Never in my life have I felt so compelled to wave an American flag, so compelled to hug people, grin from ear to ear and just stare up marveling at all those tens of thousands smiling, waving flags singing and stomping their feet on the Denver Bronco stadium stands.
Image after image is painted of the nation we can have offering us a simple choice. Tonight we feel what we as a nation could be. The path there is clear and is two months to its start. Not an easy path but one that is right before us and around us and here in our flying hands.
So I'm horse from shouting and doing the wave and laughing. After this night comes the hard work as the Republican Convention begins and Carl Rove (who is here in a back room somewhere) and his machine grinds up to frenzy and spends the next two months trying to rip Senator Obama and our nation's hope to tatters.
But we are durable people — those millions of us who can not wait for equality or help with medical bills or jobs that don't vanish over seas simply so some company can make more profit for stockholders or escape the accountability of American health, environmental or worker standards.
Tomorrow the work begins all over for every American who is unwilling to risk losing the hope we have for the better nation that is in our grasp. But tonight I'll dance and sing to Bruce Springsteen. I'll go more hoarse and laugh and sing (even though I can't sing) because tonight Barack Obama accepts my vote and our nomination of him as our candidate for president.
Senator Obama is coming out now and I have chanting and stomping to do.
The primary election was hard on my feelings for Bill Clinton. Here tonight watching Bill Clinton through the waving flags I was impressed with the genuine tone in his voice, his words which redeemed him maybe to others besides me, maybe even to some who did not ever see his accomplishments. Living all the way in Idaho where our news sources were very limited, he and his administration was an obsession of talk radio. Bill Clinton did not in my memory come to speak to us. He was abstract. For any who were too young or too far away or might listen tonight from deep skepticism, Bill Clinton wove images of so much impressive policy and strong leadership, images of such stark contrast with the Bush administration, that even for someone decidedly not a Bill Clinton fan, I felt nostalgic.
You get in the middle of this ocean of politics and home gets swallowed in the blue lights and sea of faces. But I've been calling my dad at certain moments, like when I saw Randy Newman sing at the New Orleans tribute and when Michelle Obama spoke to the convention floor. My dad can be counted on to be watching what ever political thing I'm involved in. He made phone calls to voters during my first campaign in May of 2004 and was already marveling at the Obama Campaign in Idaho in the summer of last year, watching the Logo debate in LA when I traveled there for the campaign to cheer on Senator Obama as he debated 4 primary opponents in a TV studio there.
My dad seems to know more about what is going on here than I do. It is understandable since getting around here is a major undertaking involving many city blocks, shuttles, light rail and buses. At the same time the media is everywhere at once and viewers can float this whole place from caucus to floor session to issue session with the touch of a remote control.
My dad's partner, Faith Echtermyer, is a photographer. She has been making hand-made political signs and posting them at the end of their driveway. Her enthusiasm and anxious desire to see the primary behind us is surprising and cool.
My mom called me today from Challis. She and her partner are so far from all this and yet she asked me how I was doing and if I was having fun before she told me that doctors found a melanoma on her arm. She has to get it operated on next week to get it removed and see if it is OK.
So as this ocean churns and rises in the midst of the Clinton nominating speeches, I rise out of it and think of my mom, gun owner, horse lover and wonderful character. I wish her well.
Senator Clinton is meeting with her 1700 plus delegates today. We are told it is so that she can release them. I hope she successfully does that because last night, as the white "Hillary" signs were passed out to the entire crowd (just as the Kenedy signs were the night before) it was hard not to feel like this primary will never be over and behind us.
In February the caucus floor in Boise was tense but light hearted as
we worked to persuade Democratic caucus goers to choose Senator Obama
over Senator Clinton. Last night here in Denver in the sea of
respectful Hillary signs, there were tense moments. I
couldn't help feeling how the room had over 1700 Clinton Delegates,
many of whom are now happily Obama supporters, but others for whom that
process of shifting their focus and support has not yet happened.
Our delegation has seemed to move gracefully in this but those divided states feed each other's frustrations I'm sure the more time they spend feeling again like there is any glimmer of hope that supper delegates could come over or something could happen to sink Senator Obama and let Hillary ride into the general election victorious. But this morning we Obama delegates signed over our votes to Senator Obama. They will be reported from a microphone and lap top console on the floor of the convention tonight. The Hillary delegates are saving their votes until later, after their meeting with her.
Last night I felt at moments that she was still campaigning. One of the threads in her speech asked whether her supporters were in this for the people affected by the issues. She asked again and again were they in it for this or that. But the end of what she was saying trailed off, seemed almost grammatically to be missing as if she left a line out of her speech. The set of questions to her supporters reached no conclusion. That conclusion seems as if it should have been then to say "Well then Barack Obama is your President." It didn't happen though and the series of questions trailed off. I'm sure it is so hard after all she has done to run for this office.
She did make some strong statements about our need to have Senator Obama in the white house. And finally the white signs were replaced with the tall blue "Obama UNITY" & "Hillary UNITY" signs. The feeling that she was campaigning faded a bit and people streamed out into the night, Obama delegates carrying a few Hillary signs and some Hillary supporters carrying Obama signs. May we be done tonight after the vote. Finally done and on to talking to voters about the differences between Senator Obama and John McCain.
I missed seeing Hillary Clinton speak earlier today. She will speak soon here on the convention floor and Texas next to us is going mad. Unlike Idaho, Texas was split 50-50 in the primary. Ceding the race has been harder there I'm sure. Tonight is supposed to be part of that healing process. I'm hoping for a warm and genuine endorsement from Senator Clinton with no barbs that suggest doubts.
Michelle Obama came to the Gay & Lesbian Victory fund brunch today. She just showed up and spoke so very passionately about LGBT equality to that room full of many Clinton devotees. She carried Senator Obama's devotion to equality so well in that room of delegates and community members.
No first lady, perhaps not even Hillary Clinton all those years ago has given a speech like that to TV cameras in the midst of a presidential election.
We have come so far. I marvel at people like Tim Gill who lives here in Denver and basically funded Democrats take over of Colorado a few years ago.
Michelle Obama just came out in a cream colored dress with Joe Biden to sit on the floor in a press box a ways away in the arena. That means Hillary is coming out now. Like most of you I'll watch and listen.
One of Idaho's three Clinton delegates, Jeanette Wolfley
on the floor of the convention with a roll out sign given to her by the
Canyon County Commission Candidate, Estella Zamora, stands the feet of the elaborate convention stage where the Delaware delegation now sits.
Democratic Party Chair Keith Roark and State Obama Director Kassie Cerami stand at the command center for Idaho's delegation to the National convention, high up above the stage.
NOTE: Due to technical difficulties (no wireless, not even expensive wireless) I could not post this or anything from the floor of the convention. I'll try to use my PDA from here on to send photos and shorter posts and will try to catch up each morning. Thanks for reading, sorry not to be timely!
Streaming toward the first floor session. Inside we find speeches underway, platform committee reports (a historic platform but that work is behind our party. This is not a place to discuss and debate.) Many of the seats are still empty, people visiting and getting to know each other. And there is Delaware down there front and center (literally) near where we would have been. Really up here in the stands is where we'd expect to be.
Slowly it is all starting to warm up and gel. People are listening to the speakers more, finding the rows of seats that will be home for the next three days. The seats are not where many are staying though. The glittery lights go up and down. People wander a lot, a crowd too exuberant to sit still or quietly.
It feels like a concert except that watching the crowd and the media is what most people are doing now. There are too many speeches to really absorb. Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama come out soon.
These are the "Credentials" which are our passes to the floor and our official Delegate papers. They have some sort of electronic chip in them that the security scans as we enter.
Late night. A day of wandering the streets of downtown Denver with thousands of slackjawed visitors also trying to find the pulse of this place. It is a city this week with too many arteries for a single pulse. All you get is the staccato of millions of us pushing together to move our nation on past this disastrous period in our country's history. We all mutter quietly, "May we please end the era when we whisper our nationality in foreign countries, where we know so much of our soul has been sold to the highest bidder and where we have grown so soft and unambitious as to our role in the world." As if our entire foreign policy for the past eight years had been crafted by Texans and tank makers just trying to figure out how much they theoretically could make if they completely had their way with federal regulations and our nation's use of military might. If.
But Denver is where we all look ahead. You do feel the heavy hearts of those who have not let go of having Hillary as the next president of the united states. The endless booths of buttons and t-shirts and stuff with Senator Obama's beautiful face on it must feel like a slap to some of them. But we will work to heal that. They themselves seem to be working to heal that. There will always be fanatics. That's OK. It happens. Hopefully we all know what is worth stressing about and what is not. Some people's minds you can not change. You thank them kindly and move on. You leave them in peace.
And one can not leave this evening without note of the number of police here on the streets of downtown. In riot gear. Mostly directing traffic and, by their own account, finding even the most "frightening" protests pretty tame so far. Carol and I have even been amused to see how often the black clad helmeted ones end up giving directions to those of us lost or searching for some event venue. They answer from behind the plexiglass shields, from horses backs or bikes or motorcycles. We thank them smiling.
What of the pulse? Rapid. It is easy to miss even knowing what you have missed. People walk about with their "credentials" on around their necks, announcing they are delegates. We moved quietly from street to street, Carol and I happily incognito. We found it nice to go and seek out gay people at receptions and fundraisers to visit with. This is a place where anyone political from anywhere will be gathering this week and talking strategy for elections or policy. The word "change" is a big one for gay people. We have much to change. We have a long list of what needs to happen before we find equality under our nation's laws– just to provide for our families, raise our children in peace, plan for emergencies, care for sick loved ones and die knowing our partners will be respected along with our wishes after deaths. That's a good little set of policies to change. But if anyone can do these hard things, if anyone can get our nation there, it is the man whose face stares out from every corner and street vendor stall. Who else is eloquent and persuasive enough to bring a nation to understand why gay people matter, how regardless of race or income, citizenship or marital status, we are all part of America? We belong. We are ready to dig in and help solve the problems of a nation in crisis, if we are only given a place at the table.
So Denver beats with a million footfalls and fingers tapping. Tomorrow we begin. 7:30 AM breakfast meetings with our state groups clustered around conference tables in hotel meeting rooms. Idaho is out here 45 minutes from downtown with Guam and Indiana. At 3PM we find out where we have been moved to since Joe Biden's little state bumped us from our nifty spot on the convention room floor. We are humble and don't expect too much. Swing states will be up front. Texas moaned about our being closer than them. It isn't flattering to moan. We will smile and wave from where ever we are. We have mighty delegation in ways you will soon learn.
We are driving across Western Wyoming, huge and dry, like an immense extension of Southern Idaho without the Snake River. It is spectacular in how much of it there is. It does make me appreciate our fortune in Idaho. That big, slow river flowing through our dry parts.
That this year’s convention is in the West means more than shorter drives and non-stop flights for Western Delegates. For many of us I’m sure it is a bit more of an acknowledgement that we count. We certainly did push Senator Obama across that delegate finish line. In the general our states are more in play than in year’s past and to convene here feels good. The familiarity of the food and the clothes and the air and light and big expanses is like home. Funny it is a little like the odd experience I had at the LDS temple in Salt Lake where I found myself for the first time in my life standing in a religious monument filled with symbols of the intermountain West. The seagull next to the sage brush, the smells so formative rather than foreign. I’ve been to temples and spiritual sites from Thailand to Alaska, Samoa to Prague, Nepal to the Ucatan. With all their majesty or simple beauty and deep history, none struck cords of home like that little courtyard at the carefully lit hub of Salt Lake’s city streets.
So to choose our Democratic nominee for president in a place with granite mountains and air that is dry and western, feels comfortable and somewhat profound. We are included, these Western States, crimson to blue, purple to chameleon.
Carol and I packed our little blue car last night. We’re headed for Denver. I spent most of the first 10 or so years of my life in Colorado. Denver was the big city and seemed far away even though it was less than two hours from Woody Creek where we lived over a red stone creek bottom, between sage brush and pine mountain sides. My sister and I walked an irrigation ditch to school and our family left for Idaho when it all got too big and crazy in the 70s.
Not only have I never been a delegate, I’ve never been to a National Convention before. My clearest images of political conventions come from brief TV glimpses featuring oceans of signs and placards. Hunter S. Thompson’s dispatches covering one particular Republican National Convention liven up several still photos of Idaho delegates, including fellow 2008 national delegate, TJ Thomson as a very young man in a silly hat with Senator Malepeai smiling behind him in a stadium seat under bright lights..
I actually watched parts of the 2004 Democratic Convention including Senator Obama’s very moving address, the one where, for the first time I heard a national political leader so successfully transcend traditional political division and still genuinely include gay people like Carol and I in his vision of America. We both cried watching and I’m sure we were not alone.
But really, I knew nothing of Political Conventions until I ran for delegate this year. I know that is true of more than a thousand of us nationwide. And today we are streaming by car and plane and bus across the West to converge on Denver.