The difference between being there, at the Democratic convention in Denver, with thousands of cheering, sign waving delegates, and watching the convention unfold on television, is of the mass surge of emotion which is overwhelming. There was no separation between what I felt, and what the crowd felt. The result was euphoria, which may or may not be realistic, but for the moment, I was swept away by speaker after speaker, cheering until I was hoarse.
Bill Clinton did what everyone hoped he would do, saying the words they had been waiting for:" Barack Obama is ready to lead this country," And the delegates gave him what he had been waiting for, their love and forgiveness for any transgressions he may have committed during this bitterly fought campaign. "I love you," he said, and they loved him. American flags waved wildly and the cheering continued, it seemed, forever. Tonight he finally came to terms with the reality of Barack Obama's triumph. Sixteen years ago, he reminisced, "They said I was too young and inexperienced to be commander-in-chief. Sound familiar?" The parallel was unmistakable.
"Barack Obama is on the right side of history," he acknowledged, without a hint of reluctance.
If unity is what the Democrats were looking for, they got it. The roll call vote was not expected to yield any surprises, and yet it did. The timing was exquisite. At just the right moment, New Mexico yielded its place in the alphabet to Barack's state of Illinois, which yielded its place to Hillary's state of New York. Senator Charles Schumer yielded his place to Hillary Clinton. It was she who clinched the nomination for Barack Obama by asking for a suspension of the rules to nominate her one time rival by acclimation. The crowd roared "Aye," when Speaker Nancy Pelosi went through the motions of asking for a vote, and suddenly, the most important task of the convention was accomplished. We had elected the nominee.
The second task was to nominate the candidate for vice president, a pro forma vote which served as an introduction to Senator Joe Biden who was introduced lovingly by his son, Attorney General Beau Biden. The exchange between father and son went beyond the normal political rhetoric. I felt I was listening in on a family conversation.
At the end of Biden's speech, children and grandchildren came out on the stage; Biden held his young grandson in his arms, the boy's small head resting on his grandfather's shoulder. That image was worth 1,000 words.
The "surprise" of the evening, was a real surprise -- Barack Obama joined his new running mate on stage, an unprecedented appearance for the Presidential nominee who is traditionally hidden from view until the night of his acceptance speech. By this one dramatic script change, Obama underscored his desire to discard "old" politics.
Amongst the line-up of speakers, I noted the presence of a number of women in non-traditional roles. I sensed that Obama was targeting women voters by inviting women to the podium, including the first female three-star, retired female general.
When the lights were turned down low, a woman wearing a red suit, walking haltingly with a cane, worked her way to the podium. When the lights went up, they revealed that she was standing on legs made of steel, her prophesies. Her name was Tammy Duckworth, a 2006 candidate for Congress. She described herself as a "wounded warrior" and made a powerful plea for fair treatment of veterans who had "shed their blood" for us.
During most of the speeches, except for the major ones, the convention hall is a noisy and chaotic place. Delegates, reporters, and camera men and women wander up and down the aisles pushing anyone in their way aside. People keep on talking; it seems as if almost no one is paying attention.
The hall fell silent when a film honoring veterans of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and World War II appeared on the screen. It portrayed what the news has rarely shown, fear, violence, death, and the aftermath of grieving mothers and wives. I watched the middle aged Vermont delegate sitting in front of me being comforted by his young neighbor as he was wiping away his tears and she was gently rubbing his shoulder.
Cynics might say this convention evening was carefully staged to manipulate our emotions. Believers would say that this convention night tapped into our genuine emotions: the desire for peace, instead of war, the desire for unity, instead of division, and the desire to reconstruct the American Dream, instead of letting it letting it dissolve.. I count myself among the believers.
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