[Democratic National Convention] I was trying to figure out what would be the theme of my first ever national convention while riding out in the taxi to downtown Denver. Party unity was apparently the rallying cry for convention organizers, and if it was a meant to be a battle cry for November that’s because party captains knew, that at the moment, it was a cry of pain. McCain had quickly mobilized to capitalize on Hillary supporters who felt jilted by Obama passing her up for veep. A recent gallup poll released yesterday found that almost 30 percent of former Hillary supporters were now supporting McCain, or at least, not Obama. Oh yes, the GOP and the McCain camp had their thumb in the cut and the democrats were indeed crying ‘Unity!” They were shrieking it for godsakes.
But if the GOP has capitalized on the division nationally, here in Denver the showdown is not between democrats calling on republicans everywhere. It is between coastal liberals and the western purple state cowboys. And in the case of my cab driver Anne, cowgirls.
“I had a friend who’s been a democrat for thirty years,” says Anne as we cruise out towards downtown Denver. “He was a Spanish fella, and a big Hillary supporter. Since she lost he’s voting McCain and he’s actively campaigning for McCain.”
The first thing I noticed about Anne was the bizarre assortment of bobble head frog figurines cluttering the dash of her cab. The second thing I noticed about Anne was a good rocky mountain liberal attitude, blue-collar and straight talking. When I told her about the Hillary defectors she figured it was probably closer to fifty percent.
Either way the western democratic showdown was on. The town was readying for a party of unity. To try and get a little healing done and press a united front into November. The party has a candidate with a revolution of “change” hoping to ride him into an historic election victory. But first the party has to show that they understand the soul of blue collar folks.
I couldn’t help but notice tucked in the back of the cab a flyer that read “Obama talks Shop,’ depicting Barack getting his hair cut in a black barber shop. I wondered how many black barber shops there were in Colorado. Certainly some, hell there’s at least a couple in Salt Lake, but still it’s clear that now is the time for the democratic party to start fine tuning the message--its not necessarily a racial thing, but thinking more Western is something the party should be mindful of, especially if they want to keep more of those blue collar Hill-raisers from jumping ship.
So predictions… Things are gonna get folksy real fast. Western and southern democrats are going to get the podium, a lot. The conference opened with a video montage of various Western democrats giving their support in various western backdrops: Colorado Governor Bill Ritter in fly-fishing gear in front of a river, Nevada’s Sen. Majority leader Harry Reid in a ten gallon hat. The message was good, like Colorado congressman Ken Salazar: “We’re mainstream westerners that just want to get the job done.” But the props were a little much.
Still the message can resound especially on class lines. And the class card should be played, and played smartly.
Cue Party treasurer Andrew Tobias at the opening night: “In the last eight years the only kinds of people who have done better off are those with private jets, who can’t even remember how many houses they own.”
My other prediction for democrats going country-- actually my hope is, that god willing, I might spy Ted Kennedy in all denim. Call me a dreamer…
But if I don’t see that I can at least count on Obama cheer leaders like the girls pictured above. Who drove up from Santa Cruz, California bringing their so-cal sex appeal in a station wagon covered in Obama stickers. Five to ten says your not gonna find legs like that at the Republican National Convention. (Eric S. Peterson)