Where the conventions were once a confluence of ideas, it's no secret they have come to strive for spectacle, turning earnest debates for improving the quality of life for Americans into platitudes. But the opportunity that the conventions have come to embody is the assembly outside the official proceedings, where people from across the country have gathered who are as passionate as the attendees, if not more.
A rousing forum for discourse, speeches, music, and inspiration was at Progressive Central, hosted at a local church outside Uptown by Progressive Democrats of America. Moderated by the acclaimed commentator for The Nation, John Nichols, the "People's Convention" ran down the list of how the Progressive movement could achieve its goals of Medicare for All, ending the wars abroad, rebuilding the labor movement, and fighting the influence of money in politics.
John Nichols spoke in interview about what he thought the story of this convention was -- Obama's opportunity to do more than just hit the right political notes, but to convince the larger population to deliver a mandate for the president who brought the Affordable Care Act to them as just a start of what's possible.
Throughout the day, speakers like Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) expressed their hopes for what a second Obama term could bring to the progressive agenda. McGovern and former Governor Mike Dukakis both attested to Mitt Romney's abismal term as Governor of Massachussettes. McGovern stressed why Romney didn't run for a second term, because he was so unpopular. Dukakis reiterated that under Romney, Massachussettes was 47th out of 50 for job creation.
The most colorful display was with folk rock duo emma's rebellion and their background dancers, members of Code Pink dressed as Vaginas, who were well-covered at the RNC. The song "Take Your Vagina to the RNC" brought the house down.
But it was the poignant acceptance of an award from PDA by the esteemed Rep. John Conyers, who has been in Congress so long he worked on the Voting Rights Act, that was the highlight. Conyers told the audience that the resistance and pressure facing Obama is greater than any Democrat he had ever seen.