Hours after The Independent hits newsstands Thursday, August 28, the Democratic Party will officially have a nominee: Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
While New York Senator Hillary Clinton doubtlessly would’ve preferred it were her, she didn’t take long Tuesday night to share with the 20,000 people in the Pepsi Center and millions of others around the country where she stood on November’s election: “No way. No how. No McCain,” she said to a standing ovation from a crowd of people with white “Hillary” signs raised above their heads. “Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president.”
Clinton’s speech rocked the Pepsi Center, a sure sign of exciting things to come in Denver, the host city for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Obama’s speech, on Thursday in front of 75,000 at the Denver Broncos’ Invesco Field, is set to be before the largest audience at a national convention since John F. Kennedy addressed 60,000 in Los Angeles in 1960. Clinton, whose 1,896 delegates couldn’t match Obama’s 2,201 delegates, encouraged her supporters to join in her support of Obama. “We don’t need four more years of the last eight years,” she said.
Both Obama and Clinton made visits to Santa Barbara during the primary, with Obama speaking in front of several thousand at City College, and Clinton speaking to several hundred at UCSB. In Denver, Obama’s wife, Michelle, gave her speech on Monday, while Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, gave his on Wednesday. Santa Barbara’s own Representative Lois Capps has close connections to both Clinton and Obama-the Clintons were ardent supporters of her late husband Walter Capps in his quest for the congressional seat she now holds, while her daughter Laura is married to Bill Burton, the national press secretary for Obama’s campaign.
Capps said she thought that the convention had exceeded expectations in terms of Democrats coming together, especially considering the fierceness of the primary. Demonstrating that unity on a grand scale, Clinton’s address made it clear that she wants her supporters to throw their weight behind Obama and only Obama. “We have to get going by electing Barack Obama as the next president,” Clinton said.
Capps-taking part in her sixth consecutive convention since Chicago in 1996-also said she was most looking forward to the opportunity to come together as a party. “The Democratic Party is one big family,” she said. She took the Pepsi Center podium Wednesday to showcase women members of the U.S. House of Representatives. She also helped give a presentation on how the Obama administration would address issues facing women in America. At a press conference Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders, including Capps, laid out their plans for energy independence from other countries. Together, they called for a comprehensive strategy, including expanding tax credits for wind and solar power-producing companies. “We can’t just drill our way out,” Capps said in an interview Tuesday at the Denver Sheraton.
Also taking the stage Tuesday was California controller John Chiang, who recently rebelled against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, refusing to reduce state employees’ pay rates as one means to force passage of the state budget. Chiang mentioned California’s fiscal troubles resulting from foreclosures, gas prices, and unemployment. “We are working harder than ever, but still many of us are falling farther and farther behind,” he said. “But we know our future is still golden. We know of a path to the promised land, and Barack Obama will lead us there. He understands, as John F. Kennedy said, that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ Together we will rise, or together we will fall.”
Behind the scenes, not shown on the TV networks broadcasts, are Democratic meetings on policy and platform as the leaders of the party discuss and shape the direction of the party for the next four years in venues throughout Denver. Also being held are lobbyist parties, nonprofit luncheons, and more.
By press time on Tuesday, two days into the Democratic National Convention, Denver was abuzz with excitement-both for the $160 million to $200 million it is estimated to take in and for Obama’s speech. Street vendors have buttons, shirts, hats, and posters with every imaginable slogan and photo of the candidate. Each speaker lauds Obama’s commitment to the Average Joe and his promise to change the way things are done in Washington, D.C. More than 17,000 hotel rooms were reserved for the occasion, 4,440 delegates credentialed-including 503 in California, the most in any state-and more than 26,000 volunteers are helping these people make their way around Denver.
This is also a convention of firsts-it is the first modern political convention to host so many people for one event; its Delegate Service Day, a day when Denver’s visitors hit the streets to help the community, on Wednesday was the first of its kind; and it was the first convention to offer gavel-to-gavel coverage in high definition online. Come Thursday, it will be the first convention at which a major political party nominated an African-American presidential candidate and, after that, it may well be remembered by Democratic party adherents as the first time in recent years that they ever felt so united to win back the White House.