Wednesday late. For approximately an hour and 35 minutes, the third night of the DNC was about women. A celebration of women; a defense of them; an ode to their power and worth.

Roughly eight minutes into Barack Obama’s speech, it became something else.

Having laid out the critical stakes he sees in this election, bestowed his obligatory blessing upon Joe Biden, and warned against the lure of cynicism, Obama turned emotionally to the Black experience in America’s past and present.

“Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy,” he pleaded, asking Americans to emulate “all those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.”

Heroes, he continued, such as the recently passed John Lewis. Heroes such as another civil rights leader who, Obama said, was “marching into a jail cell, trying to end Jim Crow segregation” the day he was born.

“Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged,” Obama said, a bit haltingly as he appeared to well up. “Spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters. Beaten for trying to vote.”

This was far beyond the usual “identity politics” Democrats frequently engage in, or even the lip service Black Lives Matter mentions earlier in the evening from Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton.

Obama was in effect putting viewers in John Lewis’s shoes—asking them to believe with that same intensity in the promises made by America, despite the apparent emptiness of those promises.

That evocation of the price America has extracted for Blackness—and the determination, in the face of it, to find justice through the very government behind it—continued through Kamala Harris’s acceptance speech, albeit in a much different tone.

Her introductory video, and the speech itself, unapologetically painted her as the culmination of Black struggle—Black women’s struggle especially—but also a mere touchstone in an ongoing process.

“There is no vaccine for racism,” Harris said. “We’ve gotta do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because none of us are free, until all of us are free.”

Wednesday evening. This virtual Democratic National Convention has been successful enough to prompt a number of political observers to declare the end of the in-person quadrennial Presidential nominating convention.

“I have to say, having been at every convention over more than thirty years, I do not miss any part of them,” tweeted political scientist and popular writer Norm Ornstein. “This is much better, more powerful, more dramatic. I do not see going back.”

It’s an understandable sentiment, but don’t count on the parties forgoing the packed-hall gatherings in future, pandemic-free election cycles.

For one thing, the slickly produced two nightly hours this week have satisfied only the outward-facing aspects of the convention.

The DNC and its partners have done a fine job reproducing many of the other, inward-facing elements, via streamed or Zoom-enabled caucus meetings, policy discussions, and the like. But, as many Americans have been finding in their own vocations and avocations, that doesn’t replace the productivity, networking, and social benefits of a physical conference.

That’s especially so for those who desire special treatment. Like it or not, these conventions are crucial, and irreplaceable, for the care and feeding of big-money bundlers and influence-wielding interest group leaders.

That probably won’t matter as much for Democrats this year. Trump is a uniquely motivating opponent, ensuring that all hands will be on deck with or without the ego-stroking.

Similarly, this time around party activists and grassroots organizers don’t need the motivation, camaraderie, and energy typically provided by the convention heading into the final months of the campaign.

And, the public at large doesn’t need much introduction and education about either candidate in the Trump-Biden showdown. Both are well-known brands, and opinions—and voting intentions—are pretty solidly established.

There’s something else unique about this year as well: a national mood, instilled by months of waiting out a persistent crisis, that fits the relatively quiet, somber format of this virtual convention.

When the mood is less Billie Eilish and more “Happy Days Are Here Again,” Democrats will want that packed arena.

But perhaps most importantly, while this virtual convention has thankfully prodded planners to think outside the box about the long-stale convention format, it is also likely to give broadcasters renewed reason to ditch the whole thing.

The fig leaf of official business being conducted, and live news being made, has been stripped away, leaving only a blatantly pre-packaged infomercial that would be difficult for networks to justify airing in the future.

Even the most popular part of the newfangled proceedings, the rolling roll call beaming in from every corner of the nation, was a prefab construction: the featured Rhode Island pol told the Providence Journal that it took 20 takes to pre-record the spot in the required 30 seconds.