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: "coalcandothat.com"
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 americanpower.org
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.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Denver: Day Two

Greetings from beautiful Denver. Big sky and spectacular clouds -- low-lying and 3-dimensional. Very clean. Innovative architecture. Amazing, beautifully sculptured sound barriers along the Interstate. Best deviled eggs ever at Steuben's, a retro diner.

This was a relatively quiet day. Checked into the NC delegation's homebase, the Doubletree Tech Center, about 15 miles from downtown. My husband went to see some of the demonstrations. Look for pics later.

I went to an event by the Network of Spiritual Progressives an offshoot of Tikkun, a group I've been involved with off and on for over 20 years. Rabbi Michael Lerner and Matthew Fox and others presented " A Spiritual Progressive Vision for America" -- a good perspective for me as I what I think seriously about what I want to take away from the convention. This group has long argued that the Democrats need not cede the values vote to the Republicans -- that people want more than a laundry list of policies, but seek meaning in spiritual terms.

Some excerpts from the Speakers:
-- The right provides substitutes for the need for authentic community by projecting largely false images of perfect families and a perfect nation.
-- our media culture treats everything politicians (especially on the left) say as 'fake" -- characterizing even the most heartfelt and sincere statements as political calculations. No wonder the public is cynical.
-- our constitution which rightly focused on individual rights when it was written, needs to be expanded to promote values of interdependence and justice.
-- we are too worried about appearing to be kooks if we talk about political goals in these terms. "Bill Reilly will attack you. You can't escape it. But, so what?"

After the event we walked around the downtown area. I was in full campaign regalia with my Obama T-shirt and cap. Turned out to be a camera magnet --with media types from Japan to Australia including me in their B-roll background shots.

Back to the hotel for an ice cream social with the NC delegation. Especially enjoyed my chats with State Representative Dan Blue, N&O political reporter Rob Christensen, and a Hillary supporter who served on the platform committee. Good talk. Good spirit.

Tomorrow we get our credentials and marching orders at breakfast -- sponsored by AT&T,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Denver: Day One

Got my personal e-mail (I'm not of the SMS generation) from Obama just as I left for the airport announcing the Biden pick. At first blush I feel pretty good about it, but have been too busy to think much or to absorb the pundit chatter. Over the past week I must have been asked by at least 15 people who I thought the VP would be -- as if I had any insider info. Sure. Barack would be sure to tell me before Wolf Blitzer.

Smooth flying: Raleigh-Dallas-Denver.My husband and I wore our Obama buttons which generated beaucoups smiles and thumbs up. Met a Democratic Party volunteer and fellow delegate on my flight out. Very good vibes.

One flight attendant on the second leg was a huge Obama supporter. He just gushed and asked for pointers on becoming a delegate in 2012 to re-elect Obama. Another whispered as I left the plane, "Kiss Bill for me, but don't let Hillary see you." Had a spirited talk with a Maine delegate on the plane which made me appreciate all the wonderful support we receive from the NC State Democratic Party (thanks, Julia Lee) -- apparently not the case in other states. A Manhattan activist asked about the Kay Hagen (running for Senator against Elizabeth Dole) campaign. Seems New Yorkers are excited about her chances.

The only negative note: I overheard 2 pilots talking on the jetway: "Biden hates pilots. Since 9-11. And he really hates airlines." Not sure what that is all about.

Arrival at Denver International Airport was stirring. We were met at baggage claim by 30 or more smiling Obama volunteers -- cheering, waving signs and so anxious to help. I felt enveloped by their spirit and by the sense that I was among people who share my values and my vision. It was such a powerful feeling that it made me cry. I think I cried because I realized how alone it feels to be a progressive in the South -- to be alienated from the larger social reality: conservative, Bible Belt, and on such a totally different wave length I never know where to start, how to connect.

Anyway, a warning: I am very emotional. When I'm emotional, I cry. I will cry a lot over the next few days. If a few like-minded folks have this effect, what will it be like at the Pepsi Center surrounded by thousands. I fully expect C-SPAN to catch me bawling.

The rest of the day:
We rented a car and are staying at a modest hotel 30 miles or so south of downtown. Made a detour to a highly recommended Mexican hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a very Latino neighborhood: Tacos Y Salsas. Rates among the best Mexican food I ever had. Six different kinds of salsas available -- 3 red; 3 green. All incendiary. All delicious. A guy is outside cutting a huge slab of meat. So fresh.

My Obama button prompted another delightful conversation with a couple of Obama canvassers taking a break from voter registration work in the neighborhood. Warm and very welcoming.

It feels wonderful to be here. For a few days a little oasis of Democrats -- in the America of my dreams.

More Denver Doings: A Sampler


The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation"Gospel Extravaganza"

I Fish, I Hunt, I Vote
National Wildlife Federation and NWF Action Fund


The HuffPost Oasis
Arianna Huffington has decided to demonstrate that a balanced life is possible even during the most compulsively hectic days in the political calendar. So during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, she will offer harried conventioneers -- including delegates and members of the media -- a chance to unplug and recharge. The Oasis will feature complimentary yoga classes, Thai massages, hand massages, mini-facials, healthy snacks and refreshments, music, and a comfortable seating area for lounging and unwinding.

SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) Sunfest

with a a keynote address by environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.


Pro-Choice/Pro Life Town Hall Meeting sponsored by

Democrats for Life of America


Unconventional Women Roundtable

The 2008 Ronald H. Brown Memorial Golf Tournament


Comedy Kabob from the Arab-American Institute


Poker Players Alliance benefitting Paralyzed Veterans


EqualiTEA: a Feminist Gathering and Celebration of Women's Equality Day


Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's this? 1968?

Here's a sampler of events around the Denver Convention that reflect the spirit of the 60s. . For those who remember the tumultuous Chicago convention, let's hope this one ends on a more unified and peaceful note.

Freewheelin': A Citywide Bike Sharing Program

Close to 1,000 bikes are available free of charge for anyone looking for an alternative to automobiles while the convention is in town. The Freewheelin' bike racks are set up at various points around the city.

Meditate08
We believe there is --or should be -- a place for quiet contemplation at the Democratic National Convention, so we’re conducting a silent meditation retreat. We’ve invited forty nationally recognized meditation and yoga teachers from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Native American traditions to guide us in our practice.

Bovine's Improv Hootenanny

The Festival of Democracy
The Festival will include free music and performing arts, free food, and free institution building and political training -- addressing our community problems ourselves, without relying on the two party capitalist system. Also offering a 24 hour free medical clinic. ( Again anyone remember the Diggers from the 60s?)

Food Not Bombs Community Feeds
PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN PLATE, SPOON, CUP!!!
The Democratic administration that runs the City of Denver will be opening their emergency shelters to round-up and hide the homeless from the delegates. It would create too much guilt for the DNC to see the effects of an inhumane and destructive capitalist system as they spend $1,000 per plate for their fundraising dinners. We believe that we need to take care of the most vulnerable members of our community and not hide them from view. Therefore all food cooked for at the DNC protests will be free to all!

Resurrection City Free University
Created as a way to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s original Resurrection City and Poor People’s Campaign. Forty years later, our intention at Resurrection City Free University is to provide activists and individuals from all over the USA who are attending the 2008 DNC with courses and trainings that will provide them with new tools and information that they can take back to their communities.

Green Frontier Fest
This is an open-to-the-public event promoting green practices and highlighting the sustainable aspects of the Democratic National Convention.

FUNK THE WAR - Funky Snake Marches
We're done with dying. Kick off the weeks activities by bringing the war to delegates--and getting funky while doing it. Bring drums, intruments, your bodies, and your desire to end the war! Show your solidarity by dancing in the streets, making music rather than war. We encourage a multiplicity of creative expressions of resistance (particularly those of a funky variety).

Shake Your Money Maker — Denver Mint
Time to redistribute the wealth. Between security and corporate pay-offs, the DNC will cost over 100 million dollars for a party. We think the people deserve that money. Join us as we encircle the Denver MInt (where U.S. currency is produced) and use our collective power to raise the mint building in the air and shake the money out of it for the people. Don’t forget a sack to put all of your loot in. Bring noise makers, energy, spells, magic, costumes, anything that gives you power. We’ll need it!

Freedom March
Join supporters of Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, The Cuban Five, and other political prisoners for the Freedom March and Rally! Leonard Peltier’s parole hearing will take place in 2008. Let us not forget that the Clintons left him in jail and did not pardon him. Free Mumia, the Cuban Five, the Guantanamo detainees, and others. Call for an end to Human Rights abuses.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mile High and Oodles to Do

So what's happening in Denver other than the convention itself? Turns out plenty.

There seem to be 6 main categories of events:
1) Caucuses -- interest groups for women, people with disabilities, GLBTs, Asians/ Pacific Islanders, seniors and the like meeting to "form party policy and submissions to the party platform". I'd go to some of these if there weren't so much other stuff going on.

2) Wonky panels (loads of them) by groups such as the American Prospect, Common Cause, the AFLCIO and Families USA on topics like the economy, health care, and Israel/ Palestine. Wonky stuff is my element so I RSVPed for tons of these until I realized that my 'dance card' now has 4-5 events for the same time slot. Tuesday afternoon is especially crowded.

3) Parties galore -- 400 of them according to recent NPR story -- some of them hot, some hip-hop, some celebrity-laden, some all 3, but most all of these are invitation only. And my name isn't on any of those invites. The only parties I'm likely to attend are those of the NC delegation. But then I'm not a party girl anyway.

4) Entertainment -- concerts, documentary film festivals, comedy shows, etc. -- all with a political twist. I'm on a waiting list for 1) a freebie Willy Nelson concert; 2) live performances from a new film , based on Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States ” -- with actors Ben Affleck, Josh Brolin, and Rosario Dawson; and 3) an award celebration for a new film called 14 women (the women in the US Senate) with Annette Bening, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, Alan Cumming, Rachel Leigh Cook, & Quentin Tarantino.

5) Protestor parades /demonstrations -- at locations designed to remain far out of sight of the delegates at the Pepsi Center. Plus there are elaborate plans to process those expected to be arrested at an industrial warehouse with chain-link cells topped by razor wire -- a facility some have compared to Gitmo. A sign there reads "Electric stun devices used here." I'm planning to go out of my way to see what the protestors have to say. I'm hoping peaceful protests and that the Police behave themselves this time around,

6) Miscellaneous activities from arts projects and poker / golf tournaments to a tour of wind farms. All good stuff (well, not the poker and golf), but who will have the time?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What I Heard.Tonight

Obama spoke for one and half hours in the Raleigh Town Hall meeting. Some bits and pieces:

-- Republicans can't govern, but they are very effective at campaigning
-- McCain is not only adopting GWB's policies, but he is also adopting his politics. And it works. It feeds into real cynicism about government. People say, "a plague on both your houses."
-- He can talk all he wants about Brittany and Paris, but I don't have time for that. My goal is to reestablish the bond between government and the people.

-- In answer to question by Mom of 3-year-old with Down's Sydrome: all children are the children of G-d and all are special... We need to recognize the gifts and talents that people with disabilities have. The federal government had a commitment to provide 40% of the costs for ADA services; under Bush they only provided 18%.

--In answer to an ex-offender who can't find a job: People make mistakes early in life and we need to give them the tools so they can have a second chance. But the most important thing is to keep them out of jail in the first place. Jr. high and high school is where kids take the wrong path. Parents have to parent. Fathers have to be fathers. Government can't do it all...
I support faith-based service organizations if they do their jobs well and don't discriminate based on religion.

-- In answer to a question about the politicization of science: GWB is anti science. He used his first veto (in 2006) to oppose stem cell research. During his administration the budget for basic research was flatlined. It has cut our edge. In the past, discovery and innovation have driven our economy. We need to double our funding for scientific research.

-- On energy: Intelligent drilling is OK, but we can't drill our way out of our energy problem. 2-3 months ago, John McCain wasn't for drilling. Then he met with a group of Texas oil millionaires.
We're not proposing to tax them more --only that we take away some of their tax breaks --breaks they didn't deserve in the first place.

-- In answer to a question about party unity: Divisions in the party have been hyped by the media. We are passionate about our candidates. That's what politics should be.

-- In answer to a questions about drug ads on TV: we see happy people with big smiles running through fields, but you don't know what most of the drugs are for --- except for one drug and you know what that one is for (joke). 16-17 members of the Bush adminstration who pushed against government's negotiation with drug companies have left -- to work for the pharmaceutical lobby.

-- In answer to a question about the problem of obesity: If we went back to the level of obesity we had in 1980, we would save our health care system $1 trillion. .. Throw your kids out of the house. And you go with them.

There was lots more --- compelling statistics, stories about his own childhood (the lack of a father in his home, his mother throwing him outside to play), listening -- really listening, answers that were personal and responsive, a coherent vision.

You really had to be there. Live makes a difference. The grace of his body movements. The confidence. The coolness. The intelligence flickering behind his eyes.

I'm re-energized and ready for Denver. Even if the North Carolina delegation is relegated to the "boonies" of Invesco Field on August 28th. I saw Obama up close and personal. I shook his hand.

I Shook His Hand!

There is something mystical about flesh-on-flesh contact between charismatic politicians and regular people. Obama spoke here in Raleigh tonight at a Town Hall Meeting and yes, I shook his hand and yes, I swooned.

The handshake was electric and propelled me back into a seat and took my breath away.

But it had nothing to do with the outrageous McCain commercials about Paris and Brittany and celebrity and rock stardom. I swooned because I spent an hour and half listening to a man of substance -- who spoke in a way that continually engaged my mind, who had an intelligent answer to every question,, who was genuine and 'present' with every questioner, and who personified my deepest hopes and dreams for change in this country.

Exactly 40 years ago, I had a similar passion about another American politician and had the honor of shaking his hand as well. He, too, engaged my heart and my mind, my hopes and dreams. In fact, I remember I even trampled the shrubbery outside the library at Columbia University to snag that handshake. That politician was Robert F. Kennedy.

Ah, what might have been in 1968. Ah, what might yet be in 2008.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Truth about Fiscal Conservatives


From cartoonist Steve Greenberg:

Back from the Relatives

Time out for a trip to New York and New Jersey to visit relatives after the death of my husband's cousin (alas, from breast cancer) -- a trip which had to be extended when his elderly father had to be hospitalized for pneumonia. Difficult situations. But really hard to blog on the fly so my apologies for the long lapse.

It was especially painful to interact with relatives and friends who don't share my Obamania. I encountered opposition, ambivalence, suspicion --and a general lack of enthusiasm. It made me profoundly sad.

The lone exception is my brother-in-law, an Egyptian Muslim and thank goodness a long time American citizen who can vote. He is exceptionally well informed on the campaign and was positively giddy to find another Obama supporter in the family. Until recently, he worked in pizza shops using an Italian sounding alias to avoid any anti-Arab stigma. He spoke of customers assuming he shared their racism who casually spewed rants about their disgust at the thought of a black man as President. More sadness, but there is something mildly amusing here. Ironically, these "super Americans" vowed to "leave for Canada" if Obama is elected.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saddened

I, like many progressives, always held McCain apart from the ugly Republican smear machine. He was the affable, straight talker -- the most honorable in an increasingly dishonorable bunch. He himself had been the victim of a despicable Rovian rumor spread in the 2000 South Carolina primary that the dark-skinned daughter McCain and his wife adopted from India was in fact his "love child" from a liaison with a black women.

He had suffered -- as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and as the target of "dirty tricks".

He committed himself to a "civil" campaign. A debate on the issues.

He was a Republican with a modicum of empathy-- with a moral code. But now...

No More.

Worth reading on this subject:
Wanting the White House in the Worst Way by Joe Conason in Salon

The Low Road Express New York Times editorial

Running while Black by Bob Herbert in the New York Times

Meanwhile. I am saddened.

Not only because I held to an ideal that McCain was a different kind of Republican. But also because the 'low road' tactics seem to be working just fine.

Few in the media seem to take their honest broker role seriously. Instead of calling "foul" on McCain they relish the fight and label it "mud slinging on both sides". I thought American was ready to move beyond the "old politics of destruction." Apparently not.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

My First Delegate Come-on

It's started.

Just got an invitation in the mail to a lobbyist event in Denver.

Reception, hors d'oeuvres, refreshments (alcohol?) at Coors Field
From none other than ....

The Mortgage Insurance Companies of America!!!!!

I'll post a list of those influence peddlers from time to time.

On Flip-Flopping

The New Republic has an incisive article about the shameless use of 'flip-flopping' as a Republican cudgel every Presidential campaign,.

The factual takeaways from the piece: Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama: All Flip-Floppers! Why The GOP Narrative Always Works are:

1. Obama is a politician. Surprise!

The alleged flip-floppiness of the Democratic nominee ... is a hardy perennial. Flip-flopping is a simple accusation that campaign reporters can sink their teeth into. Moreover, there's always grist for the accusation, because getting to the position of running for president without changing your stance on a few issues is essentially impossible.
2. McCain's flip-flopping is pathological
This is a man who, in his quest to make himself an acceptable GOP nominee, reversed his political philosophy (crusading anti-business progressive in the Teddy Roosevelt mode); his political orientation (frequently siding with, and nearly joining, Senate Democrats); and almost every particular undergirding it (taxes, the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, his own immigration bill, etc.). But if you actually think that flip-flopping is a sign of flawed character, and not just a handy partisan cudgel, then, sure, Obama might be slightly cynical, but McCain must be a dangerous sociopath.
For the extent of McCain's flip-flops, see Steve Benen's report: Jukebox John Keeps Changing his Tune -- now at 72 Flip-Flops and counting.

But the real problem is the relentless drumbeat by Republicans and media pundits about "knowing who the candidate really is". They relentlessly frame the debate around 'character' (which is always fungible) rather than issues -- a sure win for the Dems.

They don't need to prove anything and they make no effort to do so --all they need is to sow doubt.

OK, Obama, it's now up to you to prove:
-- you're not an elitist
-- you're not a superficial airhead like Brittany or Paris
-- you don't hate the troops
-- you're not anti-American
-- you're not a secret Islamo-fascist Muslim terrorist
-- You are not the one playing the race card









Tuesday, July 29, 2008

3 Reasons why it is Unthinkable NOT to Support Obama

1. ANY Democratic candidate will:
-- stick up more for working people
-- protect the environment and consumers
-- move us closer to universal health care
-- address income inequality
-- promote renewable energy
-- get us out of Iraq sooner and be less likely to lead us into any other war
-- restore the rule of law, human rights, and our moral leadership in the world
... than ANY Republican candidate.

Plus, there will literally 1000s of decisions by a new Democratic administration that won't get press coverage but will make a positive difference in our lives and the future of this planet:
-- decisions based on sound scientific evidence (for a change)
-- decisions based on the belief that government can work
-- decisions that will reign in special interests
-- decisions that recognize the need for a social safety net
-- decisions that provide a fairer distribution of benefits and responsibilities
-- decisions to hire competent people to make these decisions

2. Barack Obama isn't just ANY Democrat. He has the right stuff: a rare combination of intellect, eloquence, judgment, and natural grace. He makes it seem so easy that many people don't believe it. (And, yes, yes, I know he is far from perfect.)

However, to my mind, he demonstrated his sincerity and dedication with a single life decision: his choice after graduating from an Ivy League college (where he could have had his pick of lucrative, high-powered jobs) to commit his talents to working with the poor in Chicago’s housing projects and African-American churches. To have someone that smart and that accomplished, making that choice in the 80s when the rush was on for investment banking and similar get-rich-quick careers, was truly rare.

I’ve spent 40 years of my own life working in and on behalf of low income communities. The people I knew – the really sharp ones like Obama who made that kind of unconventional choice were extraordinary -- all of them. It is an unassailable sign of character to make such a commitment -- especially in those times when it was far from trendy.

Today, people seem all too willing to grab at any lie, deception, or distortion to convince themselves they are not being naive. But I'm convinced it is a very safe bet to assume that Obama is what he seems: a good person with intellect and vision; a patriot who wants the best for America.

3. The Supreme Court




Gonzo Politics 2008



I just saw an amazing film: Gonzo : the Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson -- the drug crazed journalist and truthteller who chronicled the 60s like no one else.

I never appreciated Thompson's work. He seemed a bit extreme to me. However, the film was a revelation about the politics of those times which in many ways parallels our own. Hunter's pieces for Rolling Stone on Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 were especially astute.

I was struck by a comment by Gary Hart that critiqued Thompson and much of the Left for turning against McGovern in 1972 when things weren't going perfectly -- infantilizing (Hart's term and a good one) what needed to be a serious campaign.

Ok, rant coming:

What too many voters forget is that every campaign is about two flawed human beings contesting within the context of a entrenched and corrupt political system that's vastly bigger than either of them and endures beyond a President's term of office. The system is complex and many-tentacled and can never be 'fixed' -- only rebalanced to become a bit more fair. The really serious problems facing this country can not be fully solved -- only engaged. I accept that the political clout to make progress on both these fronts requires compromise.

I don't think that's cynical. It's a reality that those of us who are looking for political saviors (I include myself) need to keep in mind. The true cynics are those who find 3 or 4 or 5 things that disturb them and allow those few things to dash their dreams. It's a quick leap to bitterness and a profound sense of betrayal.

Obama's soaring rhetoric raised our expectations. And the higher the expectations, the greater the danger of a let down. And yes, I am not happy with some of Obama's recent choices. But there are 3 reasons why it is unthinkable for me NOT to support him. See my next post.

Meanwhile, do see Gonzo --especially those of you who experienced the 60s and are tired of seeing the era distorted. It's a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of cynicism and excess. It's a masterful film by filmmaker Alex Gibney who also directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side which won the 2007 Oscar for best documentary (well deserved).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Who's the one the public really needs to know better?

Unstable temperament, militaristic worldview, wanting in intellect and even basic geography. Who is the real John McCain?

Bob Herbert of the New York Times really nails it here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's More Important to be an American



Howard Dean was in Raleigh this morning speaking at Democratic Headquarters. It was the kind of speech which reminded me how proud I am to be a Democrat.

He was promoting the 'post-partisan' perspective that Obama espouses: It's more important to be an American than to be a Democrat or a Republican.

For eight years, George W. has been giving the finger to people like me and questioning my patriotism. Even if I won't be getting every bullet point on my progressive agenda, I see President Obama's effort to reach out and include all Americans as building a broader political consensus for the issues I consider most important: health care, tax fairness, energy, and environmental policies, and the War.

Dean was welcoming to
Evangelicals, promoted the DNC's 50-state strategy ("It's a sign of respect to ask people for their votes," and framed universal health care as a jobs program (witness the struggling auto industry responsible for employer-sponsored coverage), not just a human services issue.

He was pragmatic. I like pragmatic.

A few Deaniacs were there wistfully wearing their 2004 Dean T-shirts. Good people.

Paulette Hill has posted a YouTube video of the event here.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

'Poor John'

Obama makes a flawless trip to the Middle East and Europe. Handles himself with dignity and intelligence at every stop. And the media is guilt tripped into commiserating aboout 'poor John McCain'. Poor John doesn't get the breaks. Poor John doesn't do photo ops well. Even the weather is against poor John (depriving him of a photo op on an oil rig).

Meanwhile, McCain makes gaffe after gaffe, screws up timelines, demonstrates that he doesn't understand the basics of the Middle East (repeatedly confusing Shite and Sunni), doesn't remember his own positions on Congressional votes, and flails away at Obama like a drunken boxer.

Obama hits a home run.

But, he has to keep proving himself over and over. And the bar keeps getting higher.

Meanwhile 'poor John' McCain is given a pass.

Fear and 'Egging' in North Raleigh

This is a cautionary tale about stereotypes and jumping to negative conclusions. And the primary culprit in this tale is ... me.

I hosted our precinct meeting earlier this week at my home -- cocooned off a safe suburban cul-de-sac in North Raleigh.

I would call the meeting a success: 16 people, enthusiasm about holding a meet 'n greet this Fall, lots of volunteering, constructive suggestions, thoughtful questions, and good cooperation from Taylor, the local Obama field organizer.

The trouble started when Taylor knocked on our door after the meeting to report his car windshield had been 'egged'. ( see above). Plus somehow an apple had been smashed and added to the mix. The eggs looked brown and fresh. We helped him clean enough off to drive to a car wash, but I was perplexed and embarrassed. We've lived here 11 years and have had zero problems, He had a Obama sign on his car. Could this be have been politically-motivated?

The plot darkened the next evening when our neighbors down the street with an Obama sign in their front yard reported they returned home to find their door 'egged" as well.

Immediately I jumped to conclusions:
"Those %(@&%$ right-wingers! They are starting early with their dirty campaign tricks. We are in for it this season. I had just put out my Obama sign. How long before it would be vandalized? stolen? How soon before our house would be 'egged'. "
I had envisioned Obama signs sprouting throughout the neighborhood. Wouldn't folks be afraid now? Heck. Now, even I was bit nervous now..

A friend suggested it should be reported to the police. "We need to establish a pattern of political mischief"

I was full of conspiracy theories and righteous indignation.

The next day more of the story emerged. It seems that the same night our Obamaite neighbors were egged, so were my next door neighbors -- good, solid Republicans. They made a subtle inquiry to other neighbors with previously well-behaved, but now energetic, pre-adolescent boys. Seems they live next door to a woman who keeps New Hampshire chickens. And that breed lays .. what else? Brown eggs.

Any way, the boys owned up to the pranks and the father (yes, a Republican) was red-faced and made the kids apologize and clean up the mess. Everyone said "no big deal."

So, the mystery was solved, the neighbors (Democrats and Republicans alike) all behaved like good neighbors should, and no harm done.

Except, I learned a lesson about my own biases. And the sad thing was: those biases grabbed hold so easily.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Profile of a Precinct


This is my 5th year as chair of 'lucky' Precinct 07-11 in North Raleigh. In our first meeting in 2004, we could barely find the minimum 5 people to officially organize. Most of us felt isolated in what we perceived was a vast, suburban Republican sea. People were afraid to talk politics. "You wouldn't by any chance be a Democrat?", whispered one neighbor after a stimulating discussion about affordable housing and a kvetch session on chain restaurants.

But 2004 was a motivating year. When we managed to get 60 Kerry-Edwards signs posted in yards all over our precinct, people realized they were not alone and began to come out of their Democratic 'closet'.

After 2 years we had a well oiled machine with 25 active volunteers and an e-mail list of over 100 households. One volunteer designed a logo for us (see above) which went on coffee mugs and cups which we sold and included in welcome packets for new Democrats in the neighborhood. Another published a precinct newsletter.

We organized an annual Meet-the-Candidates event each year. Every year I've been frantic that no one will show up, but they have all been well attended. One year we held an ice cream social. It rained but we tattooed our logo on our arms and giggled a lot. There was no scarcity of food at our events and our teams of poll greeters chat and bond on election day.

Then at the end of last year, it mostly fell apart. The vice-chair who was a committed and energetic partner emigrated to Canada with his family (in part, to experience a more sane political environment in contrast to Bush's America). A number of other active volunteers moved.

And as I contacted the once motivated Democrats, I was confronted with the whole range of human sorrows and afflictions: cancer and reoccurences of cancer, MS, hip replacements, mental illness, alzsheimers, people suffering with constant pain, surgeries and more surgeries and mysterious illnesses that some chose to keep private. Some couples became full time care-givers to relatives with debilitating illnesses. Others devoted all their spare time to their children who were struggling in school or had emotional difficultues. Still others had ever more demanding jobs, traveled extensively, and were clearly stressed with long hours and unreasonable deadlines. Most everyone was stretched for time, After one set of calls, I almost cried at the variety and burdens of human misery. And I am aware that my neighbors comprise a solid, middle class demographic. How this misery index would be magnified in poor and largely minority communities, I can scarcely imagine.

But this historic election has raised the political pulse.

We're building up again --slowly. At our planning meeting in April, only 4 people showed up, but tonight we're trying again and have over 20 RSVPs. The Obama field organizer for our area will be joining us along with a young Obama Fellow I was delighted to learn lives in our precinct.

Some stats about precinct 07-11:
1. With only 1206 registered voters, we are the 11th smallest precinct in the county (198 precincts in total).
2. The party affiliation breaks down like this: Dems: 502, Reps: 423, Unaffiliated: 281. Most Dems were blown away to learn we were actually in the majority here. But this is the classic North Carolina model precinct. In 2004, our democratic Governor Mike Easley won handily here, but so did Bush.
3. We are relatively active voters. In the recent run-off election for Labor Commissioner, we had a voter turn-out of 5.9% which actually was 16th best in the county.

I'm eager to see how it all goes tonight. I'll be reporting.

And watch for the best brownie recipe ever -- a thank-you gift from a volunteer to our poll greeters on primary day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Still Flying High...

I realize that I have been writing here about a wide range of issues - willy nilly, but little about the delegate experience -- or what this blog is supposed to be about. So, let me share -- as they say.

I have to admit that for me, this delegate thing is a big deal. These months feel something like that magical time between my engagement and wedding. Dreams fulfilled. Heady plans to make. Well-wishers. Being the center of attention at times which can also be a bit uncomfortable. A few minor shadows, too, like the loss of my balloon fantasy.

I keep running into my fellow wake county delegates elected with me at the District 13 convention -- John Verdejo, Lisa Hooker, Mark Ezell, and Mary Starkey ( r -l on photo in the upper right of this blog) at various Obama functions. We ask each other , "Feet touched the ground, yet?" The answer is always the same. "Nope."

The reaction from friends and political acquaintances has been wonderful: broad smiles, hugs, and high 5s. Everyone says they will look out for me, but I'm barely 5 feet tall. "Wear a silly hat", they say. So, I'll be packing a selection from old CISCO conventions my husband Bernie (an IBM engineer) attended over the years (photos to follow). IBMers don't seem to have conventions of their own and if they did, they wouldn't wear silly hats.

A few people requested I use this opportunity to send a message at the convention, One of neighbors suggested I wave a sign with a shout out to my local precinct 'lucky' 07-11. An old work colleague gave me her 'John Edwards is my Homeboy' button to wear. I would if I could, but I strongly suspect that we will have a dress and button and silly hat code, be marched in, handed pre-made signs, told when to wave them, and marched out again.

During the delegate meeting at the state convention in New Bern, I came to the realization that fundamentally, we will be bit players in a TV spectacle. I guess I knew that and I hope it's not quite as bad as all that and that all creativity and freedom of expression isn't squelched. I visualize that famous Apple 1984 commercial Well, we'll see.

Still, I'm flying high and I'm still bringing those hats.

Why Liberals are Menschen

A Mensch is a Yiddish word that signifies a good person -- more like a 'real human being'. I like to use Yiddish words -- in part because my mother used them, but also because they invoke the world of my ancestors and a kind of 'wholeness' in their way of thinking that I admire -- a mix of wisdom, humor, keen powers of observation, and a strong hold on reality. There is really no plural in English, but menschen is the plural form in Yiddish/ German and it will have to do.

There are many dimensions to being a mensch, but the one that resonates most strongly for me is empathy -- an ability and natural tendency to put oneself in another's shoes. In the Crossfire style of discussion and debate that our media loves to promote, empathy is a missing element. To my mind, empathy -- a sign of weakness in the mind of most conservatives today (see George Lakoff's work), is the key difference between the liberal and conservative mindset.

It's what I love about liberals -- their ability to imagine themselves into the interior lives of other people.

Two examples struck me recently. We just lost two powerful adversaries: Tony Snow and Jesse Helms --both aggressive right-wing warriors . These pieces struck as reflecting the best of the liberal sensibility:

Elizabeth Edwards 's article in Newsweek on Tony Snow: Common Cause .

John Paul Womble's (a local AIDS activist) comment in the Independent on the passing of Helms. I loathed Helms and appreciate all the other observations from progressives in this article, but Womble's comments touched my soul.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bye Bye New Yorker

Just cancelled my subscription.

Sorta sad since I admire David Remnick, the editor and think they feature some of the most responsible journalists writing today. But this time they crossed the line.

Steamed at the Media. Part 1

After the shameful New Yorker cover this week (and many other examples) , I'm furious about the reckless role the media plays in undermining our democracy.

Bill Moyers, one of my heroes, keeps a keen eye on the declining state of responsible journalism. If you aren't watching his weekly Bill Moyers Journal on PBS , you should be. It's on UNC-TV Fridays at 11:00 pm.

His article Is the Fourth Estate a Fifth Column? tells a bitter story.

This article was adapted from Bill Moyers’ keynote address at the National Conference for Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis this June. You can view the full speech on YouTube.

I attended one of the Media Reform conferences in St. Louis a few years back. A powerful experience! Media reform underlies every problem progressives want to tackle because corporate-dominated journalism won't permit substantive discussion of the real challenges facing this country. It doesn't help their bottom-line.

I shudder. It's only going to get worse.


I want balloons!!!

No. This won't happen.

I must admit that my dream of the intimate little tete-a-tete I had envisioned with Barack on the last night of the convention has been dashed.

Now that the speech has been opened to the 'rabble' in the 75,000 seat open air Invesco Field I am completely bummed.

Worse than sharing him with the crowds, worse than sitting for hours in an open air football stadium in August, is the idea of losing out on the massive balloon release experience. What will they do? Drop them from helicopters?

Waaa! I want my balloons!!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blown Away / 3 ways this campaign is different

WoW! That's all I can say. This was an Obama night for me (2 meetings and a conference call) and I came away so very impressed.

As I get more connected with the Obama operation here, the mybarackobama.com web site, and the delegate minders in Chicago, I am awed by the genuine differences I see between this and any other campaign I've encountered.

I see 3 ways the Obama campaign represents a new politics:

1. The most immediate difference is in tone. Other campaigns have been largely composed of cocky, self=important young snips. (Yep. Showing my age). Everyone, and I mean everyone I've run into in the Obama campaign has been polite, respectful, and listens (or at least appears to). They all seem to have been though Community Organizing 101 training and have absorbed it well.

2. The second difference is in the commitment to collaboration. The county party stalwarts were sitting in disbelief to hear that the Obama team will be merging with the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP)(and possibly the Perdue {Gov} and Hagan {Senate} campaigns as well) to form a new group -- something like the "Campaign for Change -- a project of the NCDP". One noted that in 2004 the Kerry-Edwards folks were in the same building and never even talked to us. And from what I've learned their support extends down ticket as well -- even to the soil and water conservation candidates. How refreshing!

3. The third difference is vision. Obama's approach seems to be focused not just on winning, but on building a constituency for governing. He won't be able to make headway against the special interests unless he has the bulk of the American people squarely behind him. So, his focus is not just on getting folks to contribute to the campaign financially and with their time and energy; he also wants them to feel a sense of ownership of the future -- with him and with each other. This is for the long term.

It's a 'bottom-up' strategy that people like me who have worked on the ground in low and modest income communities can fully appreciate. The whole approach is smart, inclusive, participatory, and focuses on action, rather than talk. And people who have been burned out by politics in the past, are now ready to make a difference.

At the risk of seeming too gushy, this is the politics of my dreams

Friday, July 11, 2008

And then, there is the FISA vote.

Well, it's time to turn off the gush spigot and voice my dismay at Obama's vote in favor of the deeply flawed FISA bill. I think it's wrong -- substantively, ethically, and politically.

On substance: A real constitutional lawyer -- the thoughtful Glenn Greenwald comments here .

On ethics: The American Constitution was trashed and everyone who had a role in that travesty should be held accountable.

On politics: Obama has forfeited a priceless treasure that he can never fully regain: trust. Fewer volunteers. Less impassioned. Crushed dreams. Feeling of betrayal.

But, I fully agree with Greenwald that:
Having said all of that, the other extreme -- declaring that Obama is now Evil Incarnate, no better than John McCain, etc. etc. -- is no better. Obama is a politician running for political office, driven by all the standard, pedestrian impulses of most other people who seek and crave political power. It's nothing more or less than that, and it is just as imperative today as it was yesterday that the sickly right-wing faction be permanently removed from power and that there is never any such thing as the John McCain Administration (as one commenter ironically noted yesterday, at the very least, Obama is far more likely to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will rule that the bill Obama supports is patently unconstitutional).

And I find this op-ed by Gail Collins and this comment, too (despite the wooly right brain-left brain analogy), worth considering.

So, yes, in the end, I am a loyal Obama foot soldier. I am pissed, but not betrayed. It doesn't make sense to put any politician on a pedestal. More on this later.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blog Confessions

This is the real deal about this blog --my first.

I committed to doing a blog when I ran for delegate. I truly wanted to share my experiences with Democrats throughout North Carolina who wouldn't have the opportunity to go to Denver. I know I would want to know the "skinny"-- what it truly looked and felt and sounded and even smelled like. But... here is my confession: I hate to write.

Writing has always been a struggle for me. I envy people whose thoughts flow out of their fingertips onto the page (now the screen). Even though I am a fat, short person without much money or talent (truly in all honesty), if there is one thing I would have wished for in my life, it would be fluency : the ability to write with "eloquence: powerful and effective language."

So, writing this blog is not easy for me. It's way outside my comfort zone. Expect to find me whining about this from time to time.

In the Loop

Suddenly, the Obama campaign has discovered me. I'd been in informational limbo. Yesterday I received an e-mail from Khalil Thompson from the Chicago headquarters who is apparently responsible for the care and feeding of the NC delegation.

There are all kinds of goodies: A blog for delegates, a conference call this evening, a survey to fill out to detail our issues, concerns, and special interests, and the promise of a personal phone call sometime soon. It feels good to be in the loop finally.

And this evening I have to balance a conflict between 2 political events: a county democratic party precinct organizing meeting and an Obama meeting for my state house district.

And my little secret: I'm a meeting junkie -- so this is a good dilemma to have.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Finally! NC is in the Game.

In recent years, North Carolinians have watched Presidential races from the sidelines -- knowing that campaign budgets for TV ads and national staffs and ya know, the important stuff were being spent in the battleground states. While we were purplish at the state level -- one of the few if not the only southern state with a Democratic governer and (mostly) Democratic control of our legislative -- we have voted solidly red at the Presidential level since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Suddenly the Obamacrats have landed and we are lovin' the attention. From what we heard, there are 11 staffed regions in the state. Our region (Wake and 2 outlying counties) constitutes only about half the Triangle. There will be 7 paid staff and gobs of bright Obama fellows --just for this region. Serious stuff!

And what makes me tingle with pleasure is the stated commitment to collaboration up and down the Democratic ticket. That's so cool!

Lesson #1

I must admit that I have been on the edges of the Obama campaign. I signed onto the Obama web site months ago, but never understood why they never remembered me on the site. Duh! I had to go to mybarackobama.com. Once I did that I signed up for local and national groups and now ...
"le deluge" (inbox filling up with pleas for donations, talking points, invites to events, and misc. stuff).

I keep learning new things about the campaign's online strategy. I'll share these lessons from time to time. Today, I see that there are armies of political foot-soldiers fighting for control of Internet web sites like Digg.com . Digg rates the importance of news stories by either saving or burying them. The operatives send out a digest of stories every day and our marching orders are to save or bury them more furiously than the "enemy". C'est le guerre!

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Mother, My Model

Serving as a delegate to the Democratic convention is a dream come true. I fantasized about this since I was a lonely politics-obsessed kid. Some background:

My mother and I, both isolated with mainly each other for company, talked about politics nonstop during the Presidential campaigns of the 50s and 60s. My father was deaf and worked 12 hours a day on our farm near Danville, Virginia. He was a refugee from Hitler's murderous regime in Austria and my mother had grown up on New York's lower east side. I am a real anomaly: a southern, Jewish farm girl. How did our family end up on a chicken farm surrounded by southern Baptists? That's a long story for another time.

My mother proudly called herself a "liberal" while disdaining the communists she met in NY who she deemed "manipulative" and not to be trusted. There were no progressive groups to join and the Democratic Party in Virginia was the only viable party in the state -- firmly in the grip of arch conservative Sen. Harry Byrd. We were 5 miles from town and my mother didn't drive.

In that environment, my mother did what she could -- talking around our kitchen table or on occasional visits to the nearby farmers, tradespeople, and laborers (when my father could take time from his chores to drive us). In the midst of long chats about the fickle weather, illness, money woes, and family history, people would drop the "N" word and that was my mother's signal to quietly raise the topic of "integration". She was always respectful -- invoking what we now call "talking points" from the Bible and local economic or political realities. But most of all, she appealed to people's simple decency and compassion for those who worked hard like themselves. She didn't change minds, the prejudices were too ingrained for that. Still, she made some people think a bit and I am convinced softened some attitudes.

And there were similar discussions on issues like government help for farmers and what was then called "socialized medicine" of which she was a stong proponent.

When I hear the adolescent, smart alecky, vituperative, tone of today's political arguments --both with our opponents and even worse -- intra-party, I remember her style-- the slow, careful, always deferential cultivation of those on the other side of a social or political argument. I aspire to that, but as you'll probably see if you take this blog journey with me, I expect I'll fall far short.