About Jesse Mermell

Jesse Mermell was elected to the Board of Selectmen in Brookline, MA in 2007. She is a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Caught on Camera

Before we left Charlotte, Ayanna and I chatted on camera with Mike Deehan from State House News Service about how the convention was going, and how this blog came to be … and Ayanna’s fear that I would blog about her snoring.

I tried to embed the video, but I failed. Forgive me, and watch it on YouTube instead.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVEj9i8d0Hc&feature=youtu.be

Advertisements

Hats Off

Of the four Democratic National Conventions I have been to (Chicago, LA, Boston, and now Charlotte), this has been the most subdued in terms of crazy hats and outfits. Kind of a let down.

I still got a few shots of the more creative Dems around. Plus a bonus pic of Angus McQuilken in his bike helmet at a Massachusetts breakfast.

20120907-113417.jpg

20120907-113424.jpg

20120907-113430.jpg

20120907-113438.jpg

20120907-113448.jpg

20120907-113518.jpg

20120907-113529.jpg

DNC Night 3.

Ayanna and I have decided that in addition to giving our version of the inside scoop, we desperately need the outside scoop. As great as being at the convention is, you are definitely in the bubble. The schedule is so hectic that I’m not consuming anywhere near the amount of news and commentary I usually do, even in a non-convention week. We all know that things play differently on tv than they do in real life, so every night after leaving the hall there is this sense of “well, I know how it felt here, but what was the perception out in the real world?”

That said, here are my random observations from last night, which may well be totally off base from what the rest of the universe experienced at home and at all of the watch parties:

  • The Vice President’s speech was a total failure. Important clarification: I measure the success of Joe Biden’s speeches on how many times he mentions Scranton, PA. For the first time in as long as I can remember, he had a Scranton count of ZERO! Kathryn Burton and I have been jokingly tracking Scranton shout-outs since we hit the trail there for Hillary 4 years ago. We were grossly disappointed last night.
  • Not quite sure what I can say about the President’s speech that you haven’t already heard. All I know is that after 5+ hours of sitting and listening to speakers that evening (we all got to the hall super early to be sure we got in after the Wednesday night kerfluffle), by the end of his speech Barack Obama had the delegates cheering and leaping to our feet. Any exhaustion was long forgotten. He lit the hall on fire!
  • I do not know anyone who wasn’t choked up watching Gabby Giffords with Debbie Wasserman Schultz. My mom has a special fondness for the two of them, after she experienced her own traumatic brain injury when she was 25. Gabby Giffords has been such an inspiration to my mom, who sees her own struggles from years ago in the Congresswoman’s current journey. She has told me several times how much she admires Debbie Wasserman Schultz for being such a supportive and steadfast friend. My mom didn’t get to watch last night because she was on the road, but I know she would have felt deeply moved by Gabby’s progress and the the relationship of those two women.
  • Gov. Jennifer Granholm. WOW. Women’s political circles have been buzzing about her rock-star status for years, but WOW. Her speech was one of the loudest and most intense moments of the convention. Add my name to the list of people who are bummed that she was born in Canada and can’t run for President.
  • Does anyone doubt that John Kerry has embraced his role as a senior statesman in our party and our government? He was so in command last night. There was lots of chatter in the MA delegation that this was one of the strongest Kerry speeches anyone had every seen.
  • Various celebrity sightings: Chuck Todd, Piers Morgan, Brian Williams, Savannah Guthrie, James Taylor, Ed Rendell. A few distant pics are below.
  • A big round of applause for James Taylor, the Foo Fighters, and Mary J. Blige. They did NOT dial it in. Marc Anthony also performed, but I missed it (and by missed it I mean was standing in line at the concession stand). James Taylor stopped by the MA delegation after his numbers. He was blowing us kisses and hung out for a while, taking pictures with lots of folks.
  • Ayanna, Felix, and I braved the security lines together on our way in. When we walked into the giant entrance of the convention center James Taylor was on stage and his singing was being piped throughout the hall. AP and I started to sing along (she also started to dance – those who know me will know that I definitely did not join her on that). Felix looked at us like we were crazy. We informed him that we have big long-term plans to form a girl group. He did not seem a) impressed, or b) enthusiastic.
  • My only real complaint about convention logistics was about the atrocious cell reception when you got inside the hall. There were free cell charging stations all around, but that was basically meaningless. Everyone I spoke to was complaining about the cell service, and it was especially strange since speakers we regularly encouraging us to use social media to get out the message of the convention. Other than the reception, things really did go quite smoothly all week. Lines moved at a reasonable pace, and the zillions of volunteers definitely displayed their famous southern hospitality. Very impressive. A tip of the hat to Convention CEO and MA native son, Steve Kerrigan for putting on a great show.
  • I missed the balloon drop. The confetti drop was cool and all, but there is something about a balloon drop that just screams “political convention!” I’m sure cleaning up confetti is easier, but I was still wishing they had gone with balloons.

Ayanna and I have already parted ways. She is on her way to the airport. I’m checking out today and spending the night with my brother and his family here in Charlotte. I’ll be back in Brookline tomorrow. I’m counting down the hours until I see my dog again. Yes, I have become one of those obsessed dog people.

AP is going to post her thoughts on last night when she gets back, and then we’re going to do some joint stuff over the weekend, which I expect with largely consist of making fun of each other. She certainly gave me enough material!

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Let People Vote

My parents live in the swing state of Pennsylvania, and have a bumper sticker on their car that says “Let People Vote.” It seems like a ridiculously simple thing to have to advocate for, in this country of all places. Yet, in 2012 we find ourselves in a nightmarish time machine where voting rights in America are under attack in a way they haven’t been for decades. 

This morning I went to a panel on Protecting Voting Rights 2012, put on by the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. To say that it was an all-star panel would be selling it short. Congressmen Steny Hoyer and John Lewis, Donna Brazile, America Ferrera representing Voto Latino, Arlene Holt Baker from the AFL-CIO, Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Heather Smith from Rock The Vote, my friend Judith Browne-Dianis from The Advancement Project (Judith is fantastic, and is on the Board of Directors of an organization I used to be the Executive Director of – FairTest), and Bob Bauer and Courtney Wheeler from the voter protection operation at OFA. 

It was energizing, scary, sobering, and clarifying. The scope of the voter suppression schemes that are being conceived of and in some cases implemented across this country is unfathomable. It became evident quite quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to do this topic or this group of people justice if I tried to summarize what they were talking about, so I started to scribble notes on my program in the hope that I could just quote them instead. 

This is my best shot:

Heather Smith:

  • We have a “civic crisis in our country.”
  • “84% of students in Pennsylvania don’t have the ID required for them to vote.”

America Ferrera:

  • “Every single person who is going to be at a polling place needs to take responsibility for the rights of our community.”

Judith Browne-Dianis:

  • “They don’t care. They are brazen …. Our voting rights are the true issue for our democracy, and what we’re about as a country.”
  • “These laws will be around for a while. They change the rules.”
  • “The margin of victory in 2008 in Pennsylvania was less than the number of people who don’t have IDs in that state.”

Donna Brazile:

  • “I have never seen anything like this in my life … thought these days were done.”
  • “2012 is the nightmare we never expected to see.”

Melissa Harris-Perry

  • “We have a President who was asked to show his papers. We now have an entire electorate being asked to show their papers.”
  • “I lay awake thinking about this going to the John Roberts Supreme Court.”

I’m leaving a ton of things out – because there was so much to absorb, because I couldn’t write fast enough, and because I can’t read a lot of my own writing – but trust me when I tell you it was powerful. Congressman Steny Hoyer opened the session by pointing out that 25% of Americans – that’s 80 million people – don’t have a government issued ID. That pretty much says it all in terms of how huge of an issue this is.

A bunch of the speakers hammered home that the Obama campaign has put together the most sophisticated and far reaching voter protection operation American politics has ever seen. There is a website to sign up if you want to get involved, or to help answer any questions: www.gottavote.org

 

I took some pictures, but I was in the back and the lighting was tough. Sorry that these are distant and blurry, but you get the idea. 

ImageImageImageImageImage

 

 

I can’t help myself.

I can’t help but be a little excited when I see the B-Cycle bike sharing stations all around Uptown in Charlotte. Obviously we have Hubway in the Boston area, including stations that launched in Brookline this summer. I’m a big fan.

It seems that B-Cycle operates similarly to Hubway. A 24 hour pass is $8 and an annual membership is $65. Like Hubway, the first half hour of your ride is included in that cost, and there are incremental charges if you need additional time.

B-Cycle looks like it is being used a bit during the Convention. I wonder what it would have been like if Hubway was around for the DNC on Boston in 2004?

20120906-124652.jpg

DNC Night 2.

Am I the only one with Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow stuck in my head after last night? AP isn’t helping with her blog title from this morning. It feels appropriate that everyone was using #ilovethe90s on Twitter last night, because we were all feeling quite nostalgic in the hall listening to President Clinton last night.

A few observations:
– I know it is a cliche, but the only appropriate comparison to use for the environment at the DNC when Bill Clinton took the stage is to a rock concert. I shot a little video on my phone that I’m going to try to attach here so you can get a sense of what it was like in the middle of the hysteria (the video may come later – having some trouble on my phone).

– I’m guessing the cameras had cut out by the time LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took the mic after Presidents Clinton and Obama left the stage. If that was the case, you missed out on the crowd getting rowdy (in a good way) as the Mayor kept us all chanting “Fired up! Ready to go!” He was quite the enthusiastic cheerleader. Someone should have given him some red white and blue pompoms.

– As Ayanna already mentioned, we got stuck outside for a while when it looked like the Fire Marshall might shut down the building. Obviously it all worked out just fine, but we were nervous for a while there given Ayanna’s big role later in the evening entering MA’s votes into the record. When we ended up getting in – after about a 45 minute wait – Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson cleared the way for us. Tito used his skills as a former football player and made sure the three of us got through the crowd and were part of the group that got past the front doors. He literally took our hands and pulled us along with him. Thanks, Tito!

– Our delegation is pretty mellow when it comes to kooky hats an outfits, but longtime Democratic activist Curtis LeMay makes up for how boring the rest of us are with his eye catching vest!

– Adding to what I mentioned about Tuesday night, we really are in a great spot for people watching. Sightings included MC Hammer and Soledad O’Brien, plus Senator Kerry doing a bunch of interviews from the floor.

– The MA crew went Elizabeth Warren crazy! I think it was tough to tell on tv how loudly we were all screaming when she opened her remarks with a shout out to Massachusetts. My ears are still ringing! Lots of our delegates were wearing EW shirts that were part of our swag bags at check in, and she definitely did us proud.

– The bumping-into continued last night. I saw Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards after her speech. She was a regular visitor at PPLM during my tenure there, so it was a treat to see her again. I also ran into Tallahassee City Commissioner and YEO colleague Andrew Gillum as we were leaving the hall.

– Finally, but most importantly, Ayanna and Felix were plain old awesome last night. They read the votes for Massachusetts and we were all beaming with pride. I know only a few faces made it in tv, crowded around them at the mic, but there was a huge contingent from our delegation that stuck around after the Clinton speech to cheer for them during their big moment.

For those desperately waiting for a Party Animals update from last night, our apologies. Ayanna and I showed our true colors last night and didn’t go to any parties. We stopped back in our hotel room with the intention of freshening up and hitting the town, but we lost our momentum and crashed hard. We will try to do better tonight!

20120906-100147.jpg

20120906-100156.jpg

20120906-100203.jpg

20120906-100212.jpg

20120906-100219.jpg

20120906-100228.jpg

20120906-100236.jpg

20120906-100245.jpg

20120906-100258.jpg

This is why I didn’t bring high heels.

If you know me, you noticed something very strange about the picture of my shoes earlier in this blog: they were flats or very low heels. Normally I’m a pretty serious heel kind of gal, but this is my 4th DNC and I know better than to think that I can handle all of this time on my feet in the ridiculous shoes I usually wear. There are a zillion events, panels, receptions, forums, etc. to go to during the convention – all day every day. It is a blast and a fabulous opportunity, but it makes for long and jam-packed days. These are the moments when killer heels are not a girl’s best friend.

Today was one of those jam-packed days. 

I started out with the whole MA delegation at the daily breakfast, and then made my way to the Oasis lounge (see an earlier post), a DNC messaging session on building in your Jewish community, a reception for the Fair Share Alliance, and then a panel by the JFK Library’s New Frontier Network on Changing Political Demographics. I was hugely disappointed to not make an EMILY’s List panel that I was really looking forward to, but the day just got away from me. 

The session on messaging for your Jewish community included DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and was especially timely given today’s conversations around the party’s platform and Jerusalem. Thankfully, not long after our session ended I heard from Treasurer Grossman that the President took charge and restored the appropriate language to the platform so that the issue was resolved. There were a number of MA faces in the room, including Boston City Councilor Mike Ross and Joe Hanley.

The JFK Library event was fascinating. David Gregory was the moderator, and the panel included Governor Patrick and the NYT’s Matt Bai, plus Maria Cardona and Chris Hughes. Gregory asked the Governor – again – if he was going to run for President in 2016. The Governor – again – made it clear that he was looking forward to serving out his term and returning to the private sector, but it was obvious that nobody was going to stop asking him these questions any time soon! The reception after the panel was really cool. All of the food was New England themed, down to the mini Boston Creme Pies. There was even a signature drink called the Honey Fitz. Caroline Kennedy was working the room, and talked to just about everyone there. 

One key tool for powering through all of this: sugar. I stopped for a Krispy Kreme earlier today. Totally addictive.

We are walking over to the convention shortly. Yet another reason I’m happy to be in more sensible shoes. 

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image