lessons from America

Denver Diary – Thu 28 Aug

Protests, marches, queues, crowds and speeches sums up my day.  Sunburn and aching feet too, but they are hazards of the job. More soon, just some sleep needed first.

Update: here’s my story from this historic day, as promised. 

I had somewhere to be this morning: a locally-organised Obama march. As I wasn’t expecting to get into Invesco stadium for the Obama rally later in the day, I wanted to at least meet some non-Convention Obama supporters and also participate myself in a show of solidarity. The added bonus was that the march route would take me to the gates of the stadium – so I’d get a chance to see the venue and maybe some of the early build-up the evening’s rally.

The starting point for the march was Lincoln Park – another base for ‘Recreate 68’ activities. Arrived just as another march was coming to its destination at the park and turning into a rally with music and speeches. As far as I could tell, the main protest was about the treatment of immigrants, but there were some other elements too. Never worked out what the ‘constitution group’ was all about though, but it was a pretty impressive piece of protest artwork.


In one corner of the park, conspicuously separate from the other activities going on, were a group of Obama supporters gathering for the march. Some people, including these two women from the Denver area, had made their own, personal and meaningful placards. The organisers had also made handmade signs for those of us who arrived empty-handed.


And so, a group of maybe 50 of us set off, led by the‘Obama-car’ – the ultimate in fan-modding! Being an officially-sanctioned march along the designated parade route, the main highway (Colfax) was closed in one direction for us, and so we had a traffic-free and rather pleasant walk towards the stadium. En route there was plenty of cheering and placard-waving as the oncoming traffic generally responded positively and honked their horns or waved at us. I chatted to a couple of the marchers: locals who were supporting Obama for foreign policy, pro-science and ’change’ reasons. Not everyone was true believers: at least one had been a Hillary supporter and against Obama before he was for him.


The march took us round the outer perimeter of Invesco stadium and to the ‘protest pen’ – a sea of chainlink fences set out in a parking lot. Once there, a few words of thanks were given and the organiser ended with a pro-Obama rap which he had first seen on Youtube. It was a much lower key, smaller event than I had been hoping for; but it was rather moving to see these ‘ordinary folks’ (as opposed to the politicos / hardcore activists) so fired up and self-mobilising.


Since I was now in spitting distance of Invesco (a not advisable activity given the amount of police), I wanted to hang around there, awaiting news of whether my ticket quest had been successful. So to kill time I had a look at all the merchandise stalls – some crazy stuff being sold, most of which I avoided buying.


Finally at 2pm the call came in to say my new mate from Indiana had come up trumps with a pass for me. Still scope for problems though. My guy didn’t arrive to the vicinity of the stadium til after 5pm and then headed to a completely separate entrance from me This was after I’d done my fair share of queuing and hanging around in the hot sun. In the end the ticket was left with a volunteer called Abi, who was checking passes. I had to first jog a mile or so to find her checkpoint and then ask around to work out who she was. Such a relief to finally locate her – and my pass.

In the meantime the crowds and the queues kept on growing. I hadn’t experienced anything like that mass of people trying to get into one place since my 8 hour madness waiting in line to file past the Queen Mum’s coffin! The Brits did it better on that occasion. For here the DNC seemed to have under-estimated the logistical challenges, especially the hot weather and miles of queues. It took several hours for free water to start to be provided, and little provision seemed to be in place for those with mobility issues or who didn’t have the stamina to queue.


August 29, 2008 Posted by | Denver Diary | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hollowing out on both sides of the Atlantic

Here’s an account (courtesy of Kos, and first published in Washington Post way back in 2006) of what happened to the Democrat party in the US during Bill Clinton’s time in office. Substitute Labour for Democrat and Blair for Clinton, and you have a rough approximation of what has happened here. It suggests the perils of following a First-Past-the-Post electoral strategy.

Democrats haven’t won more than 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election since 1976. Heck, we haven’t won more than 50.1 percent since 1964. And complicit in that failure was the only Democrat to occupy the White House since 1980: Bill Clinton. Despite all his successes — and eight years of peace and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at — he never broke the 50-percent mark in his two elections. Regardless of the president’s personal popularity, Democrats held fewer congressional seats at the end of his presidency than before it. The Democratic Party atrophied during his two terms, partly because of his fealty to his “third way” of politics, which neglected key parts of the progressive movement and reserved its outreach efforts for corporate and moneyed interests.

While Republicans spent the past four decades building a vast network of small-dollar donors to fund their operations, Democrats tossed aside their base and fed off million-dollar-plus donations. The disconnect was stark, and ultimately destructive. Clinton’s third way failed miserably. It killed off the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party and, despite its undivided control of the party apparatus, delivered nothing. Nothing, that is, except the loss of Congress, the perpetuation of the muddled Democratic “message,” a demoralized and moribund party base, and electoral defeats in 2000, 2002 and 2004.


NB This post first published on the MMVC blog 20 March 2008

August 22, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment