America’s very first political convention, which preceded the Declaration of Independence by a decade, took place in Connecticut where the “Sons of Liberty” chose an upcoming gubernatorial ticket. If this week’s virtual Democratic National Convention struck you as too progressive, you should have been in Hartford in 1766. Those delegates, white males though they may have been, were true radicals.

The idea of a quadrennial convention to choose a national ticket dates to the 1832 election cycle, when the long-forgotten Anti-Masonic Party met at the Athenaeum Club in Baltimore. The party nominated local U.S. Attorney William Wirt, who would carry only Vermont in November. Watching with interest, President Andrew Jackson didn’t give a whit about Wirt, but he liked the idea of a convention. So Jackson took the Democrats to Baltimore, too, where he changed running mates – replacing a future traitor (John C. Calhoun) with a future president (Martin Van Buren).

Nothing so dramatic happened for the Democrats this week. Political parties no longer choose nominees at conventions. They still get together and make noise, however, while somehow convincing the media to expend vast resources covering the glorified four-day informercial. Until now. COVID-19 did what no other virus, no world war, no Depression, no Dust Bowl, no terrorists attack, and no assassination did before.

The show must go on, though, and the nation’s oldest political party was game. How well it succeeded is a subjective topic, but there were highlights, lowlights, and hours of virtual programming that fell somewhere in between. Here is one first draft of history:

America the Beautiful. Demonstrators protesting police brutality and white racism tore down monuments to Confederate generals and other dead white men this spring and summer. But statues of Union Army generals and abolitionists were also vandalized. Churches were desecrated. The banners being burned were not Confederate flags, they were U.S. flags. Leading Democrats were criticized for refusing to condemn rioters. But in the first moments of the 2020 convention, the Democratic Party gave its answer.