Monday, September 1, 2008

Reflections on Denver

The convention turned out to be quite an adventure, but not in the way that I expected. A friend who attended in 2004 described the event as “boring speeches, followed by parties.” For me, Denver turned out to be a bit disappointing in the party department—many chats over beers at Denver pubs, but no martinis with Scarlett Johansson—while the speeches and intellectual confab were the highlights.

More than anything I was struck by the genuine passion of the delegates and hangers-on. Past conventions I witnessed on TV always looked fake, as if the participants had been bussed in as props for a giant infomercial. But in Denver, everywhere I went there were people overflowing with thoughts and ideas and hope for what an Obama presidency will mean for the country.

When I heard Dan Rather speak at the Big Tent, he said that if he were covering the convention the story he would have pursued would have been the nexus between money and politics. While I was conscious that in the shadows of the convention, the gears of the corrupt money machine was at work, with lobbyists cashing in their clients’ convention donations for illicit meetings with political powerbrokers, nothing of the sort was visible out in the open. And although I crossed paths with scores of politicians and media stars, my celebrity sightings were few—just Annette Bening on Monday and Spike Lee at Invesco Field. I suspect that more were in attendance but that they were only to be found in the domain of the exclusive parties which were off limits to a mere Economist for Obama.

Of the course the high point was the final day and Obama’s big speech. I was fortunate to score a staff credential which gave me access to the field where the delegates were sitting. When I walked on to the field, I was overwhelmed by the sheer joy of it all. I eventually took a seat with the Texas delegation and just soaked up all the emotion. Here’s are a couple videos that give a sense of what it was like to be there. Apologies for the low quality of the sound! In the first one, I started to film a bunch of delegates dancing to Sheryl Crow’s performance, and as I panned to the left, I found Spike Lee standing next to me, who posed for a shot with the “Texans for Obama” banner. The second is a brief clip from just after Obama walked on stage. Above I've included a photo from during the Obama speech.

On the way back from Obama’s speech, I had a great chat with John Nichols of the Nation magazine, who was thinking through this post, the gist of which is that it’s economic issues Obama needs to focus on to win voters in places like Ohio.

After all this excitement, I need to take a breather from blogging to focus on preparing for teaching duties this fall. We’ve recruited a few new Economists for Obama to blog on the site, so don’t worry—there will plenty of econ4obama coverage in the weeks between now and Election Day.

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