A sad ending to an historic campaign?
And a look behind the scenes at the Democratic Convention
by Jo Freeman
As I listened to the voting at the Democratic Convention last night, I thought that this was the wrong way to end Hillary Clinton's historic run for President.
I had read that the vote count was what her supporters wanted to affirm their success and get over their loss. I was surprised that the Obama campaign had agreed, because according to the primary results, the final tally was so close. I also knew that the entire scene would be scripted to reinforce the theme of party unity.
As I listened to the voting and watched Obama's delegate count increase at five times the rate of Hillary's, I felt that this ending was more humiliating than unifying. That feeling was reinforced when New Mexico passed to Illinois which passed to New York where Hillary called for Obama's nomination by acclamation.
This didn't feel like closure of an historic primary campaign. It felt like retreat and happened because Clinton released her delegates earlier that day. Most of them would vote for Obama. While there is a hard core of Hillary loyalists, most of those who ran for a delegate slot are Democratic Party loyalists.
There was another way to do it. Historically, when the winner is known in advance, the count is held open after all the states have recorded their votes, for those who want to, in order to switch votes. Most delegates who voted for someone other than the nominee switch at this time. The count before and after the switch is part of the public record.
The party achieves unity and the also-rans get a permanent record of their achievement (or lack thereof). This permanent record will be both incomplete (because the count was stopped) and flawed (because of the early release). Future readers about the 2008 Democratic Convention will never know how many delegate votes Hillary Clinton really had.
I find that sad.
And on other things ...
I will take you behind the scenes to look at some of the people and activities that provide the support structure for what you see on your TV screens.
Most people know that conventions costs millions of dollars to run. Some know that a lot of that is federal money. Private donations and corporate sponsorships make up most of the difference. Most people don't know that the convention is largely staffed by volunteers. I heard that there were 20,000 at this one. I tried to find someone in charge of volunteers to confirm that figure without success. Nonetheless, I believe it.
The DNCC volunteers were everywhere, readily identifiable by one of several t-shirts. The green team members spend hours standing by triple trash cans making sure that everyone who had something to throw away put it into the right one (recyclables, compost and land fill). Orange shirted ambassadors stood on the streets greeting everyone, giving out water bottles and mostly directions. They sat behind tables at the convention hotels to answer questions and locate information. Others stood at entrances screening those for the right credentials who wanted to enter the Convention Center and the hotels.
Volunteers also acted as drivers, wheelchair pushers, and map readers. Instead of providing maps to convention participants, the DNCC provided maps to the volunteers to answer queries on where things were. I spoke to several about why they were there; always off the record, without asking names and without taking notes. The Volunteer Information Guide gives as one ground for dismissal "interviews in any shape or form."