This year’s virtual convention gave the party’s presidential nominee an opportunity which he took with skill and stubborn decency

There have never been two campaign gatherings like this week’s US Democratic convention and next week’s Republican one. Stripped to their essentials by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 conventions cannot match the energy of normal years. Yet the big speech by the presidential candidate at the convention remains a defining campaign moment, and this year is no different. The greater severity imposed by the virtual convention is also appropriate. For this is not a normal US election year. It is one in which the central contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will define the future of the United States and the world like few others.

Because of the constraints, the Democratic convention lacked true razzmatazz. In that respect it was tailor-made for Mr Biden’s decent, stubborn but markedly unexciting political message. And yet the lack of glitz had certain advantages. It meant that the nightly coverage offered to American voters this week was more serious-minded. The televised broadcasts were full of ordinary people’s video accounts of what they are going through as a result of the pandemic, recession and racism. The format also meant that Mr Biden could use his acceptance speech to cut to the chase about the issues at stake in November’s election, rather than play up the rhetoric that would have been expected in a packed hall. In any case, Barack Obama had powerfully supplied that form of oratory the previous evening.

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