September 10, 2012

Convention leftovers, Vol. I

WASHINGTON - Unpacking the bags after a few days at the DNC2012 Convention in Charlotte:

* What enthusiasm gap?

In the streets, in the pubs, and inside the strangely claustrophobic Time-Warner Cable Arena, Democrats were amped and juiced, ready for the upcoming election in about six weeks.  The signs were everywhere, literally: from delegates waiting in long lines to snap up Obama gear -- official as well as bootleg stuff from street vendors, including a painting of the president on horseback, riding into battle with Tupac and Martin Luther King -- to the 45-minute wait to get into a watch party for President Barack Obama's acceptance speech.

I myself was sure I couldn't get in to see the speech, and had packed my bags and headed out of town for DC, closing up shop early on a long, frustrating day (more on that later). But when a friend of a friend came through with passes, I changed course and got to the arena just in time to sit in the nosebleeds, with a fine view of the back of the podium and light rigging.

But just the fact that I had a magic set of credentials gave me huge status walking to TWC Arena, so much so that people were willing to do (almost) anything to trade places with me -- something I hadn't experienced since 2008, and back then there were 75,000 seats to fill so the odds were a lot better.

After a week of Romney-Ryan bashing - including two gold-plated speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton - the delegates and partisan crowd were ready for the main event, Obama's acceptance speech.  But first, a little red meat from John Kerry, a video getting them further fired up and ready to go, and a pep talk from talk show host, former Michigan governor and beauty queen Jennifer Granholm -- a fist-pumping, crowd-pleaser that would have been at home in the Wolverines' locker room.

By the time the president hit the stage, the arena was buzzing with energy and the delegates had already broken into several spontaneous chants of "Fired up! Ready to go!" Obama's unofficial 2008 campaign slogan.  The hour was late, but they would have stayed there as long as necessary to see their man officially take up the cudgel and beat Mitt Romney with it.

In short, Obama could have read the phone book and gotten standing ovations and chants of "four more years" after he finished.

* Music has charms

In modern politics, both liberals and conservatives use music to warm up audiences, but the Democrats' diversity puts the GOP's country-music fest to shame.  The lineup over three days of the convention wouldn't have been out of place at a summer music festival: Mary J. Blige, the Foo Fighters, the Roots, John Legend.  Branford Marsalis even got into the act, wailing a soulful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to open the proceedings.

Indeed, a mini-concert by the Fighters ahead of Joe Biden's speech was a winner, as middle-aged delegates -- white and black -- gave Dave Grohl and crew a standing O after a three-song set.  Yet it was the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin -- in absentia, pumped over the sound system -- who got the Charlotte delegates dancing.

What was notable was the diversity - rock, soul, jazz, country, gospel.  The Republicans, meanwhile, relied heavily on country music, whose artists pretty much line up with the GOP point of view.  And the musical selections pretty much line up with how the parties see one another, and how others see them. Which is jsut about all you need to know about where they stand on the issues.

Not that the Republicans haven't tried.

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