The Local Lens: The DNC is History
The Democratic National Convention is now history. City streets are quieter, the traffic less daunting, and there’s finally a sense of being able to breathe easy. Though a national convention may be good for a city’s PR image, sometimes for residents the going can get rough. An overcrowded Frankford Market El and Broad Street subway filled with SWAT teams and wall to wall people is not a pretty experience.
But on Monday, July 24, the first day of the convention, expectations were bright. That’s when I headed to the Jill Stein for President Green Party protest in front of City Hall and got an eye full. This protest reminded me of the Occupy Philly protests a few years ago and of certain demonstrations I attended in the early 1970s. I will always feel a connection to grassroots protest even as some of my political views evolve.
The Green Party’s “Power to the People” 2016 platform is attractive enough. The Green vision is to end world poverty, put a moratorium on pesticides and institute community control of the police rather than the other way around. The Greens also want to terminate unconstitutional surveillance on American citizens. These are noble goals.
I remember what happened to the Greens in 2008 when their presidential ticket, Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala were arrested and handcuffed to a chair for eight hours for attempting to participate in the Hofstra University Obama-Romney debate. Stein and Honkala should have been included in that debate. Thirty years ago presidential debates were sponsored by the League of Women Voters. That was back when any third party presidential candidates on the ballot in enough states was invited to debate the Republican and Democratic nominee for president.
In 1988, the League withdrew its sponsorship of presidential debates because of the demands of the two party system. League President Nancy M. Neuman said at that time that “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter,” and that “the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions.”
It was fascinating to hear Stein supporter Chris Hedges from Truthdig and then observe the Green protestors (of all ages), some of whom were in costume, like the woman dressed as Hillary, the Queen of Death (based on Hillary’s reputation as an interventionist with a fondness for starting foreign wars). Large Green Party flags fluttered in the afternoon breeze as activists from the 60s chanted the same chants anti war protestors chanted during Vietnam War sit ins.
I heard lots of ‘up’ talk in the crowd about Bernie pulling a fast one during the convention. No, he would not capitulate to the corporate Clinton, but he “had a surprise in mind,” some said. Utopian dreams die heard. I kept my mouth shut and did not share my belief that Bernie had nothing in mind except… capitulation.
A band of youthful drummers caught my attention with the following chant: “Communist Revolution is the only solution!” The Communist Revolution wrecked havoc in Russia and ended in failure. The French Revolution, as Jonah Goldberg has written, was “the first fascist revolution to turn politics into a religion. Accordingly, they declared war on Christianity, attempting to purge it from society and replace it with a “secular faith.”
While we’re at it, let’s not forget this pro-revolution maxim from Thomas Jefferson: “If you discourage mutiny and riot what check is there on government?”
Green Party dress was decidedly downtrodden and raw; frumpy shorts, pigtails askew, shredded baseball caps, pony tails and the occasional culturally appropriated dreadlocks on tall thin activist white men (some of whom had a man bun on top of the dreads). Unfortunately for the Greens, the numbers of protestors were not large enough to shut down the DNC at Wells Fargo, the original goal of the march. Whole Earth Catalog style post hippie costumes, floppy hats and black anarchist flags would never win over America’s heartland. A cosmetic makeover might be a good first step to start this revolution.
Next stop on my list was the Wells Fargo building. I had my US Secret Service photo ID badge and my green Arena pass around my neck. A green Arena pass got you inside the Arena but not inside the actual Hall where you could sit down and watch the convention. Most press organizations sans big names like The New York Times had green Arena passes. Monday night, being the first night of the DNC, the “ASK ME” volunteers were quite liberal in allowing green ID press into the seating area, but green press passes were essentially useless unless one enjoyed standing for hours, or sitting on the Arena floor like a homeless person in front of 7/11. The DNC was quite stingy in its allotment of Hall press passes. In some ways it seemed to me that the ASK ME volunteers had it better than credentialed press.
I sat in the upper tiers in the Hall Monday night with my green pass. I was behind the stage so I only saw the backs (and behinds) of Paul Simon, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders. Two hipster DC online publishers who told me they were conservative libertarians sat beside me. Most of the press did not applaud or cheer the speakers although when Bernie Sanders mounted the podium, very few people did not lean forward in their seats.
Before each speech, DNC pages distributed banners and signs with a slogan or the name of the next speaker. This was for the benefit of the television audience. Generally, journalists attending political conventions do not show support for candidates, so the props offered by the pages went nowhere in the press section although a few newbie reporters from college newspapers scooped them up, causing one of the libertarian editors to remark, “Those kid reporters don’t know what they’re doing.”
On Monday night there didn’t seem to be many American flags on the floor. For some people this may not be an important matter, but it did catch the eye of certain conservatives like writer Tammy Baldwin, who noted, “Americans notice things like no American flags on the DNC convention stage. It might be small to some people, but it’s a statement…. After criticism mounted, they added them the second night…” The lack of flags was more than amply made up for by a double tsunami of balloons, some as large as beach balls and small planets, that fell from the ceiling like a plague of locusts over the Clinton-Kaine team during the convention’s closing moments.
Viewers watched as the Clinton team seemed to walk ankle deep in a sea of rubber. I couldn’t help but notice a dazed looking Hillary bending over slowly, as if in extreme arthritic pain, to pick up a balloon and then throw it to Bill or Chelsea. The balloon extravaganza was clearly the most bizarre moment of the convention and called to mind the antics of that famous clown, Clarabell.
I found much to admire in the behavior of Bernie Sanders supporters. Some of them came dressed in funny hats, capes and motorcycle gear. The emotional build up to Sanders’ speech had all the tension of a Wagnerian opera. Bernie, however, still had many detractors. Charles Hunt of The Washington Times, wrote: “During his quarter-century in Congress, Mr. Sanders has been viewed as something of a gadfly with Tourette’s Syndrome. Always dressed like a homeless person shambling along the hallways, Democrats felt sorry for him and let him into their meetings. He looked like he needed a cup of coffee and free danishes.”
Well, whoever said that politics was charitable?
On Thursday evening, the night of Hillary’s speech, there were far fewer Sanders supporters on the floor. Hillary’s “Stronger Together” crowd was out in force: lots of women in black men’s suits and bob cut hair dos.
I got a taste of the privileged political class when I went up the wrong escalator on Hillary night and wound up in a high donor area with special cocktail lounges and restaurant skyboxes serving crab, lobster and cherry filled Manhattans. Culinary security was out in force, so I did not get in. All in all, there were five intense security check points one had to go through before arriving in the Hall.
On Hillary night, Monday’s generous press pass atmosphere had disappeared. Ask Me volunteers now guarded the Hall gateways like 1950s Communist border guards. I tried to negotiate a seat several times, but failed.
I made do with touring the (so called) food courts, and noticed right away that Wells Fargo wasn’t doing the Democrats any favors: small bottled water sold for $4.50 a bottle, and a slice of pizza was double that.
When the “enough is enough” alarm sounded within me, I left for home and watched Hillary’s acceptance speech online.