Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his...

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del. on Wednesday. Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris rollout last week certainly was notable — for their easy camaraderie, for the way they succeeded on virtually every level Democrats could have imagined, and, perhaps most strikingly, for the way their debut as a duo was made in silence.

There was no crowd of fervid supporters in the high school gym in Delaware. No room crackling with energy, no buzz from which to feed, no applause for big applause lines. Just two candidates talking.

Get used to it. It’s campaigning, COVID-style.

Biden and Harris did a good job of staying focused and appealing to an audience they couldn’t see. The more interesting question is how the audience that can’t be there will react on this odd road to Nov. 3.

Campaigning has always been a communal experience, for candidates and their followers. Whether you’re in an arena or outdoor stadium or at home watching on TV, the experience includes a soundtrack of raucous response. And that’s either a signal of affirmation or a cue to be disgusted, depending on whether you’re watching the candidate you favor or the one you oppose.

But how do you react when there is no noise? When there are no flag-waving, banner-bouncing, placard-jabbing, delirious throngs to trigger your emotions? Visual and aural cues matter, for politicians and voters. Live audiences tell candidates how they’re doing, give them feedback off which they can build. They act as contemporaneous sounding boards that ratify what many of us are thinking and feeling. And, at times, the hoopla can distract us, the scene overwhelming what is said.

With no crowd to guide us, will we focus more intently on the words themselves? With no crowd to prod us, will we slowly and disinterestedly drift off?

It’s hard to know how this will evolve over the next 79 days, whether the coronavirus will keep a lid on big gatherings, whether and to what degree candidates and campaigns learn to adapt. President Donald Trump has said he won’t be staging big rallies until the virus is under control, which, let’s face it, might mean no big rallies. The Democratic and Republican national conventions will be virtual affairs the next two weeks, robbed of much of the pomp and color, the sights and sounds, that usually stir the faithful. Michelle Obama’s keynote speech Monday at the Democratic convention won’t even be live; it was taped last week at the family’s vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard, a nod to the vagaries of technology and the desire to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

But this is America, where we innovate and adapt. So who knows what might happen?

Perhaps someone will emulate British indie rocker Sam Fender, who performed last week at a socially distanced outdoor concert in Newcastle before 2,500 people spread out in 500 pods. The pods, each holding up to five people, had metal fencing dividers and chairs and tables for the occupants, with pods in the rear of the venue raised for better sightlines. The promoter has a full schedule of performers coming, including Van Morrison.

Perhaps someone will take a tip from the “America’s Got Talent” TV show, which for its first live quarterfinal round last week put a hooting and hollering virtual audience in the seats of the theater via Zoom. Perhaps someone will pipe in crowd noise like some baseball games during the pandemic.

Or perhaps not. And that might be OK. Politics has become too much of a carnival show, anyway, populated by braying barkers. A little quiet, a little more reflection, a little more focus, might be good for all of contemporaneous sounding boards.

The sound of silence is anathema in politics. Until it’s not.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.