"Hello fellow Kossacks" I finally decided to pen my first diary; it only took me 3 years to transition from a lurker to a diarist, Lol. Okay so first things first.....
Although I am an Obama supporter the contents of this diary are not being told in a biased fashion, just an honest accounting of the happenings at the DNC meeting in Mclean, VA, yesterday; complete with pictures.
Additionally, I must confess that I am partial to 1st person diary accounts from people engaged in the political process. I aggregate these accounts and use them as a barometer to measure the mood of the democratic electorate. Although polls do provide an added value, I'm just not the biggest fan of polls. Alright enough, lets go...
I received an email the other day from the Obama camp, inviting me to come and show my support for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) Fall Meeting held yesterday at the Sheraton Hotel in McLean, VA (Tyson's Corner for those of you familiar with the area). I gave it a thought, and decided I'd go...my firm's HQ was basically right across the street from where the DNC meeting was being held so I figured I'd play hookey from work and go show my support.
9AM: As I arrived at the Sheraton in Tyson's, I unfortunately fell back into my pedantic habit of paying attention to unnecessary minutia such as counting which candidates had the most bumper stickers, I was going to start gauging levels of support for the respective candidates from jump. These were after-all the DNC faithful;The Base.
9:10AM: The first four cars I saw (at the red light before making my turn into the Sheraton) all had Richardson bumper stickers, I thought "Good for Bill, maybe he isn't so much of a second tier candidate after all", I made the turn into the access road leading into the Sheraton and saw a pickup truck with a "Webb for Senate" sticker on the left corner of the bumper and on "Obama 2008" sticker on the right side...."Ah so Virginians do envision an Obama/Webb ticket"...interesting, the driver had on a cowboy hat, it brought a smile to my face. As I parked I noticed the bazillion "Hillary For President" lawn signs arranged in a parallel pattern on the grass embankments leading up to the entrance of the hotel. "Where were the Obama and Edwards signs?", I was a little bit disappointed.
9:15AM: As I walked into the lobby of the hotel I saw 3 African American ladies probably in their 60's standing with Obama signs in front of a glass and marble encased water fountain - "Hello Ladies how are y'all doing?", "just fine young man, just fine, welcome, Obama 08!" - ah finally some sign of support for my man....After paying respect to the ladies I walked around the water fountain into the lobby of hotel and tada!! Democratic heaven!! There was an organizational pandemonium afoot....a lot of Hillary Clinton volunteers at tables full of Hillary gear and stationary, a ton of Edwards supporters, I mean, my God, the Edwards folks were everywhere, I mean everywhere...they all wore the same white "John Edwards" t-shirt's. I strained to see if I could spot Obama volunteers and walked around the first layer of Hillary volunteer tables, Ah! "Obama 08" signs/stickers and decals started to materialize, I saw a group of Obama volunteers organizing and approached them to ask them where I needed to line up, to get into the main ballroom (I hoped I was early enough to make the cut, and not have to be sent into the adjoining overflow room). The young Obama volunteer kindly directed me to the sign-up table for DNC guests, I signed up and then went to line-up on a line that must have stretched about 300 feet along the inner walls of the hotel.
9:45AM: The first thing I noticed while I was in line, was that the so called monolithic African American support or vote does not exist, at least not here. I was sandwiched (in line) by Edwards supporters, and quite a number of them were black, I also saw a number of black Hillary and Obama supporters (Hillary's were all women). As I stood inline chatting with a Richardson supporter, who was complaining about Philadelphia's supposed corrupt mayor (John Street?) who we had just seen walk by, the door to the conference room to my immediate right opened up and walking right out in front of me was Howard Dean; Dean's lost a lot of weight, he was looking lithe and good though. A number of folks commented that he looked shorter in person, but ho-hum whatever, I was still a little worried that all I saw were Edwards supporters. Where was the vaunted Obama organization? I guess I was expecting the same sort of excitement that had enveloped Obama at the JJ dinner in Iowa, I was hoping to experience that same sort of passion and excitement in person.
10AM: And then I heard that familiar refrain: "FIRED UP!" I looked up and saw a tall African American gentleman walking by, he winked at me "Fired up!?" "READY TO GO!" I yelled back, the Edwards folks I was talking to in line were startled but laughed out loud. One of those supporters - a Caucasian lady in her 50's - told me "You know that Obama fella is very charming, I like some of his idea's, I think he is my second choice after John" to which I said "thank you", then her husband chirped in "aw shucks Barb, you only like John because he's pretty", to which we all laughed.
10:30AM: The line moved briskly, we were all soon disappointed though when we found out that the main auditorium had filled up and we would have to listen to the speeches from an over-flow room with a large cinema-type screen. As we made our way into the over-flow room I noticed that I hadn't seen any Biden or Kucinich signs, stickers or supporters (I had seen one Dodd supporter). We got into the room and everyone picked seats.
10:45AM: As Bill Richardson was being introduced to speak to the DNC faithful, the audio feed into our room got cut, and as you might imagine all the Richardson supporters (and there were quite a number of them) got angry, I remember thinking, cynically of course, that this was a set-up; why would the audio feed cut away seconds before this man was to speak? As the hotel staff worked fervently to bring the audio feed back online, I and others got restless. I knew that John Edwards was slated to speak next, and that pandemonium would break out if the audio feed did not come back on soon. Here are a couple of pictures that illustrate the mood of the room prior to Edwards speech:
11:20AM: John Edwards was being introduced, the audio feed was not yet back on and the frustration in the over-flow room started to boil over. A number of Edwards supporters decided to try and storm the main auditorium. You can see in the pictures above the frustration illustrated on the faces of some the Edwards supporters; as some of them got up to make their way next door. One of the women had driven all the way from Minnesota to listen to Edwards and she said there was no way she was going to miss his speech. Obama was slated to speak after Edwards and I hoped that the audio would be back on before he was introduced or else I was going to lose it! Meanwhile a steady stream of Obama supporters had started to materialize, in fact at one point, about 20 or so high-schoolers walked into the room wearing the now famous red "fired up, ready to go!" t-shirts. One of the kids sat down next to me and I asked him where they had all come from, he said North Carolina. I asked if he was old enough to vote, and he said "I'm 17 now, but will be 18 by next November". "Good enough" I thought.
11:35AM: Still no audio, Edwards had been speaking for about 10 minutes now, and I decided to see if I could get myself into the main auditorium, I was not going to miss one second of Obama's speech. The over-flow room was emptying out as all of us tried in our various ways to gain entry into the main auditorium. No luck! Our efforts were futile. Security refused, in fact they got down-right belligerent with us and flat-out refused us entry. Then all of us got loud and started chants of protest. I mean, did the Sheraton have a republican agenda? This had become ridiculous. That was when I noticed two of the hotels staffers scurrying into the over-flow room with a long trail of black wire trailing like a snake behind them, I rushed over and asked if they had found a solution, and they said "yes" they were going to pull in the audio from another source and connect those wires to the speakers in our overflow room.
11:45AM: Yay!! The audio came back on!! We all rushed back in to listen to the second half of John Edwards speech. Edwards had retooled his speech, which now centers on a "Corrupt Wall" theme. JRE said that a "Corrupt Wall" (A metaphor of course) had been built around Washington DC by lobbyists, corrupt politico's etc, and Edwards full of emotional and impassioned rhetoric, swore to tear down the wall. I watched in silence, focused, but yet moved by the intensity with which he delivered his speech. I also noticed that John Edwards blinks a lot. Their were a lot of applause lines, Everyone in the room was appreciative of his message, and more importantly all of the Edwards supporters had calmed down, and were cheering him along, as they were able to finally hear their man. 5 minutes after Edwards got done, he surprised those of us in the over-flow room by coming in through the kitchen door at the north-east corner of the room, It was the first time I had seen him live, he looks mighty young for a 54 year old. Camera's flashed intermittently and JRE fans rushed to shake hands with their guy. He spent about 5 minutes shaking hands, but gave no speech. He was soon out of there.
12:00PM: "Barrack Obama..." those were the two words uttered by Obama's introducer on the Big Screen in front of us. The room had all of sudden filled-up to a hilt (for the first time since my arrival) and I could tell pandemonium was about to let lose. Here are a couple of shots:
"Barack Obama...was a community organizer..." blah blah blah....it was pointless, I couldn't hear a word due to the noise from the crowd, I got up, as I too was excited and could no longer remain seated. I went and stood near the front of the room against the wall to get a closer view of the big screen. I turned around and marveled at what I now saw. There were Hillary Clinton supporters in the back of the room, standing. I got the feeling that they were sort of in awe, and at the same time were checking out the competition. All the Edwards supporters remained, but the vast majority of those in the room were clearly there for Barack. "A new leader for a new century..." and so on; the announcer continued and then finally introduced Barack. The room literally went Berserk! Obama comes on and in his first remarks, he actually took the time to acknowledge us in the over-flow room!?. Oh my God, we felt the love, I started pounding on the walls and a lot of people joined me, yelling "Obaaamma!!", pounding hard on the walls! An older gentleman ran to open two of the doors to the over-flow room so that the entire Hotel could hear/feel the passion. Apparently Barack heard it from the main auditorium (I noticed this watching on C-SPAN later on last night).
12:20PM: So Barack gives his speech. It was basically the JJ (Jefferson-Jackson) Dinner speech, mixed in with some other stuff, for example he defended his Health-Care plan "Do not let anyone tell you that we can't cover everybody" knowing Hillary might take a dig at his Health Care Plan later on in the day (of course Hillary never spoke due to the hostage crisis). You see, I know most of Barack's speeches by heart and can recite almost word for word his stump speeches through the year; The amazing thing is that there are still people who have never heard his stump speech, or even heard him speak - and therein lies the reason as to why stump speeches are repeated over and over again, and how this man captures new supporters every-time out.
12:30PM: Everyone in the room wasmoved by the speech. There were audible "Amen"s, "Thats Right", "Keep Preaching brother", "Oh my God he is right" and so on. There was also an audible gasp when he mentioned how poll driven politics, triangulation and being worried about what Mitt and Rudy might say "just won't do". My God he was going after Hillary at the DNC. He was challenging The Base. I was quite surprised at his direct tone. But then I thought, He said the same thing at the JJ dinner, so I could only imaging what it would've been like to personally witness the shock on the faces of those attending the JJ dinner.
12:45PM: Barrack was done speaking, and now everyone was anticipating a courtesy visit by Mr. Obama to the over-flow room. Hey we were his supporters and we had been the most passionate and vocal of all the supporters in attendance. I made a move to position myself by the doors of the Kitchen entrance. The same doors JRE had come through. The crowd started to move towards the kitchen doors and everyone started chanting "Fired up, Ready to GO!" and "O O O O Obama!, O O Barack Obama!" alternatively, we chanted for what must have been 15 minutes, when the lady next to me said.."Barack better show up, it would be a big mistake if he doesn't show up, after all Edwards came to say hello to his supporters" I replied "Yeah you're right" praying to God that Barack showed up, because it looked like this lady was about to cry (seriously)...where was Barack?? One of the guys I'd seen banging on the walls with me, actually had the temerity to walk into the kitchen from the over-flow room to see if he could summon Barack or ask about his whereabouts or something (I know it sounds crazy, but these supporters are very passionate). I had climbed onto a table to get an areal shot of the crowd as we waited on Barack. Here's a shot I took:
12:47PM: And then the guy who had walked into the kitchen of the hotel ran out jumping and screaming "He's coming", and the atmosphere all of a sudden took on the personality of a rock concert. And there he was, cameras popping, flash lights blinding me temporarily, check out some of the pictures for yourselves:
notice the Edwards supporters present....
that girl TOOK a hug, she wasn't waiting....
at this point I noticed this older lady had started crying. And then I understood what people meant when they called Obama a "Rock Star". The electricity in the air was palpable. I really cannot explain it. More pics:
These shots do not even begin to capture the sort of frenzy in the room, at this point, it felt like the entire hotel staff had piled into the room, Obama started making his way to the stage...
...and as he did so, I all of a sudden started worrying about security, I was shocked at the access we had to him. That was when one of the Secret Service dudes told me to climb down from my perch on the table. But hey I was gonna get my shots, so I made a b-line toward Obama, I needed to get my shots.....more pics:
Now we're on stage. I said hello to his "Body" man, and kept snapping pics. As I did so I understood why Joe Biden called him "Clean and Articulate", Obama seems too perfect (I know this sounds corny, but when you get up close you might understand). He spoke flawlessly, and everyone was just in awe, I thought about Bobby Kennedy and the frenzy that most have surrounded him in 1968 as he made his Presidential run. This Obama guy truly is a political phenomenon. A phenomenon that I hope is here to stay, because he inspires, I get the feeling that if he asks us to sacrifice for the good of this nation - as President - we will. That was the sort of feeling that coursed through me. I was very inspired by this man. More pics:
the people stare.....
A somber moment, where he told us to ignore the polls and not listen to the news because news reports were going to get worse as Iowa draws nearer...
....he implored that we should just keep making those phone calls, canvass a little harder, spread the word more, because we only have "30 days left", It is going to get tough, people are going to say mean things, they will tell you it can't be done, keep your heads up and forge ahead with our positive message. More pics:
And then he was done speaking, he spoke for about 5 minutes. He looked to hand off the mic, and I said "Here I'll take it", he gave it to me and again for the umpteenth time, thanks all of us profusely for all our help. "Yes" I did feel like a part of this campaign. And then the Secret Service people motion for us to make some room as Barack needed to leave. Here are some pics of him making his way out....
What an experience. The room was full of Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Young, Old...people of all stripes. I was quite pleased. I wandered about to take some more pics. The main auditorium was now empty because the program was in recess, so I thought I'd get some pics of the auditorium:
1:30PM: I felt fulfilled and wandered around to see what else was going on. Was Hillary going to speak? I wanted to stick around to gauge the levels of support for Hillary. Were her supporters going to be as passionate as Barack's? The lobby of the hotel had filled up with a large number of Hillary supporters, A lot of them were women. At this time I had no idea that the Hostage crises was in full play, and did not know that Hillary would not be speaking. Regardless I would not have been able to see her because I got a call from work and remembered that I was playing hookey. Lol! I really did not want to leave, because it felt good to be in an atmosphere of politically like-minded people. The Hillary/Obama/Edwards rivalry is a thing to behold in person. It is very real, and of course most folks were courteous to one another.