The climate in Charlotte could not have been better. Wait.. It IS true that the heat was humid and sticky, and that at any moment it rained, skies unleashed lightning, which I can tell you can be easily compared with the much colder Bogotá. To avoid confusion, it might be better to say it this way: the political climate in Charlotte could not have been better.
That’s because this city, the largest North Carolina -larger even than the capital, Raleigh- sheltered from Tuesday through Thursday at the Democratic National Convention, and consequently, walking its streets was encountering smiling faces and people that, on their clothing, can carry the face of their candidate in one button, or 50.
Themes, songs and slogans came together in a kaleidoscope that was sometimes funny and other solemn. Take, for example, Joseph McGimpsey, a Washington state delegate who I found in the sand Time Warner Cable (TWCA), the basketball arena in which Bill Clinton delivered the nomination speech Wednesday.
At noon, some eleven hours before Clinton started talking, Joseph was there because, among the 20,000 seats in the venue, he was convinced to have the best. About 10 meters from the podium, this Native American, spiritual leader of the ethnic Makah, began by saying that probably would not use profanity, provided we do not talk about “the fucking Republicans.”
McGimpsey, red shirt and black vest, wore buttons with the colors of his candidate, his party, his union and his status as Native American. He also wore a hat that expresses a controversial Makah tradition of his people: whaling. He came to Charlotte -he explained- to represent his tribe and “an incredible number of brothers and sisters who want to be included in this process,” he said.
Stating that he is and will be Democrat because the party believes, as he, in the pursuit of happiness, equality and opportunity, the leader said that, for him, the convention is the opportunity to attend a dialogue that is at the same time internal, when delegates from around the country discuss their interests, and external, when leaders selected for this purpose come before the crowd and before the cameras to tell the country what they believe.
Latin America, ‘no te rajes’
The speeches were, by far, the highlight of the convention. They always are. The party’s supporters could hear, over three days, nearly a hundred speakers from ‘sacred cows’, as Bill Clinton, to rising figures like Julian Castro, Joseph Kennedy III and even the’ Mom -in-Chief ‘, Michelle Obama.
The list of speakers was as diverse as the audience in the stands: an female Iraq veteran who walks with prostheses on both legs and is pursuing a seat in Congress, a mother whose seriously ill daughter owns her health coverage to ‘Obamacare’, a firefighter, an actor … There was a time for women to the LGBT community, a time for African Americans and, this year, many, many times for Latin Americans.
The Latino participation became everpresent: common Spanish phrases were heard in many speeches as were many Hispanic names as the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, and Nydia Velazquez, a New York representative. They were joined on Wednesday by TV host Cristina Saralegui. All called for Latinos to be, once again, a key Democratic victory. Even Kennedy surprised the audience with a ‘Jalisco, no te rajes’.
The nod to Latino voters is obvious, and the convention was an ideal place to make it visible. Colombian journalist Holman Machuca, Telemundo, explains: “The convention is about exposure through the media, and especially television. The idea is to show, in prime time, and now, in social networks, which is the party’s platform. Democrats are seeking the Latino vote and therefore was a more visible role for them in this convention than in others. In the Republican they had Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and he was almost the only one. “
The major news networks broadcasted from the suites around the arena several times each hour. Local and international media competed to find an angle, a quote, a fact that has not yet been exploited by fifty other logos. The press was EVERYWHERE, and whether you were inside or outside the precincts of the convention, you always had to be careful not to cross in front of someone’s recording camera.
Fame and fortune
But probably the most interesting aspect of this convention occured behind the scenes. Away from the noise of the TWCA, in uptown offices in this, the second largest banking center in the US, there were meetings, dinner parties, designed to win support and/or raise funds.
Some of the acts were ‘public’, but only those who donate large sums of money can attend. While everyone who contributed to the campaign were invited to a toast with President Clinton in the hall of fame of Nascar, to ensure entry to a breakfast with the first lady, you had to donate amounts closer to the maximun of $ 75,800.
But not everything was smiles and praises. The city also received dozens of demonstrators opposed to Obama’s policies on issues ranging from abortion to gay marriage.
One was this anonymous prophet, dressed in what can only be described as a bag on a gray shirt. A small piece of fabric allows to guess he was using a tie with the stars and stripes of the American flag. In his left hand, a Bible; in the other, a banner raised above his head. The blood red sign with black and white letters called the nation to “repent of the sins of abortion, adultery and homosexuality because Judgment Day is coming”. As you approached, you could notice that ¨coming¨ was crossed out and above it, he had written, in black marker: “HERE”.
But few are likely to have read that sign when there were so many stars out there. To the confirmed appearances of John Leguizamo, Jeff Bridges, Ashley Judd, Kal Penn and Lisa Edelstein were added they beautiful faces of Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johanson.
But the real star of the convention, obviously, was Barack Obama, wo spoke on Thursday evening before a arena that was packed with supporters, looking strong despite criticism of his administration’s accomplishments. The crowd wouldn’t stop cheering and clapping, seizing every chance to repeat a chant that is both their hope and their battle song: “Four more years.”