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How COVID-19 is changing political conventions

Austin Mayor Steve Adler thinks there will always be a place for conventions, but they won’t be the same moving forward.
Credit: Democratic National Convention via AP
In this image from video, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden leads a conversation on racial justice with Art Acevedo, Jamira Burley, Gwen Carr, Derrick Johnson and Lori Lightfoot during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

DALLAS — Politics during the coronavirus have been anything but conventional.

You can add political conventions to the long list of institutions and events forced to change during the pandemic. Call them the COVID conventions this year. 

“I think that there’s a lot that’s going to change. I don’t think that we go back to life exactly the way that it was before,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said on Y’all-itics. “My kids don’t really watch a lot of TV. You know, they’re online. They’re listening to the podcasts. And I think this trend is something that the institutions, like the party conventions, are going to have to get a hold on.” 

And if you listen to podcasts, you better bet we inserted a tease for the full Y’all-itics episode here. Subscribe where you get your podcasts:

Adler says people have become far more comfortable participating in Zoom meetings, working from home and helping kids with remote learning. 

That familiarity with distance will extend itself to political conventions -- it already has with the 2020 Democratic National Convention. 

RELATED: Democratic National Convention: Schedule of speakers

While he thinks there will always be a place for conventions, they won’t be the same moving forward.

“I think that there will be things that happen more remotely," said Adler. "I don’t think you’ll have to be physically present in order to be able to participate. And I think there will be a lot more people watching remotely than in the past.”

Dr. Carla Brailey, the vice chair of the Texas Democratic Party, was supposed to be in Milwaukee for DNC 2020. It would have been her first time attending as a delegate. Though Brailey is taking it in from more than a thousand-miles away in Houston, she still feels the conventions are relevant.

“Number one, you don’t always go in to the convention with that presidential candidate. That’s going to be one, so business still has to go on as usual,” Brailey said. “You’re hoping you’re in a very good place before you get to the convention because when we are able to do that, then we’re able to really unite.”

Brailey says nothing can replace the energy and interaction and camaraderie you experience at a convention.

“Just imagine being at five football games that you all like and it’s your favorite games all at one time. It’s just like that," said Brailey. "I mean, people are saving seats and you’re trying to get next to your buddy who you may have not seen in years. So I think the convention is necessary, just for people, if anything else for like minds to join in that same space.”

Adler agrees and adds that it’s a big deal to hear from the next potential political star.

“But there is something that is exciting about having a convention, having some of the up-and-coming stars in the Democratic party have the chance to be able to speak to the country," said Adler. 

He added that conventions help focus voters who haven't been paying attention.

"You know conventions are, for many people, the first time they’ll sit down and actually hear people speak,” he said.