The Power of Politics
Westminster senior Ian Mackey spent
the first week of the Fall 2008 semester
"in class" at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Mackey was selected to attend the convention as a Missouri Delegate.
When I got off my plane in Denver and hopped on the tram to get my luggage next to Maria Shriver and her entourage, I knew it was a good sign of the week to come at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. It was a week that left me feeling euphoric about the American political process. It was also fun to hang out with a few Hollywood celebrities, national recording artists, and television anchors. But I almost didn’t make it!
The week started with the worst shuttle ride of my life. After my driver missed an exit, continued to text while driving, cursed frequently, bumped a mirror on another shuttle waiting in traffic, and stopped to buy a t-shirt in town, I jumped out early before reaching the hotel and dragged all my luggage twelve blocks down to the Pepsi Center so I would not miss Sen. Ted Kennedy’s speech. I was eager and unsure of what to expect, given his recent poor health, but I was blown away. Any doubt of whether he “still had it” was gone after watching him storm onto the stage with a sense of invincibility and immediately command our attention. His voice boomed through the auditorium and never let up. He summarized all of the ideals, virtues, and the core philosophy of the Democratic Party in what seemed like a few short minutes. He defined the progress our Party had made over the last century and passionately described the goals that we all still shared. He instilled a sense of responsibility in each of us and created a bond among everyone in the room by reminding us exactly why we had come to Denver.
Challenging Party Unity
I spent all day Tuesday preparing myself for Hillary’s speech. My fellow Clinton delegates were urging me to sign the petition to enter her name into the roll call vote, and some were urging me to wear a pin in total support of her throughout the convention. I knew it would be a tough day. I had already made the decision to support Party unity, but I still had misgivings about Senator Obama. I knew my strong support for Senator Clinton was going to make it tough for me to get through her speech, and the video tribute from Chelsea didn’t make it any easier. But as it turned out, I had a good talk with Senator Durbin (the other Illinois senator) before the speech that helped cheer me up, and I actually found myself laughing instead of sobbing.
Hillary’s speech was consistently upbeat, motivating, and healed a lot of bitterness on both sides. It was a call to move on, and it made what started as the most divisive day of the convention turn out to be the most unifying. It gave me a very positive energy - which I used to party with the New York delegation at the Rock the Vote concert until it was almost time for breakfast.
Wednesday was intense. It was voting day. Everyone wanted a word with me to make sure my allegiance was still with Party unity, and of course, I assured them it was. My fellow Hillary delegates and I attended a private reception that afternoon to hear her final remarks before the nomination process began. The gathering was a bit awkward and included some boos after she insisted we vote for Senator Obama, but it gave most of us the closure we needed to cast our votes for our second choice.
Immediately after her speech, I walked to the Pepsi Center and voted to nominate Senator Obama for President of the United States. As each state read its votes to Speaker Pelosi, the time came for Illinois, and they chose to pass to the next state. Whether she knew or not, Pelosi acted surprised and immediately the entire convention center was buzzing with guesses about what was coming next. When the time came for New Mexico to read their votes, they passed back to Illinois, who passed to New York as Senator Clinton walked onto the floor. She moved that Barack Obama be nominated by acclamation and that we cease the roll call votes. Speaker Pelosi asked for those in favor, banged the gavel, and with that, Obama was our nominee.
Later that evening we heard from President Clinton, who, if he would have asked, I’m sure could have been nominated by the floor for a third term. In a very moving week, Wednesday was the day that got to me most.
A Wave of Support
When I woke up Thursday to Fox News’ Chris Wallace comparing Obama’s decision to have his speech in an outdoor stadium to Hitler’s crowd-drawing tactics in Germany, I knew it was going to be an eventful day. After attending a reception for Missouri delegates at Union Station on some historic rails cars, we arrived at Invesco Field about five hours before the speech and the line seemed to be over a mile long. From the moment I walked inside, I couldn’t help but feel like the luckiest kid in the world to have the opportunity to witness what was about to happen.
When the sun set, Senator Obama took the stage, and I looked up at 75,000 people waving their flags and roaring in support of the man they wanted to be president. My heart soared and my eyes welled. I could barely force myself to sit during his speech and every word seemed to be more powerful than the last.
The Future & Positive Change
When it was over, my mind raced to the future and I pictured myself reading my kids and grandkids their history books and telling them about the speech I listened to in Denver. I had a different answer for every microphone that asked me what I thought on the way out that night. I couldn’t sum up such an enormous feeling.
I left inspired, and I left with a renewed sense that politics, despite the negative connotations, is noble, humbling, and an effective means of bringing positive improvement to the world.