As Democrats broadcast their national convention for the third evening Wednesday, about 75 cars gathered quietly on a dark, damp Suffolk Downs parking lot in front of a giant movie screen displaying the program.
From the outside, the pandemic-period gathering seemed to be a stark contrast to the convention’s typical buzzing, energetic atmosphere. But the party-faithful attendees said they were happy to be among others, even if it was from the socially-distanced safety of their cars.
The event was intended to allow convention delegates an opportunitiy to gather and support their home state Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was one of the evening's featured speakers. In a normal convention, the delgation would have been given prime seats to cheer her on when the senator took the stage.
Christopher Campbell, 34, of Burlington, a first-time Democratic delegate, thought he’d be in Milwaukee, but said that short of that, he was glad to be at the drive-in watch party with other Democrats on a soggy Wednesday night.
“It feels more like what the convention is supposed to feel like,” Campbell said from the driver’s side of his SUV.
He and others said the parking lot represented a good compromise between safety and convention comraderie.
“It’s nice to be — still, six-feet apart — but also to feel like you’re with your delegation,” Campbell said.
Tom McGee, 64, the mayor of Lynn and a life-long Democrat, said, “I think it’s really exciting to come together and see history being made.” Sitting in a silver SUV with two family memebrs, McGee's enthusiasm was not dampened by the social distancing. “To be here tonight, watching on the big screen with other people that feel the same way is a great night.”
From their cars, the convention-watchers peppered the cool night’s silence with short spurts of honking between speeches, but otherwise remained quiet as they watched a big screen by the light of the stars, and listened to the proceedings over a radio channel.
“I’m really proud to be representing her tonight,” said Jason Palitsch, 31, a first time delegate from Shrewsbury who was elected as a Warren delegate. “I think that she has a lot of great things to say, I think she has a lot of great stories to tell,” he said, referencing the story Warren retold in her speech about how she could only pursue her career because her aunt came to help her with childcare.
Monica Rey, 33 from Jamaica Plain, a first-time delegate who self-identified as a “Warren Democrat,” had mixed feelings about the event.
“I’m actually really sad that I haven’t gotten a selfie with her and that she’s presenting somewhere else,” she said.
Warren delivered her remarks from a classroom in Springfield. During her presidential campaign, Warren regularly stood for hourstaking selfies with supporters.
While the convention is designed to show Democrats of all factions uniting behind former Vice President Joe Biden, a small band of Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters gathered outside the event before dark, along with some progressive delegates who voted against the party’s more centrist platform this year.
Tom Duke, 27, a first-time delegate from Northampton, said he was more discouraged by the party’s speaker line-up than its virtual format.
“It seems like the DNC cares more about conservatives than progressives,” he said, noting that Republicans John Kasich, Colin Powell and Cindy McCain all spoke for longer than progressive members of congressional Democrats' so-called “squad,” like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Duke said he plans on voting for Biden since he believes Trump is worse, but added he will continue to advocate for progressive policies like Medicare-for-All if the former vice president wins the White House.