The DNC: One Woman’s Experience

After spending two days at the Democratic National Convention, I'm walking away with several impressions. First, there are a lot of crazy people out there. Second, there are a lot of wonderfully kind and generous people out there. Third, there is a lot that needs to be fixed when it comes to the American political system, but there are also significant opportunities for meaningful participation.

 

Photo by Sarah Cooke

I am not a believer in conventions. I feel they get in the way of democracy. Since we vote for delegates to represent us - rather than voting for candidates directly - the delegates could theoretically vote for whomever they please. Indeed, in previous generations, that actually happened. It's as if we the voters are being told we're too simple minded to choose for ourselves. Not to mention the fact that elaborate conventions are not the most productive use of money.

 

That said, it was a memorable experience for me. An acquaintance offered me a room in a gorgeous house in nearby Mooresville. The house has a back deck that overlooks a serene lake, where I enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal this morning. I was moved by the unexpected offer to stay there and by the generosity of my housemates.

 

Photo by Sarah Cooke

At the convention, I had an opportunity to mingle with some amazing people, including Councilwoman Beth Mason of Hoboken, NJ and Sarah Jacob, a reporter for NDTV who interviewed me for her English language network, which broadcasts in India. In the crowded rooms and sidewalks, I was often shoulder-to-shoulder with local and national politicians, accomplished media personalities and interested citizens from all walks of life. The chance to meet fascinating people who are outside one's ordinary range of experiences is the true value of the conventions.

 

Of course, there were the crazy people. Like the Christian fundamentalist outside the convention center screaming that abortion is murder, or the drivers of a truck carrying mannequins hung with nooses intended to represent politicians with whom they apparently disagree. But the people I encountered were by and large very gracious and open to meeting new people.

 

Photo by Sarah Cooke

For example, I had lunch at Panera today but, due to its proximity to the convention center, the cafe was packed and I had to eat my food standing in a corner. A woman who appeared to be in her sixties invited me to share a booth with her and her husband. It turned out they had driven to Charlotte from Iowa. I mentioned that my fiancé is from New Jersey but we're living in California and we've driven across the country a few times, ourselves. She told me emphatically that if my fiancé and I are ever on a road trip and need a place to stay, we should let her know and she gave me her email address. I think she was actually being sincere.

 

Photo by Sarah Cooke

Watching the speeches live was exhilarating. Like I said, I believe the conventions are, for the most part, just theater and I don't feel they do a service to our democracy. But the historical significance of the conventions can't be denied. A lot of history has been made in those halls, and I really felt the presence of that history last night. While I strongly feel that our democracy badly needs fixing, that money has far too much influence in our elections and that our votes are not counted entirely fairly, the fact that we've held elections every four years for 236 years and there has been no bloodshed or violent coups is, in fact, an accomplishment.