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The Women of the Party

August 26, 2008

Denver, CO – The Pepsi Center, home of the 2008 Democratic National Convention and under siege by a colorful and picturesque circus of activists, protesters, politicians and journalists, opened its doors on Monday. The first day of the DNC went by in the anticipation of the evening’s keynote address by Michelle Obama, introducing her husband and Democratic nominee for the Presidency Barack Obama. DNC
Speaking to a jam-packed audience from a stage that looks just out of a Sci-Fi movie, Michelle talked about her parents, the sacrifices they made to give their children a better future, the values that they instilled in her and her brother Craig and that she shares with her husband. It was a celebration of the American dream and a pledge to continue working – from the White House – to perpetuate the idea that everybody, and not just the wealthy, can make it in America.
It was yet another attempt by the Democratic Party to shape its message of unity and hope and to rally its supporters behind the Senator from Illinois. Nevertheless, many are awaiting Tuesday night’s speech by Hillary Clinton and Wednesday afternoon’s roll call, when the delegates will symbolically vote for their candidate in what is expected to be the crowning of Barack Obama.

A number of Hillary supporters are still bitter about how the primaries ended and convinced that the ex-First Lady was the victim of an unfair treatment by the media and the Party. Some fear that these die-hard Hillary delegates might ruin the DNC celebration plans.

“I’ve come here as a Hillary delegate,” Betty Wilson, from Columbia, Missouri, told me as she made her way to the Pepsi Center, “and I want to see it through the end.” The fact that Hillary herself has asked her delegates to support Obama, in a meeting she held with her own state delegation from New York on Monday morning, and that, furthermore, she is expected to officially release them on Wednesday afternoon, doesn’t seem enough to convince some. “That doesn’t mean that we can’t vote for whomever we want,” Ms. Wilson said. Asked whether she was worried that such behavior could jeopardize the chances of a Democratic President in November, Betty Wilson responded; “this is a democracy! I’m not worried at all. We were elected and sent here to be Clinton delegates and that’s what we are going to do.”

Nevertheless, the number of such hard-core delegates appears to be diminishing by the day. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted on August 25th, only 5% of those sent to the Convention with Clinton say they still don’t support Obama; over 30% supports him with some reservation, while two-thirds are now enthusiastic about the Democratic nominee.

Beyond the numbers, a simple look at the steady stream of delegates arriving at the Pepsi Center on Monday afternoon reveals a decreasing presence of Hillary Clinton for President buttons, while Barack Obama’s gear abounds.

“I’m excited that Obama picked Biden as VP, he really knows his Foreign Policy” Linnette Garber, from Laguna Niguel, California, told delegatesarrivingatpepsicenterme. She still wears Clinton pins and she will be voting for Hillary on Wednesday. But she is slowly coming around to appreciate the Democratic Presidential ticket: “I really like the fact that he might be able to turn out the young people’s vote.”

Anne Morgan, instead, has been a supporter of Obama from the start. She is a delegate from Florida, the state that has been crucial in the last two Presidential Elections, and the delegation of which was first suspended and fully reinstated only in the last few days. Ms. Morgan is positive that the Democrats can take the Sunshine State. “If we keep working hard and talk to the people, we can definitely win,” she told me. Digging a little deeper, I discovered that Ms. Morgan is from a rural area in Central Florida, traditionally a Republican stronghold. Beyond the optimism typical of someone attending her second national convention, Ms. Morgan acknowledged that it might not be so easy to win crucial areas of the state, such as her county: “We’ll have to see about that,” she confessed.

While the women of the Democratic Party are under scrutiny by observers around the country, and the world, a host of curious characters use the Convention to display their sometime odd talents, beliefs and ideas. Lined up on the side-walk leading to the Pepsi Center one can find the Rednecks for Obama — a group that Toni Viessman from Missouri created with the goal of reassuring all those Americans “that Obama won’t take away their hunting guns” –, the grandparents for Obama, those-that-want-to-reclaim-the-Constitution for Obama, a clown dressed in the American flag, and the ever present pro-life activists with their gruesome photos of aborted fetuses. Somehow assessing a direct causal relationship between abortion rights and a declining population, their leader was shouting today: “If you want a preview of what will happen to us if we continue down this road, go to Europe. There are many towns in Italy, France and Germany, with no children. Europe is dead!”

Originally reported and written for Washington Prism

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