It’s taken a few days for me to recover from the convention. It was an exhausting, sometimes frustrating, and exhilarating week.
I was already in Philly when the announcement came that Hillary Clinton had chosen our own U.S. Senator, Tim Kaine, as her running mate. Unfortunately, I had left at home my Kaine eyebrow button – the one he handed out at the 2008 convention. Fortunately, my friend, Susan, stopped by my house and picked it up for me. I was one of the few folks who had this original button at the convention (there were a number of folks wearing the 2012 version of it – with his name on the top.) I did an interview about the button (see here) and, yes, was offered money and/or trades for it. No sale!
As I’m sure was the case for a lot of Virginians in attendance, I fielded a lot of questions about Kaine. I first met him in the late 1990s, when he was mayor of Richmond. Much has been written about Tim’s time as mayor – what stuck with me all these years is that he was chosen by a majority black council to be mayor. (At the time, Richmond did not elect its mayor; instead, council chose the mayor from its ranks.) I found – and find – that impressive. Of course, I ran downticket from Tim in 2005, so I got to know him even better then. In 2006, Tim came out against Virginia’s anti-marriage amendment. And then there was 2008, when Tim was so close to being chosen as Obama’s running mate.
It was easy for me to pass on to anyone who asked what kind of person Tim is: he’s a wonderful man and will make a heck of a VP.
While I was erroneously referred to as a delegate in the interview, I did not attend the convention as one; instead, I was a member of the Rules Committee. This was the source of my frustration. Having been a delegate in 2008, I saw how alternates were, for the most part, not allowed on the floor. As the result, I chose to only try to be a delegate. I lost the election at the 2nd Congressional District level, but hoped to be on the Hillary slate at the statewide level, like I had been in 2008. I didn’t make the slate but the campaign appointed me to the committee. From the very first phone call about this, I was told I would be on the floor at least one night – typically the night that the committee report was to be issued. For that reason alone, I consented to serve. Unfortunately, that was not what happened.
Knowing that the Rules Committee report was being made on Monday, I expected a floor credential. That didn’t happen. Instead, my Monday night credential was a Special Guest one. Arriving at the Wells Fargo Center, I learned that seats for Special Guests were far to the sides of the stage and WAAAYYY up. I have a problem with heights – I feel like I’m falling – and ended up being so dizzy that I had to leave early. (Thank goodness for Uber!)
Tuesday’s credential was the same. I tried every avenue I had to get a better ticket – all to no avail. I gave away my ticket and watched day 2 of the convention – Hillary was nominated! – from my hotel room. (And the hotel didn’t have CSPAN!) I went downstairs at one point and saw a lot of folks milling around with Honored Guest and Floor credentials.
Wednesday, I got the same credential. Meanwhile, folks are pouring in – no, I’m not going to name them – who were neither delegates nor committee members. They got Honored Guest or Floor credentials. To say I was upset would be an understatement – especially since I had been told that our delegation didn’t get any Honored Guest credentials! Heights be damned, I decided to give it another try; besides, I really wanted to be there for Tim’s speech. One of our alternates saved me a seat in her section, about where the Honored Guest credential would be. The seat was closer to the center of the stage and not nearly as steep, so I didn’t get dizzy.
By Thursday, I was exhausted: too many late nights/early mornings, plus the hours of sitting had caused my ankles and knees to swell. (Our seats were not guaranteed. The DNC handed out WAY more credentials than there were seats in the arena. So if you got up, you had to make sure somebody was saving your seat. Plus, you had to get there early.) All that evaporated when I was handed my credential for the day: a Floor pass! My elation didn’t last long, though. As it turns out, I – and others – had been given the wrong credential. I had to give it back – and got the Special Guest one to replace it. I was livid.
(Remember: members of the delegation pay their own way to the convention. As a committee member, I had to be there an extra two days, which added over $1,000 to just my hotel tab. All told, the convention cost me a tad under $5,000 – money that could have gone to the campaign instead had I stayed at home and watched on TV.)
About mid-day, I got a call about my credential and ended up being upgraded to the Honored Guest credential. My alternate friend again saved me a seat – she got there early. I got there as soon as I could – transportation was horrible, by the way – and got the best seat I’d had the entire convention. Thank goodness Grindly saved me a seat: the excess distributed credentials meant a whole lot of folks did not make it into the arena.
Despite the frustration, there is nothing quite like being in the room for the various moments of the convention. Some of the best speakers – watch Rev. Dr. William Barber, for example – were not in prime time but were simply wonderful. The attempts at protests by a few Bernie supporters – mostly from the California delegation – that were quickly drowned out by the others.
Cheslea’s introduction of her mother was amazing. Her voice was soft and the arena fell silent as we strained to hear every word.
And then there was the acceptance speech by Hillary. I can’t put into words just how thrilling it was to hear it.
The convention landed me on my first ever train trip and my first use of Uber, both of which I will use again.
While I was glad to be a part of this convention, I do hope the DNC considers how to make it better for future convention-goers. My recommendations:
- Give committee members the best credential you have that is not on the floor.
- Give committee members floor credentials for the night of their report.
- Give folks who are not members of the delegation the cheap seats credentials.
- Limit floor credentials to those who are members of the delegation – no hangers-on, no lobbyists.
- Limit the number of credentials for access to inside the arena to 5% or less of the arena capacity.
- Choose a venue that has video monitors in the hallways!
- Better arrange transportation to and from the convention. They should start earlier both ways.
- Communicate! How many times did I ask an official something – where’s the bus? – and no one had an answer.
- Consider reducing the number of speakers. Seven + hours worth is a bit much.