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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why is Everyone in Denver Crying All the Time?

posted by on August 28 at 10:30 AM

The question—one of those very basic, but very good questions—came up during my LiveSlog last night and stuck with me.

So I’ll take a shot this morning at an answer-on-the-fly (as I get myself together to head from my journalist tenement into downtown Denver and then over to Invesco Field). Because it’s true, this convention has been awash in tears.

Michelle Obama’s mother provides the voice-over on an introductory video: Tears. Michelle herself speaks: Tears. Hillary Clinton talks about her accomplishments on the trail and then reminds the delegates she’s now backing Obama: Tears. Joe Biden’s son talks about his former stutter: Tears. Mama Biden gets a shout-out from Senator Biden claiming the VP nomination: Tears.

What is going on?

Well, first of all, the fact that I wasn’t asking myself this question is telling. I’ve been watching all of these speeches from inside the convention hall, and in that atmosphere, the easily-welling eyes make a lot of sense. Some of it is theater from politicians and political spouses wanting to publicly emote, sure, but the cut-away shots of delegates and other onlookers wiping their eyes—that’s very real.

Here’s what I think it’s about: One, the people credentialed to watch this convention from inside the hall are, by definition, very emotionally invested in the campaign storyline. If they’re delegates, they’ve literally fought and lobbied and speechified their way here, overcoming challenges by other political junkies in their home states and struggling to prove to the home-state powers-that-be that they are serious, serious Democrats. If they’re not delegates but “honored guests” or “special guests,” as the various other credentials say, then they have kissed some serious ass to get here. They wanted it bad. They’re looking for a big, emotional moment.

Two, I think there’s a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome that goes on. Maybe that’s not quite the right metaphor, because everyone is here willingly, but in another sense we’re captive—held tight inside the secure perimeter of the Pepsi Center; stuck in the hall during the big speeches because it gets so crowded for them that if you leave the Secret Service won’t let you back in; bombarded by high-energy, nostalgic music and by cheers and by chants and by flashing lights and by the general intensity of the moment, ratcheted up many thousands-fold by the expectant eyes of everyone else in the arena.

Three, broadly speaking, I think there are two political types: The political type who is invested in policy and process, who recognizes that emotion is a necessary evil—something to be used for rallying support and building loyalty—but who at bottom believes that emotion is really only a means to a policy end, and kind of a waste of time otherwise. And then there’s the political type who’s been drawn into the process by intense personal identification with a candidate, the type who in some cases merges his or her own identity with that candidate (or maybe several candidates) and who rises and falls emotionally depending on what the candidate is doing or saying. Of course these two types often overlap, to varying degrees, in the same person. But broadly speaking, that’s the major distinction I’ve seen as I’ve covered this presidential race, and broadly speaking, the personal-identification type is quick to tears—and here in droves.

Given all of this, you can see why everyone’s reaching for the Kleenex all the time.

On top of all that, this moment is, inarguably, legitimately, historic. Step way back and this week is about the first African-American nominee of a major party, potentially the first African-American president of the United States, a man who had to overcome a challenge by a potential first female president of the United States to get where he is, and who knows how to move a crowd.

Denver is currently the emotional epicenter of this historic moment. So for those watching at home and wondering about the sob-fest, steel yourselves. I predict many more tears tonight as Obama accepts the nomination on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech.

Here’s my question: At Obama’s speech tonight, will Charles Mudede, perhaps America’s fiercest opponent of male tears, remain stoic? Don’t tell Charles, but I’ll be watching closely, and am prepared to offer the Slog photographic evidence if there’s any misty-eyed Mudede to be seen.

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I cry because as a student/academic I am so exhausted from the plummet of our government and media over the past 7 years that it makes me want to just break down because finally it might MIGHT get better.

These moments are what I've been dreaming about since the yeeeeaaah 2000 and they are finally here

it makes me cry

Posted by Non | August 28, 2008 10:26 AM

My dad cried at Powder.

Posted by Ziggity | August 28, 2008 10:27 AM

People are crying in Denver because theyre emotionally stunted.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 28, 2008 10:32 AM

Liberals are pussies? Always have been and always will be? What would we do if we didn't have our feeeeeeeeeeeeelings? We're like a bunch of fucking women.

Posted by God almighty motherfucking Lord in heaven we will all DIE in 5 seconds if there's another civil war. | August 28, 2008 10:34 AM

Is it really "everyone" or mostly just women? Because, you know, men are only supposed to cry when their family members die or their favorite teams lose.

Posted by mr lachrymose | August 28, 2008 10:37 AM

Sniff. Sniffles. Waaahhhh. WAAAAHHHH. Sniff. Sniffles. Sniffleufugus. Sniffles for you. Sniffles for me. Sniffles for three.

Posted by "No duh" is a product of FEAR | August 28, 2008 10:38 AM

People are crying at the DNC because they know that, once again, they are about to get raped by the republican attack machine.

Posted by Providence | August 28, 2008 10:39 AM

People at the DNC are reacting emotionally because unlike Slog posters or commenters, they are still capable of experiencing human emotions, including joy and happiness, instead of existing in a constant state of bitter, jaded cynicism/soullessness.

Posted by Just Sayin' | August 28, 2008 10:39 AM

I am The Incredible Sulk, and I approve this off-topic comment.

And no, I don't feel like letting it go.

Posted by The Incredible Sulk | August 28, 2008 10:42 AM

Will Charles get misty eyed?

Depends. Will Amanda Knox be addressing the crowd?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | August 28, 2008 10:44 AM

We here at the Neocon Hug Machine want to remind America that there are people who go to bed every night crying.


Won't you think of their feelings on being tossed into the wilderness for forty years for their sins?

Hug a neocon today!

Posted by Neocon Hug Machine | August 28, 2008 10:46 AM

@ 8: word.

Also, Charles will not cry, because he is an African living in the US, not and African-American. Big dif. His grand father wasn't hosed down by white pigs in Selma.

Not saying growing up in Africa was easy, just different.

Posted by Mike in MO | August 28, 2008 10:47 AM

I spotted Steven Spielberg in a skybox last evening, but I don't think he designed the mixed-media-effect of the convention's version of "the crying game".

Somewhere, an reincarnated Albert Speer is hard at work, and tonight perhaps we'll have enormous shafts of crystalline light backgrounded by John Williams' main theme from 'Superman', where he and Lois swoop through Manhattan's spires and dip down upon Lady Liberty. One can only wish!

The harmonic convergence of tears is hardly a surprise. Most of us have reserves of empathy left despite the recent wretched past. My 95 year-old mother died in April, but had I been Joe Biden shouting out to her in an arena of thousands, thanking her for my rather well-lived life - then, yes, there will be tears.

Tears for Hillary because she - well, worked her ass off and came up a few votes short. To accuse her rabid supporters of not letting go is saying they haven't earned a well-earned pout or two.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | August 28, 2008 11:07 AM

I think there must be someone whose job it is to spot the criers in the audience (and the crazy hat people and bad dancers) and alert the cameramen. What a fun job that would be....

I am guessing that I will not cry until Obama wins. There's a small piece of my brain that worries about losing and refuses to be happy about all of this until after the election is over. I know just being the first African-American candidate is historic, but I want the first African-American President (and my goddamn country back, by the way).

Posted by Julie | August 28, 2008 11:30 AM

Gotta add in: the emotional stress we're all still feeling from the post-traumatic robbery of Florida 2000. Compound the disaster of Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, and the slippin out of our hands of Kerry's lead in 2004. So when a hip liberal guy - who's a history making African American no less - comes to rescue us from this pent up need for catharis, I for one am gonna get all puddly on their asses.

Posted by Barak G | August 28, 2008 12:06 PM

I'm crying cuz some guy just shot in my eye.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | August 28, 2008 12:17 PM

I'm crying because I just accidentally hit myself in the nuts AGAIN. Seriously, I'm gonna start wearing a cup all the time.

Posted by Fnarf | August 28, 2008 12:33 PM

I watched Monday and Wednesday, and cried multiple times each night. Caroline Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Beau Biden come to mind. I'm a 37 y/o straight male, Democrat-from-hell, I guess. Can't wait for tonight...!!!

Posted by Dan | August 28, 2008 1:11 PM

I've been crying because during the 2000 election, I was living in Florida and pissed the fuck off I couldn't vote for Gore, because I was still seventeen. In 2004, I watched both conventions knowing I would vote for whatever Democrat they put up against Bush. I was so moved by John Kerry's speech, I actually wrote him a letter. In short, I've been pissed the fuck off for eight years. And just the idea that it's almost over, Bush is almost gone, and God willing, I will be 34 years old when Barak Obama leaves office. John Kerry made me proud to be a Democrat in 2004, and Barak Obama (and John Kerry, as well as Bill Clinton) made me proud to be a Democrat this year.

Posted by Jennifer in Chicago | August 28, 2008 1:27 PM

Non @ 1: Dear god, you must be young. Someday you will grow up and realize that no politicians are saviors, that the U.S. has its ups and downs and that they have almost no correlation with the party in the oval office, and that, with a bit of grit and intelligence, you can make a way for yourself in the world that doesn't depend of the vagaries of the political process.

Reading stuff like that makes me think we need to raise the voting age to 30, or restrict the franchise to property-owners, or something.

Posted by David Wright | August 28, 2008 1:44 PM

David, I really don't care if you use the IM OLDER AND SMARTER AND MORE JADED THAN YOU card in this case. You're drawing out and projecting WAY more from my comment than I had written.

If my frustrations are breifly mitigated by watching the convention, that is a good thing.


Posted by Non | August 28, 2008 2:27 PM

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