What an incredible week in Philadelphia…Highs and lows and every emotion in between. From the “Berners” accosting innocent Hillary supporters in the streets on Day 1 shouting about corruption and the TPP, to the nightly parade of the very best that the Democratic Party has to offer in the Wells Fargo Arena each night. There was never a dull moment, nor was there a dry moment…from the humidity to the torrential rainstorms, it seemed as if everything was happening all at once.
For me, a veteran of four Democratic National Conventions, this one was especially personal. I wasn’t expecting the range of emotions I felt this week – after all, I am a hardened political hack, used to the cattle call of sob stories and origin tales that accompany politics at all levels. Yet, despite the grand scale of the week, there was also an unusual element of authenticity rarely experienced with thousands of other people in the room.
From Michelle Obama’s flawless opening performance setting the tone of the week, followed by Vice President Joe Biden’s entrance to the theme song of Philly’s favorite fictional character to fire up the faithful, and even Bernie Sanders’ long yet passionate plea to put the revolutionary lightning back in the bottle, the opening day was a roller coaster and no one was particularly sure where it would end up. Yet after night one, the air which had been crackling with the reckless energy of the “Berners” and the cautious optimism of Team Hillary, seemed a little less dangerously electric and more exciting with each passing day.
Night two was a pivot to the main event…President Bill Clinton stole the show in his inimitable way, sharing stories of his life with Hillary and glimpses into the life they have built together – both in the public eye and on their famous walks along a leafy lane during rare quiet moments at home. It felt like the right way to turn the spotlight back onto the star of this show, Hillary Clinton, and laid the foundation for the fireworks show of the last two sessions.
By the third night, everyone I encountered was exhausted. There was a daily long slog to the arena in some pretty oppressive heat and the miles it felt like you had to walk from the perimeter to the entrance. Once inside the arena, it was generally packed and there was a lot of jostling to get a glimpse of each important speaker followed by another trek out of the arena and the impossible choices of the transportation options (train=good, UBER=bad) then off to the smorgasbord of after parties (Black Eyed Peas! The Roots! Lady Gaga! Chicago!), to, finally, the after, after party held nightly at Philly’s own and unexpected hot party spot, The Ritz – the whole experience was taking its toll.
But no one in their right mind was going to miss out on the opportunity to say farewell to our party’s favorite hero, President Barack Obama. He was emotional and exceptional and exciting and we were screaming our guts out with pride at all we have been able to accomplish for the last 8 years. And when he turned his sights on Hillary, we felt genuinely READY FOR HILLARY by the time he was done.
And then, finally, it was the big day. We had to get into the arena super early…mostly to save our seats and try to make sure that the “Berners” didn’t take every seat in the house. This task was especially daunting for the CA delegation since we were a pretty divided lot. And while a lot has been made of the protests and the general raucousness of the Sanders followers, what I can tell you is this. Outside on the streets they were there, protesting, lying in the middle of the road, generally chanting a rapid succession of shall we say, random revolutionary musings like “NO TPP” and “Free Mumia” (Whoa, throwback!), and it all felt a little like when I was in college listening to the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s anthem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and thinking we had discovered Noam Chomsky (hey, it was the 90’s). After about a minute of talking to some young “Berner”, you had to get up and walk away – too much conspiracy, too little theory.
But the real travesty of the whole movement was their rude and selfish behavior within the arena. Set on disturbing the night at every turn, they wore their neon shirts and had a well-organized yet completely confusing choreography of signs and chants complete with sideline play calling and a very post-apocalyptic messaging system using cell phone camera lights and text messaging…including from the Bern himself who could be seen calling plays and pointing at the raucous CA delegation from our viewpoint right below his seat. By the middle of the final night, the rest of us had pretty much had it and the entire arena responded to their efforts with our own chants and signs, meeting them moment by moment and not allowing them to steal Hillary’s thunder. It is important to also note that whatever may have been seen on television, what I witnessed was Sanders’ supporters baiting the other DNC attendees and then filming any interactions that ensued to make it look like they were hapless victims of the vast Democratic Party conspiracy. Turns out the revolution would be televised, on YouTube, and it would be largely faked.
Yet, despite all that drama, the night was truly special. It was one of the greatest moments of my life to watch, for the first time, someone like me accept my party’s nomination for President of the United States. I was so proud to be a Democrat being in that room, listening to what we stand for and what we won’t stand for, and being there to fight back against the hate and the intolerance that have fueled the campaign season this far. It was magical and meaningful and we all felt it. The convention did what it needed to do. It gave the Sanders comet the chance to “Bern” bright one last time, it gave us a chance to say goodbye to our President, and it gave us Hillary. By the final balloon drop, we really were “Stronger, Together.”