Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What It's Like For A Delegate To Participate In A Virtual Convention


Thousands of Democratic delegates were supposed to be in Milwaukee this week. Instead, like the rest of us, they're experiencing the convention virtually. NPR's Sam Gringlas had a window into what this week's been like for two Michigan delegates.

ALISHA BELL: I'm sitting at my dining room table (laughter) and I'll probably switch between my dining room table to the living room to the den.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Alisha Bell is a county commissioner from Detroit. She won an election to be a delegate for the first time. The news of an all-virtual convention hit hard.

BELL: Aw (laughter) sad because we were going to make it a little family trip, especially as a first-time delegate because I don't know if I'll ever, you know, get a chance to be a delegate again.

GRINGLAS: An hour away near Flint, delegate Frank Burger is decked out with Biden swag.

FRANK BURGER: I actually bought a beautiful flag that says Biden for president 2020. You can see I'm wearing my shirt that says Biden with the rainbow.

GRINGLAS: Burger, a teacher, was also a 2016 delegate.

BURGER: There's such an exciting, exhilarating feeling while you are in the arena.

GRINGLAS: This year, everything's online - the daily breakfasts, caucus meetings...

BELL: The Black Caucus meeting.

GRINGLAS: ...Even kickoff parties.


UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing) We've got to find a way.

GRINGLAS: Before the primetime speeches, Burger whips up cocktails. At her house, Bell has snacks.

BELL: And I am popping my popcorn.

GRINGLAS: On Monday night, Bell's whole family got together.

BELL: Day one of the Democratic National Convention. My mother is here, my husband, my mother-in-law, my children.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It's going to be a great convention, great speakers. It's going to be a great time, so go Biden.


MICHELLE OBAMA: The goodness and the grace that is out there in households and neighborhoods all across this nation. And I know...

BELL: Just got through listening to the most inspirational speech ever by first lady Michelle Obama. We are going to ring our bell, and we are going to do what we need to do as Democrats to vote in Joe Biden for president of these United States.

GRINGLAS: That was night one. On night two, Burger and his husband watch in their living room.

BURGER: About to begin the roll call to officially nominate Joe Biden for president of the United States of America.



DENNIS SHEPARD: After our son Matthew's death in Wyoming, Joe Biden helped pass legislation to protect LGBTQ Americans from hate crimes.

BURGER: Seeing Judy and Dennis Shepard cast the votes is so emotional as an openly and proud gay man.


JILL BIDEN: And with Joe as president, these classrooms will ring out with laughter and possibility once again.

BURGER: What a way to end it with Dr. Jill Biden. Hearing her words of encouragement, I know that we will have a friend of public education in the White House.

GRINGLAS: Before the end of the convention, I wanted to get both delegates together...

BELL: Hi, Frank, how are you?

BURGER: Good. How are you?

GRINGLAS: ...Virtually, at least. They raved about last night's lineup like President Obama...

BURGER: The message that Barack Obama delivered was very, very poignant.

GRINGLAS: ...And Kamala Harris.

BELL: We are breaking the glass ceiling every day.

GRINGLAS: They also talked about how tough this year has been. Frank is gearing up for an uncertain school year. Alisha lost friends to COVID, but what struck me was their optimism.

BURGER: I would say I'm walking away with positive energy. Our ticket represents what America looks like.

BELL: And, you know, likewise, I feel a sense of pride, a sense of hopefulness that we will get better. And I can't wait till November 3.

GRINGLAS: A shared convention moment, even if only on a screen. Sam Gringlas, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.