2008 Obama from the Floor
posted by August 29 at 11:42 AMon
While Eli was ensconced in his swank Mile High press box…
… I spent the whole evening on the floor with the Washington delegation.
Once it cooled down a little bit—and people had time to recover from hour-long waits in the sweltering sun to get in to the stadium—Washington delegates broke out into near-continuous dance party in the space behind the stage-right cameras. Seattle Obama delegate Chris Porter was a prime instigator.
The dance party was getting some funny looks from the Texas delegation directly to the front. They were a bit more buttoned-up.
“In case you’re wondering,” said superdelegate Eileen Macoll (who, though she was a Clinton supporter, ultimately switched her vote to Obama), “We’re Washington State.” “I was going to say,” replied a Texan.
At points, Rep. Jay Inslee and Gov. Chris Gregoire joined in (the latter prompting chants of “Go Gregoire, go Gregoire”).
7th Congressional District Rep. Jim McDermott steered clear.
The energy on the floor was unfocused compared to previous evenings at the convention hall. There was too much to look at and talk about. But people started to quiet down for Martin Luther King III.
Bill Richardson was an excellent speaker too—more effective with the enormous crowd than I would’ve expected from his sometimes tired-seeming primary speeches. And people absolutely adored Al Gore, especially the shoutout to young people who’ve gotten involved in the political process for the first time. He talked about global warming with more intensity than any other speaker. There was even a hint of terror in his warnings. Interesting contrast with Obama, whose “our planet is in peril” line is starting to sound overly rehearsed.
After Al Gore concluded, the Washington delegation struck up a “Yes We Can” chant, but switched to “Fired up / Ready to go!” when that caught on among the community credential crowd up in the risers.
It’s insane how many people were in that stadium. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a venue that big, and that crowded. By 6:30 pm, the fire department had shut down the floor: Nobody could come in, and that meant nobody was willing to leave.
After the hushed quiet, and the fireflies circling overhead, and the weeping… Obama’s bread-and-butter, rhetorically restrained speech left the delegates plenty of room to breathe. No one fainted, and no one looked likely to faint. But people were into it, hissing at mentions of McCain, yelling “Yes! Yes!” in response to his strong words on the long-term uselessness of offshore drilling, screaming approval at shoutouts to gays and veterans. But it’s interesting—I think the vets line got so much love because it was a reference to the soaring language of Obama’s 2004 address to the convention. The delegates weren’t so much cheering for the vets as for the beautiful words that first brought Obama to their attention:
The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America—they have served the United States of America.
So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.
And, of course, they were cheering for the direct hit on John McCain’s lame sloganeering.
After the speech, a few of the red, white, and blue crepe streamers got caught on the wires for the overhead camera. The fireworks, the music, the image on the big screen of Sasha and Malia Obama playing with one of Biden’s grandkids—these things were exhilarating, but for me, the jellyfish streamers against a smoke-filled sky captured the mood better than anything else. It’s eerie, this opportunity to participate in a landmark moment in United States history. It doesn’t deflate the excitement, but it makes your excitement more hushed, and more sublime.
After the speech, I asked for Mayor Nickels’s opinion. I’ve never seen him so animated: “I thought it was a remarkable speech. You know, this is my first convention. I didn’t want to go to a convention until I was passionate about a candidate.” Specifically, Nickels liked the direct, unflinching challenge to McCain: “He drew a line in the sand and said—I will debate this. That is so different from what we’ve been used to. I am really proud.”
Governor Gregoire was equally impressed: “I thought it was absolutely fabulous. He showed us the heart and soul inside of Barack Obama. He showed he can be tough; he showed he’s a visionary.”
I got some very interesting responses from Clinton and Obama delegates too, but they’re going to have to wait. I have a plane to catch.
Denver has been absolutely exhausting—logistically, this convention has been one shitty thing after another—but I am so glad I came.