Here is a slideshow of my photos from the 2008 Democratic Convention. I will organize and post videos as soon as I can.
The button in the lower right of this slideshow frame lets you see these full-screen. The “Info On” button at the top lets you see captions.
I think it looks better with a higher resolution if you go to Flickr to see them. AND you can see and download much higher-resolution versions of each pic if you want.
OK, I am avoiding talking about what people are saying at the convention. Part of that is because when I look at a TV screen I see people talking about what people are saying at the convention but not showing you what people are saying at the convention.
But another part of it is that I am “inside the bubble” here and things are flying at me too fast to let me gather up an informed opinion. I know a lot less about what is happening on the stage at the convention than YOU do.
I saw Carl Bernstein on CNN or something either last night or this morning, and he said that media should spend more time covering the convention instead of talking about it. Yep.
I’d like to spend more time covering OR talking about it and less time on half-hour or forty-five-minute walks between events. It is HOT out!
I went to a Blogger BBQ with Howard Dean. It was noce that they threw this for us. But it was on the other side of the convention center, another half-hour walk, and afterwards the Secret Service wouldn’t let any of us back in through that entrance so we all had to walk around the entire perimeter… As I have mentioned, the distances here are vast, making it near-impossible to get from one thing to another.
I’m pretty sure that they noticed that some of the bloggers have been gaining weight, and arranged this convention in a way that requires us to work a lot of it off. They want to keep us healthy so we can keep blogging promoting their candidates — for free of course.
I am uploading a video from this to YouTube as well and will post it here when ready.
This morning in Denver I attended a Seachange Forum panel on messaging titled “Winning Words on the Toughest Issues: National Security, Taxes, Healthcare and Immigration”
This was an excellent panel on how to talk about progressive values and issues in ways that the public “hears.” To really, really simplify the issue, in a 1988 campaign debate between Michael Dukakis and George HW Bush Dukakis was asked, “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” Dukakis replied coolly, “No, I don’t, and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life,” and calmly went on to explain his position.
He was calm and reasoned, but the public needed to see emotion. Emotion, not reason is how people decide what they think about issues and people. It’s just the way it is — it is how our brains work. This is what neuroscientists, psychologists, marketers and others who study how people make up their minds are concluding. You have to connect viscerally or people just won’t “get it.”
So one thing this panel was talking about was how Democratic politicians can reach people through emotions instead of just listing issues. And, fortunately, many Democratic politicians are starting to learn how to say what they say in ways that people hear.
Is this enough?
I used to complain that progressives put all of their efforts into election cycles, hoping for a “messiah candidate” to come along. In Messiah Candidate Thinking I wrote,
I don’t think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.
. . . This right-wing assault has eroded the public’s understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of – and faith in – science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.
Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.
So we have moved a long way, from looking for the “right” candidate who “knows” how to reach the public to come along and save us, to helping many candidates understand how to reach the public.
OK, so progress. But I left the panel feeling like this understanding how to talk to people is still a very reactive approach. It is still catching up to the right, and trying to come up with magic slogans that will suddenly turn the public in our favor. It is good, it is important, it is a start. But it’s still a search for a quick fix.
I think the answer is long term. We ust have to go through the hard slog of building a movement. We need to build and fund an infrastructure of organizations that reach out to the public, explaining the benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues, and of voting for progressive candidates. It is going to take years and decades to help people understand why one-person-one-vote democratic solutions work better for everyone than conservative one-dollar-one-vote approaches. It is going to take a long time for people to remember why we’re-all-in-this-together is better than -everyone-on-their-own, in it for ourselves approach. They’re way sounds great but it is a food chain with a very few at the top, and the rest of us end up as the food. We need to spend the time and effort to help the public understand that again.
It requires a movement and a lot of work, not a quick fix.
Note — on the panel were: John Neffinger (Truman Security Project Communications, Formerly Director of Communications & Outreach at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Public Speaking and Body Language Consultant), Dr. Drew Westen (Author of the “The Political Brain”), Richard Kirsch (Campaign Manager of Healthcare for America Now and Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York) and Stan Greenberg (Political Pollster and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research). This was one of the Seachange Forum’s panels going on at the Starz Green Room.
(I’m helping Seachange by leting people know about these events at the convention.)
One problem that many people attending this convention are forced to deal with is the sheer distance between events. First, getting from the airport into town is a very expensive cab ride with few other choices.
I was immediately struck that there is no light rail system out to the airport! I don’t understand how a major airport near a major city could have been planned and built without incorporating light rail from the start. Of course, this was all done in the unfortunate oil/car-dominated era that we are all working to end…
In town convention events are vast distances apart. Even inside the security perimeter itself things are far apart. It is a long walk in the sun to get from the Pepsi Center to the Tivoli, where the Starz Green Room is. It is a very long walk from the Big Tent to the Starz Green Room. Etc.
Getting my official convention credentials this morning meant taking a cab for miles, to a hotel in another part of town. (Long lines, waiting, waiting…) And then there were no cabs available to take me back. Miles and miles… There was a free city “16th street mall” shuttle that helped part of the way.
So this is a problem with this convention. Having things far apart might be OK if there was some way to get from one place to another. You can’t have a car here but everything seems to require that you do.
And of course in the larger picture this is the problem with the way America has built up its housing/mall/freeway infrastructure. You have to have a car, period, or you cannot participate in the modern America except in a few larger cities that have well-thought-out transportation. This requirement that you have a car imposes a certain cost on people. But there are plenty of people who can’t meet those costs and are forced to drop out of participation. So look what happened in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Many people simply could not evacuate because they did not have their own cars, and there was no real transportation available otherwise.
America has created distances between people, classes, and even physical distance requirements that work against us in the long run. This kind of approach, where you can’t participate if you can’t afford your own car is anti-democracy. In the case of this convention, it was just dumb.