The modern Democratic party is built on the ideals of equality and unity. Bringing people together no matter who they are. With Barack Obama running for president, this theme is more important and in the spotlight than ever. So why aren't the Democrats practicing what they preach at the DNC?
There has been an interesting disconnect between the Democratic message and the Democratic practice here at the DNC in Denver. From the arbitrary division of passes into the convention to the attitudes of certain people participating in the convention, it seems to be contrary to the message the Dems are attempting to convey.
In her speech on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton said of Barack Obama: "He knows government must be about 'we the people' not 'we the favored few.'" And in Joe Biden's speech on Wednesday, he said that his mother always said, "Everyone is equal and everyone is equal to you." Then why, in important political processes, are some people placed above others? It was a step in the direction of true unity and equality to open up the final night of the convention to the public, but what about more intimate affairs? Wouldn't the people who are in Denver for the DNC love more question-and-answer sessions with the speakers? More open access to people and events that interest them?
But it goes beyond access... it's also about attitude. Does the person standing next to you in the Pepsi Center line thinking you look like a dirty hippie, or just another conventioneer excited to be experiencing this monumental event? Should a someone who wants to participate in "the political process" have to look a certain way? Dress a certain way? What if you can't afford a pantsuit and hat?
Ay, there's the rub...
At some point along the way, we decided that we are different from someone else. Maybe it's because of skin color. Or language. Or gender. Or age. Or sexuality. But in the Democratic Party, where the previous items are viewed as issues we have fought, and won, what divides us is what unites the Republicans: money. Money, power, and now, celebrity.
At the Ritz-Carlton downtown, one DNC visitor was overheard saying, "I don't have to put up with this! I have money!" in response to a question from the concierge. Two men in a rented SUV with "press" tags up in all of the windows nearly hit my car when they came zooming through an alley, not bothering to yield to traffic already in the street.
While waiting in line to get into the Pepsi Center compound on Tuesday night, a woman and man, dressed more for a polo match at the country club then, well, anything else, pushed ahead of me in the line. I noticed that they wore hall passes that said "honored guest" on them and that they also bore Vail Resorts credentials. As they attempted to squeeze further up in line, I heard the woman say, "I can't believe there's only one line and that we are expected to stand here with these people." First, I wanted to kick them. Then to scream. Then to mess up the woman's perfectly smooth, white hair. I did none of these things. Instead, I just stood and stewed.
When I was finally able to see the entrance of the security tent, I also spotted a friend of mine hiking towards the back of the line. I waved her and her coworker to come over. We hugged and hadn't even said "hello" when a security guard told them they needed to go to the back of the line. In the spirit of comprehensive honesty, I have to admit that I was going to allow them to cut, but they left to go to the back without argument. Barely a minute later, and under the watchful gaze of the same security officer, a young woman joined her friends in line. He didn't say a word. I saw that she was wearing a coveted green, or floor, pass. I was irritated. But not nearly as upset as when we were finally funneling into the tent, and another floor pass-holder was admitted in front of us, absolutely no questions asked.
Everyone is more important than someone else.
Who gets what passes? More important, who determines who it is that gets a certain pass? Why are some people "special" guests while others are "honored" guests? And what does that even mean?
The distinction is arbitrary, at best. I saw "special" guests sitting in better seats than "honored" guests and vis versa. One of the other press people at the Pepsi Center Tuesday night said she thought that "honored" guests gave money, whereas "special" guests were people who worked on the campaign or convention. That seemed to jive with what I was witnessing.
It's great that the Democratic Party, or at least Barack Obama, wants to unite America - Democrats and Republicans. But shouldn't they concentrate on their own party, first?
There is a film festival in town called the Impact Film Festival, which highlights films with themes of social awareness (and films I'd rather like to see), requires that one not only have a pass to get into the DNC, but also have a Starz Green Room pass. So, if you're not one of the privileged few who was able to get credentials, you will have to hope the films are released on DVD, which is unlikely unless they are picked up by a distributor.
We attended a party Tuesday night. It was in the Mile High Station, below Mile High Stadium. We hung out, relaxed, and enjoyed just taking a break from the political chaos outside. Even here, however, there was elitism. There was general entry and there was VIP. And when the performer of the evening, Nellie, arrived, those who were trying to leave were cordoned inside as he made his leisurely way from the limo, as if we were going to jump him or something if we were allowed out as he came in. While not necessarily a DNC event, it demonstrates the attitude of some who call themselves Democrats.
What these Democrats who make themselves feel important by spending money and gaining access to areas that the "general public" are forbidden from is that, on election day, one vote is no better than another. They may not like the idea that they are on "those people's" (meaning all of us) level, it's a fact that they'll have to deal with; they're human, just like everyone else.
"If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" - Shylock, The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare.
Or, in simpler terms:
"A person's a person, no matter how small." - Horton Hears a Who, Dr Seuss.
The "magic" Democrat who has truly leveled the playing field? President Bill Clinton. The man treated and treats everyone as his equal. When he is speaking to you, you are the only person in the world. When a group of 100 high school students requested an audience with him in 1999, not only did he entertain them, he told his aides to move his most important appointment to the morning. The students met with him around 10am. The Israeli Prime Minister had to wait until 2pm. That is the kind of man that he is.
So why doesn't his party, the party that he represented for eight years, follow suit?
That brings me to the ultimate irony. The ultimate revenge for those of us who bleed and laugh and die just like those who dress better as they do it. Who has the best job at the DNC? Who can get consistantly closest to the politicians, the celebrities, and still wear comfortable clothes doing it? I can tell you, it's not the head of the DNCC, nor is it the multitude of assistants and press that are constantly attached to the politician's sides. It is the cord holder for the stage videographer. His only job is to make sure that the camera cord does not get tangled or tripped on, and he spends the entire convention feet from the speakers. So, despite the elitists in their fancy clothes and celebrities in their tinted-window cars, it is not the guy with his finger on "the button", but the guy who holds the camera cord who I am really jealous of.
All images and text © Devon Adams 2008