Confessions of a Former Elected DNC Delegate — I Missed the Room Where it Happened
If you want to be in the “room where it happens,” don’t bother getting yourself elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. I mention this now because over 700 of the current delegates have signed a petition to reject the platform that now rejects Medicare for all. In 2004, I don’t remember anyone asking me about the platform so while I commend their effort, I doubt a petition to a virtual convention will move a party determined to stick with the corporate agenda. Now, all the DNC has to do is keep the elected delegates out of the zoom room where it happens. Easy, you don’t even have to provide distractions.
2004 was the year of John Kerry and Barack Obama, both turned out to represent corporations and the rich, but I didn’t know that then. Both were skilled liars, but that’s another story.
The Kerry campaign asked me to be a delegate in 2004 because I lived in a district where they were having trouble finding rich and connected people to run, most having chosen another primary candidate, and because I had had a blowout house party and made them a lot of money.
So I went to the convention and looked to have a voice in that room where it happens. I’d soon learn that nothing was happening in any of the rooms in which I was invited, and I had no idea of the location of that actual happening room.
The only things I saw at the 2004 DNC were a lot of speeches. We woke up every morning to our state delegation breakfast. For me that was Illinois and Rod Blagojevich. Rod might have been in his element but he was unhappy to say the least that Obama was making the keynote speech. Rod said he’d be making his speech in the men’s room at Faneuil Hall. Yes, we were in Boston. I guess it was funny at the time, foreboding but we didn’t know that yet.
Jan Schakowsky told her W. Bush Obama button story: She was meeting with Bush on an issue involving Haiti. After an unsatisfactory meeting, she put on her coat and went to shake the president’s hand good bye. He looks at her with horror and she notices he is looking at her Obama button. He apparently thought it was an Osama (bin Laden) button. Jan explained to the president that it was Obama, the candidate for Senator from IL and Bush tells her he never heard of him. Jan responds, you will. To Jan’s credit, she has not become one of those Bush nostalgia Democrats.
The rest of our days, so we were told, were for attending various side events. There were “caucuses.” Monday, the Veterans Caucus where James Carvell barked at us. Wes Clark talked about John Kerry’s military service which I knew all about because I had worked with Kerry’s band of brothers in Iowa. They were the nicest men and they didn’t know the media would help Republicans use them against Kerry. Again, another story.
Tuesday was ladies day, the Women’s Caucus. Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Allbright spoke. No one asked me my opinion about anything. That morning was followed by the Revolutionary Women conference. Again speeches, locals State Sen Susan Tucker, School Committee member and candidate for State Rep from MA, Katherine Clark, District Attorney Martha Coakley and State Rep Marie St. Fleur. The Sheriff of Suffolk County MA, Andrea Cabral, gave a speech including the story of John and Abigail Adams and the famous line in the famous letters when Abigail asked John not to forget the ladies…John answered that it was just silliness and treated it like a joke. Sheriff Cabral ended by claiming the final joke was on John Adams, but in retrospect, was it really?
Then, Carol Moseley-Braun from my state of Illinois made a fiery speech that out-did her later performance on the convention floor. Carol would disappear in the later years supposedly marred by scandal but I’m guessing she might have wanted Democrats to do something. They probably didn’t like that.
Nancy Pelosi spoke and led a chant that Bush must go, but later became his advocate. Allbright made sense and her speech still resonates. She spoke about how our USA policy affects women across the world. Shame she never supported any real change while supporting her Wellesley alum pal, Hillary Clinton.
The entire time I was in Boston, there were tons of hecklers. Now I wish I had skipped the convention and joined them.
Still looking for the room where it happens, I ended up just hanging around Boston on Wednesday because there was nothing to do, or rather, nothing I was invited or allowed to do. I spoke with Dick Durbin’s wife, Loretta for a while. She didn’t tell me the location of the room where it happens. Maybe she didn’t know either.
That night, Obama did us a solid. He threw us a party and kept us from voting for John Edwards. We heard the DNC was mad at us for missing the vote, but keeping my name off the vote for John Edwards is the best (and only) thing Obama ever did for me. We also missed the aerial photo. You can see in the photo that the Illinois delegation was empty. We were all eating shrimp with Obama.
Thursday, I gave the Women’s Caucus another try, but no one ever caucused at a caucus. We were speechified at, again.
I learned a valuable lesson on Thursday night when I saw what happened in the room where they talked about what should happen but won’t.
The one vote we were able to make that made any difference at all was at a small pre-convention meeting of the delegates in Springfield. The super delegates did not attend. One man who had been to a convention before stood up and told us we were going to be treated poorly, put in the back of the delegation and ignored. He suggested we vote to seat ourselves, the elected delegates, up front, so we did. But, ultimately the joke was on us.
Thursday was the night of the big Obama and Kerry speeches. Everyone wanted to be there, including corporate lobbyists and Republicans. The super delegates brought their lobbyist and Republican friends and brazenly stole the seats meant for the elected delegates. For some reason I don’t remember, I figured this out early, got my seat early, and stayed in it for hours. No bathroom break for me because if I had left even for a few minutes, my seat would have been given to some Republican who devotes a few bucks to the Sierra Club. Eventually, I no longer recognized anyone in my vicinity in the Illinois delegation. I was surrounded by corporate donors and Republicans, people who wouldn’t give the likes of me the time of day.
At first, I thought maybe these folks flew in for the big night of big speeches, but then it occurred to me: The lobbyists and Republicans were more likely in Boston the whole time. They were in the room where it happened and they made it happen while I was at fake caucuses and side events being speechified at.
Looking back at my notes from 2004, I rated the speakers:
Loudest Speaker — Hillary
Most ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ speaker — Joe Lieberman
Has IT — Bill, Hillary, Gore (but I missed it so I’m going on other’s opinions and previous experiences seeing him), Obama, John Kerry
On way to acquiring IT — Iliana Wexler, John Edwards (oy), Alex Kerry
Had IT lost IT — sorry to say but it’s Teddy — good speech but without the old Teddy magic
Never had IT — Biden (oy). (Emphasis and oys added later)
But, even the best speakers were just performing to stop us from asking for more than they wanted to give, health care, housing and reasonable economic security. The lobbyists were in that room where it happened all week. The room was a flea market where they bought tax breaks, tax cuts, less regulation not to mention our silence and our unknowing votes.
Later, we learned that the television audience heard the loud cuss words from the people who couldn’t get the balloons to drop from the ceiling at the end of the convention. I think that says it all about DNC 2004: #$%^(*
Things were worse in 2016, my Bernie delegate friends were actively kicked out of the convention hall. I expect 2020 is going to be worse. It’s going to be easy to keep people out of the zoom room where it happens and the DNC won’t even have to entertain the delegates to keep them out.
So what’s my advice for getting in that room where it happens? Exploit workers and make a ton of money or inherit a lot of money, then spread it around to high level candidates or recognized groups like Sierra Club. That’s how all those non-elected, not-delegates got into the seats meant for the elected delegates that Thursday night in 2004 when Obama brought down the house with lies in Boston and John Kerry tried to run as a military hero when his base wanted out of Bush’s wars.