Saturday, August 30, 2008

My 20 Pieces of Convention Swag

Swag are those freebies that celebrities get when attending hip events. It's stuff like designer bags and swanky perfume. My friend Myra asked me to list all the swag I received as a delegate.

Here's the list. As you see, it's rather pathetic.

1. An eco-notebook from Staples made with sugatcane-based paper
2. A box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ("limited convention edition")
3. A UPS envelope and shipping documents
4. A $10 coupon for FedEx
5. A junky keychain from the US conference of Mayors
6. An AT&T trivia challenge pin
7. $2 off for the American Presidential Experience traveling exhibition
8. An 8 oz can of Joint Juice Glucosamine "Tropical Flavor"
9. A Step-Counter Pedometer
10. Another key chain hanging from a tiny bottle of Hogan & Hartsons hand sanitizing gel
11. A stress ball in the shape of a black piece of coal from Peabody touting their web site: ""
12. A small notepad from Post-It
13. Tic-Tac like mints in a box shaped like an UPS truck
14. A 16.9 oz bottle of JointJuice Fitness Glucosamine
15. A cardboard "I'm a Clean Coal" fan from
16. Chapstick from the FedEx Corp.
17. Another lousy key chain from "Escape Hybrid"
18. An electrical socket plug from IBEW "Safety First"
19. A SEIU refrigerator magnet with 97 social justice words that can be cut out to form political quotes.
20. Oh and of course, the convention tote bag emblazoned with At&T and Coca Cola logos and assembled by Goodwill Industries of Denver.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Under the Waving Flag

Being there is something else again. Physical discomfort, confusion, moments of being royally pissed off. Trade-offs for spirit, excitement,connectedness and very, very rarely -- transcendence.

Yesterday was a good example. Just hung out in the room in the morning. Needed downtime after the intensity of the first 3 days.

Left on the first shuttle bus from the hotel for Invesco Field. It was total chaos. No volunteers met the buses as in the Pepsi Center. There was a very long line --apparently for security. No one was there to direct us. Some people scrambled up an embankment and walked to an upper level of the stadium. One semi-official person told us that we needed to stay in the line for delegates. That person disappeared and we saw no one else for an hour and a half. It was hot.

When we finally reached security, busloads of so-called VIPs were ushered in 'in waves' further dellaying us. Once inside the perimeter, gads of orange-shirted volunteers fell all over themselves to help us.

Once on the field, we found the NC delegation in a slightly better position than at the Pepsi Center. But on the level field the sight lines for a short person like me were terrible. The metal seats were lashed together with ty-wraps and were crushed together even closer than at the PC. The sun was beating down. I am very heat intolerant

I found a seat with difficulty and went to the restroom. There were only 2 stalls in the women's room. The wait was 25 minutes. I went looking for concessions and was directed up a long, long incline to an upper level. 30 minute wait at each concession stand. I stood in the shortest line I could find. It was for nachos. Gloppy is not my favorite kind of food. I was reluctant to drink much since I dreaded the restroom wait or the long walk up to the upper level. I was exhausted from the heat and from standing in all those lines.

When I returned to my seat, someone thinking I wasn't coming back had appropriated it and there were 2 enormous wheelchairs from people not in our delegation blocking the aisle. Our incredibly helpful delegation Whip Brad Thompson managed to get my seat back for me and convinced the two women in wheelchairs to move -- with great difficulty.

I learned our delegation of 134 people was shortchanged 15 seats. Brad warned me that once I sat down, it would be a challenge to get out again. The fire marshals weren't letting people back on the field. I sat in that very tight seat for 3 hours. It was so close that it was difficult to stand up to wave a sign. The people sitting right around me seemed kind of glum and lacking in spirit. I watched other sections of the delegation 'kickin' up their heels' and having fun, but I was stuck, I was thirsty but dared not drink much. Spike Lee sauntered by and mixed it up with the NC delegation. I couldn't get near him.

Those early speeches were deadly --just like Tuesday night. Gore was good and kept me awake but didn't inspire. The sound system had a terrible echo. I had to strain my ears to make the doubled words cohere into meaning. John Oliver of The Daily Show pranced down the aisle mimicking O-BAM-A. O-BAM-A. I couldn't get near him either.

Then the big moment. Obama was a tall shadowy figure in the distance that flitted in and out of view. He started slowly but soon began to show the toughness we had been waiting for. Throwing it up to McCain. Here was substance. The meat. Raising the unspoken issue of temperament. Challenging McCain on patriotism. And the crescendo: the tying all the themes together with the commitment to fulfill the promise of the MLK "I have a dream" speech.

I was crying now. On my feet till the end. By that time Betsy Muse, the BlueNC bogger was next to me and she was crying, too, and we held arms. And there were sobs all around and shouts of "Yes" from behind me -- shouts that came from someplace very deep -- in the gut. It was Brad Thompson. I turned around and we hugged.

And then the fireworks started and the confetti drifted down. Someone behind me was handed one of those huge American flags. He stood on his seat and we all swung up to touch the flag and after a few tries he got the rhythm of the wave. And I was standing underneath the waving flag. Clear sky. Red, white, and blue bursts of sparkle, lights from the stadium LEDs flashing 'America' and tiny colored papers drifting, drifting down. Red White and Blue.

I didn't miss the balloons.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Way It Was

These two links sum it up nicely.

Salon's article Eyes on the Prize

And this YouTube video on Clinton's reception and speech

The Hat I will be Wearing Thursday

The last silly hat!

Denver: Day Five

Flying High.

This night redeemed the lackluster, scripted (and feeling like it) evening before.

The roll call vote was spellbinding. And the neat little New Mexico to Illinois to New York play worked like a charmed. Only slight disappointment that delegation chair Jerry Meek didn't get to do the "The Great State of North Carolina, Home of.... " thingee.

Bill reminded us of how much we used to (and still) admire him. The huge applause he received even before he spoke was genuine and spontaneous -- full of memories of his potential and hopes that he would do the right thing -- tinged with nervousness that he might fail us again. I sensed that the Obama delegates were surprised by how intense and how positive our emotions were about the former President. We were all much more enthusiastic than we expected of ourselves with our bitter taste of his missteps during the campaign.

He was magnificent.

As one commentator said "It wasn't self-indulgent. It wasn't self-pitying. It was a speech only he could give"

One of our African-American delegates enthused " The Prodigal Son has come home. And we gave him back his card."

And Kerry did himself proud as well --reminding us again of what a decent man he is, how close he came, how wronged by the Swift Boaters, and what a good President he would have been.

And all the veterans stories were moving --not stilted as in the previous nights. And the surprise appearance of Barack. And we came together as a delegation --as much as is possible after such a bitter battle.

A grand night!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Hat I'm Wearing Wednesday

This joker hat is the silliest one yet.

Denver: Day Four

Not sure how the convention seems via the TV lens, but inside the Pepsi Center it was for the most part a big yawn, The energy level was dismal. Over-managed. Artificial. Pedestrian. This political convention feels like business as usual -- except more boring. And this is the best that a change candidate with a supposedly brilliant campaign staff can muster?

A group of us in the delegation were literally shouting at the speakers. 'Fire Us Up" "Give us some Meat!". The same "American story" --an urban version of "I was born in a log cabin and achieved the American dream" -- over and over and over. It's really wearing thin. Maybe because we have to sit there and listen most of the time.

You want to jump to your feel --not drag yourself up to wave the signs they hand out at an obvious "applause line". Schweitzer towards the end of his speech really got us going. It's so clear being in that hall when the juice is flowing and when it ain't.

Hillary's speech? A lot of us Obama supporters were a bit nervous though we had been assured by the Clinton whip in our delegation that it would be fine. It was.

I spent some time wandering down to the podium area where the crush of bodies exhorted to "keep moving" feels like a madhouse. I saw a few media personalities: Wolf Blitzer, James Carville, David Gregory, and Andrea Mitchell among others.

Lots of people took pictures of my silly yellow hat. My New York City friends Luis and Lupe saw me on PBS. I think the hat helped.

Earlier in the day, we went on a tour of Denver's innovative light rail system and spoke with some transit officials. Were joined by Cong. David Price and a handful of county commissoners. Denver's system is impressive and exceeds ridership estimates.

I later went to a panel on the use of online campaigning with Joe Trippi, the deputy online directory of the Obama campaign, and a Google guy. Some interesting stats I may add later. But the bottom line is that there is a lot of visibility because it is so new, but the actual impact in still quite limited. Chief asset is the mobilization of online activists and providing them with effective tools for traditional grassroots organizing.

Lots more but too tired. A laundry list of weird stuff soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Hat I'm wearing Tuesday

Another day. Another silly hat.

Denver: Day Three

Long day so I don't have time for more than bits and pieces.

-- Morning breakfast with the delegation was uneventful. 40 minute wait in line to pick up credentials for the day. Speech to the delegation by the Lieutenant Gov of Arkansas. Blah.

-- Went to an early panel at the GreenStarz theater which is within the security perimeter of the Pepsi Center so it's not available to the public. My husband tried to drive me there but could only go part of the way. Long walk. Everything was delayed because the panelists had a hard time getting through security. The panel included Arianna Huffington, Jonathan Alter (of Newsweek) and others on "The Blogosphere vs. the Mainstream Media." Mainstream folks are still defensive about their reporting style and there was a strong whiff of superiority from them in relation to the bloggers. The more interesting comments came from the audience who questioned the media pile on of negative narratives like "Obama cannot connect with blue collar whites." Isn't it equally true that those descriptions of Obama as "the other" are codes for racism and feed the alienation?

-- chatted with a Tennessee delegate and shared notes on what it is like to be progressive in a red state. He's a political numbers guy -- follows the polls. His recommendation: The Survey USA and Rasmussen polls should be taken seriously. Electoral-vote is a solid state-by-state information source.

-- Had other events I wanted to attend but they were downtown and getting there was difficult. Seems there is transport between the hotels and the convention during the period when it's in session, but if you want to attend other events inbetween, they don't make it easy.

Saw snippets of a documentary about a doctor paralyzed in a bike accident who becomes an advocate for stem cell research> Attended part of a panel on the Emerging Powers: implications for American Foreign Policy and a Conservative/ Progressive debate between Thom Hartmann and talk radio host Dennis Prager. Prager is a right-winger who is stuck in the 60s culture wars, defines the left in a completely warped way and revels in vicious distortions. Couldn't stomach it.

The one take-away from the Foreign Affairs discussion: how Obama, with his focus on diplomacy and mutuality, can avoid appearing a wimp . Goal of foreign policy is building friends and isolating your enemies.

Then to the Pepsi Center. The NC delegation has terrible seats-- up in the rafters and on the side. I wondered what NC did to Obama to be relegated to Siberia. But one of the delegates said that last year the delegation had great location because of Edwards and the party likes to rotate those good positions.

The first few hours were a bit boring - desultory, stilted speeches, but my fellow delegates were lively and we were kind of the "dancing delegation" We were all crammed together a bit tightly. People came and went, but for a time I had Secretary of State Elaine Marshall on one side, a Congressman (not mine) on the other and the Governor and his wife sitting behind me. Later the surprise appearance by Edward Kennedy was stirring. Michelle, of course, was amazing. When the energy was flowing, the lights and color and music and the sense of unity was intense. Indescribable.

I had snagged some free tickets for a Willy Nelson concert at Invesco Field for me and my husband. After the convention, I exited the Pepsi Center and walked toward the stadium but apparently there was no easy and safe way to get there. I aborted the mission and was bussed with the rest of the delegation to an evening reception hosted by a Raleigh law firm. Had a good talk with a Durham County Commissioner who has organized a tour of the Denver Transit system for delegates tomorrow. My husband went to the Willie Nelson concert and had a great time,

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Hat I'm Wearing Monday

For those who want to look for me on TV:
This is the silly hat I will be wearing at the convention on Monday night.