Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bleacher friction, lefty thuggery, a Hobbit: notes from the 36th District Democratic Convention

Two months ago at the Washington State Democratic Caucus, I was elected an Obama delegate to the 36th District Democratic Convention. As my cousin, Ellie, said recently, "Litz, I'd be more surprised if you weren't totally supporting Obama." As is often true with those who love you most, she meant it as both a compliment and a dig. Which is fine, as she treated me to a very nice steak last night.

As per the literature I'd received, I arrived at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday at Ballard High School to sign in early for the day's proceedings. (Mad props to my dad, a lifelong moderate Republican, for picking me up and dropping me off. While this is a great time in my life, things have been dicey physically. Dad usually rises at 4:00 a.m. and he knows how sick I am in the mornings, so when he found out I had to be there early, he volunteered to transport me. Righteous that the father/daughter thing supercedes party affiliation.)

After traversing the lines required to establish credentials, etc., I entered the gymnasium and found a seat on a low bleacher riser in the delegate section. Two women in Hillary shirts sat in front of me and grimaced when they saw my Obama button. I managed a tight smile, but in all fairness, it's not as if I wanted to hug them, either. As other Hillary supporters filed in, the women beckoned them over and soon I was the lone Obama delegate in the front two rows. They introduced themselves to each other and pointedly ignored me. I was tempted to join the Obama crew forming nearby, but found the fly/ointment scenario too appealing. The Clinton ladies kept uneasily eyeing my notebook, and while they were trashing Obama and the media, I would have taken notes regardless, because, like many writers, that's what I do. I agreed with them on certain points, too: Republicans will scream, "Pastor Wright!" all through the general; some jibes against Hillary are sexist.

A guy waving an Obama sign ran down an aisle yelling, "We're about change! We're about our children's future!" If I'd had a week to live, I would have stabbed him in the lungs. As it was, I took another hit of coffee and hoped his shoelaces might untie. Then other Obama supporters hoisted placards and Hillary folks responded in kind and the whole things smacked of a homecoming rally, with less hair and more fleece. (Much like an aerophobic self-hypnotizes before take-off, I focused intently to block out the rampant fleece.)

A district official gave an eloquent and heartfelt introduction and for the next two hours, Washington State Democratic candidates and elected representatives sequentially addressed the 3000+ crowd. When Congressman Jim McDermott approached the podium, he received a standing ovation, minus one curly-haired Greek girl. I do not understand why Seattle Democrats love this guy so much. He's been in office since I was a little kid, and while I often agree with him on the issues, I think he's kind of a thug, but for the left. Seriously, why is it okay that he illegally taped Newt Gingrich? Brain-damaged alligators have a more acutely honed sense of ethics than Gingrich, but we can't cry, "Watergate!" when Republicans pull this shit but look the other way when our side does it. And I disagree with McDermott's points in Fahrenheit 911. If the Bush administration is as inept as he claims--and he's right here--then there's more of a reason to be scared, not less.

We arrived at the time where the Obama and Clinton camps were each allowed three minutes to sway the throng. Clinton's apostate spoke first and it was the actor, Sean Astin. A man near me lifted a homemade sign that read, "HOBBITS FOR HILLARY!" so clearly at least a few knew he was on the roster. Astin said he likes Obama and will gladly vote for him if he's the nominee, then discussed why he supports Hillary. He was a class act, but spent most of his 180 seconds discussing Clinton's "barrier-shattering" tenure as First Lady. His assessment was accurate, of course, but the only time he mentioned her role in the Senate was to note she won re-election by "a landslide".

The Obama contingent decided to divide their time among four speakers, and the first was a 79 year-old grandmother whose family emigrated to the U.S. after escaping the Nazis in 1938. She said she wants her grandchildren to live in a country wherein they are proud of the president, his accomplishments, and what he stands for. Her words were lovely and meaningful and everyone clapped loudly. Next was a guy in his twenties who, if he convinced anyone of anything, it was that his parents should be forced to pay reparations for spawning such a cloying fuckwad. He spoke almost entirely in non-sequiturs, announced, "For Obama, style is substance!" and usurped the remaining time so that the other Obama speakers were shut out. A Hillary supporter in front of me asked loudly, "What did that even mean?" and I leaned forward and said, "For what it's worth, I completely agree with you. He was awful." She met me halfway and pleasantly responded, "Well, I guess we're all amateurs here."

The next several hours were spent discussing and voting on the 36th District platforms and resolutions. Issues included ending the Iraq War, a pledge of support to our troops and veterans, providing universal health care, and the exigent need to halt climate change. At this point, I had been sitting on the floor for the past two hours with my legs stretched out, unable to remain contorted in the bleachers. The chills were awful and when one of the Hillary supporters saw my cane, she asked if I wanted her seat. I thanked her and explained that I needed to stretch my legs--hence sitting on the floor--and that I had my water and Cliff Bar and would be fine. The chills became almost unbearable, though, and when it became evident that we were five and a half hours into things and still several hours away from electing delegates to the convention in Denver, I knew I had to leave. If I became much sicker, I would be immobilized for the upcoming week and I cannot spare that kind of time away from my novel. I'd concluded weeks before I didn't want to go to Denver--again, the novel and health--but I'd wanted to vote for those who would. However, I knew the district brimmed with erudite Obama supporters--aforementioned asswipes to the contrary--and that, in a state where Obama won every county, my presence the rest of the day would have negligible impact, except to weaken me.

At 2:15, I took a last look around the room, exited the gymnasium, went outside and called my dad.

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