Charlotte was a whirlwind of Democratic party energy and activity. Having attended six conventions (2 as a volunteer, 2 as a pledged delegate and one each as a DNC-member elect and then as a DNC member), you learn that there is never enough time to meet everyone you need to and not enough shoe leather to enable you to get around.
Everywhere I went, I sensed the enthusiasm and excitement for this ticket and I heard the same theme throughout about what it will take to get out of this crisis: “we are all in this together.”
I met with delegates and elected officials from over 15 states (including Florida, Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin), and each of them told me that they were leaving this convention energized by the speeches of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Also notable were a couple of unexpected hits. Sure John Kerry, Deval Patrick and Ted Strickland were passionate and our own Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa did an admirable job in keeping the convention energy going. The speaking undercard, revealed a couple of great surprises too: former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm energized the crowd with her passion and litany of the hundreds of thousands of automobile manufacturing jobs saved by Obama’s intervention. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, did a very good job in a tough lineup (sharing the night with Deval Patrick, Julian Castro and Michele Obama) and several business leaders, including Steve Westly laid out the argument well why Democrats support innovation. Each of them stressed how coming together will help us solve our nation’s problems.
There was also a whirlwind of issue forums and receptions with organizations like Planned Parenthood, Voto Latino, Truman Security Project, Human Rights Campaign and Jewish organizations like AIPAC, American Jewish Committee, J-Street and the National Jewish Democratic Council. While the organizations and their viewpoints were certainly diverse, they seemed unified in their understanding of what was at stake in this election and the stark differences between the divisive, self-interested policies of Romney and the inclusive policies of President Barack Obama.
The differences on protecting access to health care, especially women’s reproductive health care were the most stark. But every group that has made progress in the last four years through health care reform, increased energy independence through alternative fuels, job creation and preservation in manufacturing, schools and technology, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, investment in our cities and regulation of the excesses in our finance sector that triggered the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, understood that a Romney administration would mean turning our clocks back to an age of intolerance and excess that has long passed.
Even in the Jewish community where there has been a concerted effort by Republicans to create a wedge, there was an appreciation for the Obama Administration’s placement of action above rhetoric, increasing security cooperation and creating a unified front against Iran that Israel had never seen before. Obama was praised for bringing China and Russian on board in the efforts to force Iran to cooperate, something that Bush could not do. Even the misstep with the platform, the result of low-level staff miscommunication, showed that the Administration had no qualms about changing the entire convention schedule to make clear that the Democratic Party stands stronger with Israel in action than the Republicans do in words. Obama and Biden personally intervened to ensure that this position was made clear.
President Bill Clinton said it best when he said We think “we’re all in this together” is a better philosophy than “you’re on your own.”
Each of these pieces of the party may seem separate, but they are not. Stopping discrimination, promoting public health (sorry but viruses don’t distinguish based on income) and access to health care, supporting education, getting off fossil fuels and building out jobs have public benefits that go far beyond the individuals receiving the immediate benefit; they lift society up.
Even the issue of supporting Israel falls into that category. As Justice Louis Brandeis pointed out, when Irish Americans supported the home rule they took our values and made Ireland better. So too should American and American-Jews support of Israel continue to make Israel a better place with pluralistic values and support of human and civil rights in a region where both are in very short supply.