I was thrilled and honored to be one of the people in the convention hall for the final night of the DNC, it certainly was a once in a lifetime experience.
I have a fear of flying… MAJOR. I am usually white knuckled, drafting my last will and testament on an air sick bag, scratching the skin off the forearm of my aisle neighbor, and regularly pushing my seat light to ask the flight attendant nonsensical questions like, “Excuse me, can turbulence make the plane crash?” All the while, I am holding a “binky” (pictures are forthcoming) of to comfort me. I use to be a fearless flyer, but one day had an epiphany that I was hostage to a hunk of metal hurling through the air that I had zero control over. Previously, I was under the delusion that I had some control. So, my binky saves the day! Today, I also plan to experiment (before take off) for the first time with something called… Blue Cow, The Original Relaxation without Drowsiness. Has anyone ever sampled this concoction? Wish me luck! Irreverent comedian Jimmy Tingle just walked into the airport to an enthusiastic reception from the MA Delegation. Thank God HE doesn’t know about my Binky… at least not yet, anyway.
I am at the airport in Charlotte, NC heading home in an hour. I am looking forward to returning to my Dorchester home, and of course, to City Hall. That being said, the DNC proved to be a reunion, a renewing and inspiring experience, and a part of me is truly sad to leave… maybe even annoyed. Like any trip, the second you finally (sigh) acclimate yourself to your new temporary home, and culture, it is time to go. I was thrilled to find that the Democratic Metropolis that was the DNC has been transplanted to Charlotte’s Airport. In a span of an hour I’ve had meaningful conversations with our fearless leader Governor Deval Patrick, female MC hiphop pioneer “Salt” from Salt N Pepa, dynamic Philadelphia State Representative Kenyatta Johnson, and MSNBC’s Laurence O’Donnell, and last but certainly not least, the incomparable, nationally regarded political operative and strategist, MarDee Xifaras. I know that I gave MarDee a big shout out, but hey, she deserves it, and I am not just saying that because she treated me to lunch at Phillips, a wannabe Legal Seafoods really. Sadly, because my blackberry refused to cooperate (I’m close to waving the white flag and finally getting that IPhone) I was unable to visually capture these moments. I wanted to be your airport paparazzi, alas, technology was not on my side. Good thing, I’ve the stories and the memories to draw from and revisit, and eventually to share with you via blog post. I promise, at least several more posts are coming. Bear with nme ya’ll. And yes, I said ya’ll, and not because I’ve been in NC all week, I always have…
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!
It has been a full day and I’ve got lots of updates to add to this blog. Jesse and I are about to head over the the convention hall. We’re leaving so early because of our near miss last night, and because things are going to be extra crowded given the switch to the smaller, indoor venue.
I’m going to use some of the down time we have at the center to update this more fully, but for now some quick, fun things.
First things first. I am no fool. I was looking for a little something to buy Jesse as a gift, and came across this Charlotte/DNC apron. For the uninformed, Jesse is addicted to baking. She loves an excuse to bake cookies, or if she is humoring me a cake. Don’t tell her, but I’m hoping that this apron will inspire her to at the very least bake me some peanut butter cookies.
Also, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas arrived in Charlotte today for the big speech this evening. Jesse and I ran into her in the hotel lobby. The last time we saw her together was at Boston Pride. The picture we took there is on David Bernstein’s MAPoli With Animals blog! If only Toby G was with us today, we could have had a repeat performance. o
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:
- We have a “civic crisis in our country.”
- “84% of students in Pennsylvania don’t have the ID required for them to vote.”
- “Every single person who is going to be at a polling place needs to take responsibility for the rights of our community.”
- “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.”
- “I have never seen anything like this in my life … thought these days were done.”
- “2012 is the nightmare we never expected to see.”
- “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