Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 2: Proud to be a Democrat

Tuesday, Augusr 26

I came down to breakfast at 7:00 and immediately got into line to request a guest pass to the Pepsi Center for my wife for Tuesday. I was seventh on the list but did not get a call in the afternoon, which is when they distribute those precious ducats. It’s a mystery how they allocate the passes that they are able to get their hands on.

The next step was to show my ID to get my delegate pass for the day. Then it was into the large ballroom for breakfast. It’s served individually, but it consisted of a hash brown patty, two bacon strips, scrambled eggs, and three cooked cherry tomatoes. Not exactly what I needed or wanted if I’m watching fats and cholesterol. And my Jewish friends could only simply turn it down.

Three governors spoke to us after breakfast: David Patterson (New York), Ted Strickland (Ohio), and Joe Manchin (West Virginia). Governor Patterson is really, really impressive with his wit and his quick recall of facts and numbers.

After breakfast I attended a fascinating panel on "Taking Back America," sponsored by the AFL-CIO. AFL-CIO president John Sweeney introduced it. The panel was truly impressive: moderated by Ezra Klein and Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect, former UMW president and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux, economist Paul Krugman and journalist Robert Kuttner. There were some good lines I heard there which I’ll post later.

At noon I attended an Alliance Caucus of four labor unions, including my own (IFPTE), and met its international president, Greg Junemann, and our San Francisco Area business manager Mark Mitchell.

I could not stay long, and on my way out I noticed that Jim Wallis of Sojourners was in a panel next door, so I peeked in but then had be on my way right away. Back to the Sheraton where Emily’s List was having a gala program with Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Barbara Mikulski, and Nancy Pelosi. I did not attend, but picked up my wife’s ticket for her and pointed her in the right direction.

Right after that I caught the shuttle (which is a tour bus) to the Pepsi Center. Other than stoplights and many busses crowding the streets, the ride went without delay today. This time I was there by 3:00 and got to hear the invocation, say the Pledge of Allegiance, watch the presentation of the colors, and sing the national anthem.

Today was the day for women senators to speak, and were they good! We can rightly be proud of the Democratic women in the Senate. This was fairly early on in the convention schedule, and the place had only about half the number of people that would later occupy the Pepsi Center that night. But before and after Sen. Boxer spoke, the California delegation, being 10% of the total delegates, made its presence known. We made sure Sen. Boxer heard our cheers and yells. She waved to us from the stage.

Later, California state controller John Chiang spoke and did a great job. I’m sure you can find these individual speeches on Youtube, so I will link some of them later.

Seven governors spoke next, including all three that spoke to us in the morning. But Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana brought down the house. He was witty, funny, and engaging. At one point he launched into a really fun audience-response series of questions to be loudly and resoundingly answered “NO” about "John McCain – More of the Same." We all had our red signs to hold up that said that same thing.

Alabama’s Lily Ledbetter, who chose to fight discrimination against her based on gender in the workplace, delivered an address to the convention that was memorable, emotional and deeply troubling. It is astounding and wrong-headed that the Supreme Court ruled that she should have brought her case within six months of the discrimination occurring despite the fact that she did not know about it until years later. The new Congress must take up this matter and change this horrid law in January 2009. As Lily said, this is not a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s a fairness issue.

Mark Warner delivered the keynote speech. It was a decent speech, but it sounded like a speech he would make in running for senator from Virginia, which he is.

By this time the fire marshal had shut the doors to allow no one else into the convention. There were all kinds of people including little kids who had gained entrance with parents (some of whom I presume were dignitaries). This was all for Hillary Clinton’s speech.

Hillary hit it out of the ballpark with her speech. She came right out at the beginning and emphatically stated that Barack Obama will be her president. The crowd went wild at that. Of course, Hillary was greeted like a rock star. Each state delegation’s pages had passed out “Hillary” signs for us to wave. (About 4 or 5 different signs get passed out each day, each about 5 minutes before it’s time to wave them.) I think Hillary accomplished exactly what she had to do to achieve unity among the delegates at this convention.

By the time of her speech, the place had gotten very crowded. As I mentioned, the fire marshal would let no one else be admitted. We were told that if we left the floor (even for the restroom), we would not get back in. There was an area of seats next to us that had been reserved with masking tape. These were right next to the California sign where the delegation chairpersons have a station of phones and TV screen, and a small flat surface for papers. There is a young lady named Crystal (Art Torres' assistant) who is the “seat nazi” for these reserved seats, as she controls who gets to sit in them and when. When Hillary’s speech began, Steve Westly was sitting in front of me, Antonio Villaraigosa was next to him (he squeezed by me then climbed down a row to his seat), and Barbara Boxer was three seats to my left. It is all so amazing.

I noticed something interesting about Sen. Boxer during this speech. She applauded Hillary respectfully at the appropriate times. However, she did not take a sign to wave, and she stayed seated throughout the speech (most of us were alternately standing up and sitting down to applaud and wave signs). This was in contrast to earlier in the evening when she enthusiastically waved the “McCain, More of the Same” sign and also when we were all standing, swaying, and moving to the music. Just saying, not criticizing.

Day 2 was even better than Day 1. You might think six hours would be a very long time to be at this event, but it doesn’t seem like six hours with all the enthusiasm and adrenaline going. The concessions stands are open for food and drink (no alcohol). However, the ushers (guards?) that checked my credentials to get back inside wouldn’t let me bring the food I had purchased inside. I had to eat it before I went in. And I could not take my cup of Pepsi in either, but I was allowed to take a purchased ($3.25) bottle of water in.

A small group of us closed out the night at a party at Coors Field given by the airline pilots union and "Labor and Vets United." It was about a 25-minute stroll through LoDo, which was hopping with night life, to get to Coors. What a beautiful ballpark! The party was in the luxury suite section of the park. After that we walked back down the 16th Street Mall to the hotel. Even though it was late, we felt completely safe during the 20-minute walk back.

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