September 4, 2012

Charlotte dispatch

CHARLOTTE - So many issues, so little time.

I touched down in Charlotte -- the epicenter of the political world this week -- to a driving rain, a heavy police presence and dense crowds, hoping to parse out a few truths. But my first impression after landing here is how overwhelming it all is. 

People. Hats. Security. Journalists, speeches, merchandise, the wildly inflated price of a hotdog.

And issues.  Let's not forget issues.

I initially thought the DNC Convention would be dullsville compared to the spectacle we witnessed in Tampa last week. The lies! The hypocrasy! The old man yelling at an empty chair!

So far, no Eastwooding at the DNC. But it's hard to walk through the overcrowded concourse of the Time-Warner Cable Arena without bumping into someone or something that reminds me what will be at stake when election day rolls around in six weeks.

Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers union: the declining role of labor in the American economy and the political arena. Van Jones: green energy and the struggles of the working poor.  Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank: the banking system has some safeguards, but are they enough?

I managed to snag Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a grassroots advocacy organization that calls out racism and works for economic and political justice.  Robinson's group led a successful push to expose ALEC, a right-wing bill factory responsible for Stand Your Ground laws in Florida and elsewhere, along with pro-NRA gun laws and other issues on the legislative agenda.

Rashad Robinson, a grassroots activist, and I had a lengthy conversation about voter suppresson and race baiting on the right in the 2012 campaign. His organization is setting up a web site to monitor both.  I asked him whether the "welfare handouts" and "I don't have to show my birth certificate" language has now become acceptible -- and effective -- in the era of the first black president.

"I think the American public will give [racially tinged attacks] an ear," he said. "But I think [Republicans] are losing the argument."

I'll post more of our conversation later.  It's day one, and we're just getting started. 

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