Democrats to structure 1st night of DNC convention around trio of crises gripping nation

Biden will appear in a series of videos throughout the week as well.

August 16, 2020, 5:50 PM

The Democratic National Convention will officially kick off on Monday with a focus on the three major crises that continue to grip the nation ahead of the 2020 election: the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing economic downturn the virus has sparked and the national reckoning over racial injustice.

Monday night, which features the theme "We the People," will showcase a slate of speakers tailored to address each of those three crises, according to a Democratic official involved in convention planning.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who have both gained national attention as they have guided their states through the COVID-19 crisis, will focus their speeches on overcoming a pandemic that continues to claim thousands of American lives every week.

Whitmer, who was among the women seriously considered to be Joe Biden's running mate, praised the former vice president's call for mask mandates nationwide earlier this week.

"Today, @JoeBiden called for a national mask mandate. I couldn't agree more. It would save many lives -- and save the economy, too," Whitmer, who instituted a mask mandate in the state of Michigan nearly a month ago, tweeted on Thursday.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Aug. 14, 2020.
Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose city became a flashpoint of unrest during the protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody, will speak as part of a segment of the program that addresses the nationwide calls for racial justice and reform. Bowser publicly clashed with President Donald Trump after peaceful protesters were forcibly removed from Lafayette Square to allow for a photo-op in front of St. John's Church in early June. Days later she renamed the street leading up to Lafayette Square "Black Lives Matter Plaza."

Biden himself will also appear in a short video on Monday that features a conversation with racial justice leaders, the first of a series of videos the presumptive Democratic nominee will appear in throughout the week that planners say emphasizes his commitment to engaging real Americans on key issues and contrasts his leadership style with that of Trump.

"On night one, we are confronting head on the trio of crises facing the country -- a pandemic spiraling out of control, an economy in tatters and a society infected with systemic racism that has plagued us for generations. Donald Trump has failed the American people on all three. Tomorrow night, 'We the People' will see what real leadership -- that puts American families first -- really looks like," Biden campaign spokesman T.J. Ducklo wrote in a statement provided to ABC News.

Convention planners also said they plan to highlight every day Americans' experiences throughout the week in speeches, crowdsourced videos and other unconventional methods as they attempt to pull off an almost entirely virtual event that was fundamentally reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden's former rival for the nomination, and Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond will give remarks during a section of the program focused on the economy, workers and fairness, according to convention planners.

On Sunday, in an interview on ABC's "This Week," Sanders acknowledged his disagreements with Biden over policy, but expressed his belief that his supporters will ultimately back his former rival because they see the threat that Trump poses to American democracy.

"Obviously, there may be disagreement," Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "A lot of my supporters are not enthusiastic about Joe Biden. You know why? I ran against Joe Biden. But I think there's an overwhelming understanding that Donald Trump must be defeated, Biden must be elected, and that the day after he is elected, we're going to do everything we can to create a government that works for all of us."

Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote, March 18, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images, FILE

Monday's speeches culminate in a keynote address from former first lady Michelle Obama, who has opted to remain mostly on the sidelines throughout the 2020 political season, aside from the launch of an initiative focused on voting rights.

Other speakers expected to address the convention on Monday span a wide ideological spectrum and include former Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 12, 2020.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, will address the convention from the former vice president's home state of Delaware on Thursday and Wednesday respectively.

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