California Democrats gather — mostly socially distanced — to celebrate Biden’s nomination

As Joe Biden claimed the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night and spoke of the power of love and hope, more than a half-dozen people gathered in a Long Beach backyard cheered and applauded.

“I haven’t felt that way for so long,” said Sabrina Sanders, the host of the socially distanced Democratic National Convention viewing party behind her craftsman bungalow in Long Beach.

“It’s inspirational, and being able to share in that moment as a community, as a group, it’s that much more powerful. And it’s where we’re going to be as a country starting Jan. 20.”

The quiet celebration, taking place under a canopy as the sun set and an ocean breeze pierced the sweltering heat, is a far cry from the festivities Sanders experienced when she traveled to the DNC in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C., and was in the arena as President Obama accepted his reelection nomination.


But the 47-year-old felt it was important to create a sense of community as she watched this year’s convention, which is taking place virtually because of the coronavirus crisis.

“The Democratic convention is like a meeting of your family,” she said. “Watching it solo just adds to the isolation of COVID. The synergy of watching it with your friends or family or other folks in the community is that much more powerful.”

Sabrina Sanders was a California delegate for President Obama at the 2012 DNC in North Carolina.
Sabrina Sanders was a California delegate for President Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
(Sabrina Sanders)

The Democratic Party did not hold any sanctioned gatherings to watch the convention, but supporters organized small private watch parties in communities across the state. At the Long Beach gathering, seven attendees largely wore masks — except when noshing on charcuterie and crudite or sipping wine — and spaced apart their garden chairs.

Signs showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s face superimposed on Rosie the Riveter, bearing Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign slogan “She the People” and depicting scenes from the civil rights movement decorated the backyard.

Eboney Pearson, 34, had watched the previous nights of the convention from her Long Beach home but decided she needed to see the final night with friends.

“From home, it’s obviously comfortable, but because of social distancing it’s like you feel like you have this long-distance relationship with everyone you know,” said the business community liaison.

“So to safely socially distance yourself among friends that you love and trust to watch something that’s a historical moment, it kind of makes you feel a little bit more invigorated or upbeat. Because there’s so many down times right now. So it’s a little bit refreshing to be here.”


The convention was projected on a drop-down screen. Occasional internet hiccups led to buffering pauses, notably during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s message about climate change amidst the wildfires burning wide swaths of California.

Throughout the night, the mood soared from solemn, as John Legend and Common sang “Glory,” to giggles as Julia Louis-Dreyfus made fun of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

After the actress accused Trump of cheating at golf and declared herself a proud “nasty woman,” Pearson declared, “This is something else!”

The women broke out in laughter as they watched comedian Sarah Cooper mimic Trump’s words about mail voting, and murmured in agreement as New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker described how a union job helped lift his family into the middle class. They broke into applause after 13-year-old Brayden Harrington explained how Biden helped him overcome his stutter, and sat rapt as they listened to the words of Biden’s late son, Beau.


Robyn Kinney, a purveyor of natural home products, said she was grateful to bounce ideas and ask questions of her peers as they watched the proceedings.

“I’m just coming to listen and see what the plan is really. Like we need to plan, and this is the time for everyone to be giving their opinions and listening and seeing what we can offer,” Kinney, 32, said.

Veronica Garcia Davalos, 61, said she joined her friends because of the importance of the night. But she and several attendees said they appreciated how Democrats used the virtual convention to showcase the diversity of the Democratic Party.

“It’s a historic moment. I think we’re all feeling a lot of hope about Biden and Kamala, and we want to experience that together,” said the executive director of a nonprofit, adding that this year’s convention lacked the insider feel of typical conventions and felt more intimate.


“I think this is almost the way to go in the future. I like the in-person, but you have to be a delegate to be there,” Davalos said. “Now, I feel like I’m there.”