country what it is: ordinary people doing extraordinary things," Biden said during a midterm rally in Kentucky in 2018.

Musician John Legend performs at a campaign "Get Out the Vote" event with former Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2020.
Brian Snyder/Reuters, File

The convention will also feature an array of celebrity entertainers across all four nights, including Leon Bridges, The Chicks, Common, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Billy Porter, Maggie Rogers, Prince Royce, Stephen Stills and more.

The musical acts will be featured across all four nights and the performances will range from renditions of the national anthem, to American classics and new songs, according to party officials.

While the event won't be taking place in a crowded arena, expect some of the intraparty disputes to bubble to the surface remotely. A group of Sanders supporters still plans to vote against the party's platform -- which does not include "Medicare for All."

And some progressives have voiced frustration with the limited amount of speaking time given to Ocasio-Cortez, just 60 seconds, especially compared to Kasich -- an anti-Trump Republican whose presence is meant to illustrate bipartisan opposition to Trump.

The virtual convention will arguably be the most technologically complex and sophisticated event the party has ever executed for a nominating convention, which could lead to some technical difficulties during the weeklong production.

How to watch

ABC News Live will kick off prime-time coverage each day at 7 p.m. ET on the network's streaming news channel and prime-time coverage will air from 10 to 11 p.m. ET each night of the convention on ABC network.