What was it like to be at the Democratic Convention with 123 other delegates from Georgia?
The first thing you should know is that all the delegates were elected by Democrats in each of the 14 congressional districts at special elections. We had four delegates, including an alternate, from Augusta. The delegates become a special group and were housed in one of the many hotels assigned by the Democratic National Committee that heads the convention.
WE SHARED our hotel with delegations from Minnesota and South Dakota. The cost of the hotel is borne by each delegate at about $325 per day. Buses assigned to the hotel shuttled us to the convention area, which was about 10 miles away. This meant long waits for the bus and long waits in the bus because of the huge traffic problems, as Charlotte, N.C., was packed with people and cars. We needed a lot of patience.
At 5 a.m. each morning, the delegates’ credentials for admission were delivered by police to Mike Berlon, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. At 7 a.m., each delegate was given the day’s credential, and signed a pledge that they would nominate President Obama at the appropriate time. Breakfast for the whole delegation followed, and we were given instructions on special activities, and when we should be in our seats at Time Warner Cable Arena. Special guests, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, addressed us each day at the breakfast.
Sessions started at 10 a.m. at the convention center. These included every aspect of group interest, such as the Women’s Caucus, where many well-known female elected Democratic officials spoke to about a thousand people in the huge ballroom.
THERE WERE African-American caucuses, Jewish caucuses and prayer caucuses that met during the three days of activities, and many more. Delegates seem to have taken their responsibilities seriously, as most of the many caucuses in the morning and afternoon had large attendance. In addition to the convention center, I attended meetings in hotels close by that had sessions I was interested in.
We were asked to be in our delegation seats by 6 p.m. when the gavel brought the jam-packed arena to order. Some delegates could not find seats. The reason for this were interlopers who decided, since they were taxpayers, they owned a seat. Night after night, they were thrown out, protesting their rights. It was a tawdry time of the convention because it happened to almost every delegation each night.
We sat and cheered as Democrat after Democrat, including Rep. Lewis, came on the platform and issued a singular message: Re-elect Barack Obama. Day after day, we came out of the hall about midnight feeling the spirit that we are going to win. Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were the stars. We agreed we could not have had a better convention; in fact, we felt it was great.
We stumbled into our beds each night about 1:30 to 2 a.m., only to rise early to get our next day’s credential. For those who were hardier than me, they attended parties that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
WHAT MAKES a successful convention? As a veteran now of three conventions, this convention was the best by far because it left us with the motivation and passion to re-elect Obama. This is what a convention is supposed to do. In addition, the speakers who were brought forth were amazingly young, and showed that the
future of the party is bright and exciting.
Kudos to the folks and police in Charlotte who did everything to make us comfortable. By the way, it poured down rain on the Thursday that Obama previously canceled his outdoor acceptance speech. He made a great speech in the roofed arena.
(The writer is chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party.)