by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
September 4, 2008
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
AT THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, DENVER, Aug. 28, 2008 -- The Democratic Party celebrated its hard-fought choice of a presidential nominee with world-class music, triumphal speeches and a mile-high fireworks display that mirrored the powerful emotions on display at Invesco Field in Denver as the first African-American in American history accepted the party's nomination with "profound gratitude and great humility."
Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) accepted the party's nomination for President of the United States to thunderous applause, tears of joy and near-rapturous adulation as he told a global television audience and 80,000 Democrats that "Now is the time" to address problems from failing education to soaring foreclosures, from spotty health care to bankruptcy reform," with the energy and innovation he said is inherent in the American spirit.
Late-night revelers sporting patriotic shirts, colorful hats and buttons and Americans flags thronged Denver's chic downtown streets after Obama's acceptance speech. Unlike Wednesday night, the energy was palpable, and perhaps the best evidence that Democrats will leave Denver with a genuine sense of possibility engendered by their unlikely and gifted candidate.
One happy celebrant was Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who has spent the last year traveling the country raising money for the Democratic National Convention. Thursday night at the Wyncoop Brewery, where dozens cheered his entrance, he was cheered again as he downed a "shooter."
"It's been the best time of my life," said Hickenlooper. "I'm very happy with how it turned out," he told The American Reporter. Beside him, Tuesday's acclaimed keynote speaker, Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, charged into the bar crowd shaking hands and taking photos with all who asked. It was a remarkable moment of openness in the aftermath of a convention that has been drenched with an expensive, tedious and frustrating security regime that proved unnecessary. Federal officials had given $50 million in taxpayer funds to each of the mainstream parties for security preparations. As late as two weeks before the start of the convention, fund-raising totals were well below expected benchmarks, but the DNC Host Committee finally raised the money needed, even with the added expense of moving the convention from the Pepsi Center, a basketball arena with a 17,000 seat capacity, to Mile High Stadium, the home of the Denver Broncos, with four times the capacity.
The open air venue filled all day Thursday with 80,000 ticket holders, some of whom had been in line since early Thursday morning, all eager to be part of history and to witness one of the most electrifying Presidential candidates in recent memory.
"It's time for us to change America," the former Illinois state senator exhorted the crowd. "America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done."
Inside the stadium, under clear, star-studded skies, and in places as varied as Angel's Mexican Restaurant, a home in suburban Columbia, Md. and at a CNN watch party in New York's revitalized Times Square, supporters cheered wildly, cried, laughed and gave their hearts to a candidate who for many Americans has authored new dreams full of hope and the promise of change.
Sketching briefly the challenges the nation faces in the four years ahead, Sen. Obama said "We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.
"Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars that you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.
"These challenges are not all of government's making," he acknowledged. "But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of [President] George W. Bush."
Addressing America's dependence on foreign oil and the high price of gasoline, Obama renewed his promise to end that dependence within 10 years by shifting $150 billion in funding for wind, solar and biolectric fuels. Strangely, he omitted hydrogen, which the Dept. of Energy said July 17 is expected to replace oil entirely by 2050. Inventors, manufacturers and users of on-board hydrogen generators, or HHO kits, say they are the only way to rapidly reduce dependence on foreign oil in the next few years without filling stations. Plans for the low-cost, unpatented kits are widely available on the Internet.
"America," Obama said, "now is not the time for small plans."
The John McCain campaign issued a press release deploring the speech. "Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama," campaign manager Tucker Bounds said. "When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way. The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be President."
The speech, once again a daring and utterly critical one for a candidate that America has not had a chance to get to know well, was delivered with more cadence and clarity than the electrifying keynote address he made to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. His rhythms had deepened and his diction was improved, and he used the magnificent language of several passages to their fullest. Many of those informally polled by the American Reporter afterwards said the speech met their expectations and reached the goals the campaign set for it - to reacquaint Americans with Obama, to spell out the changes he intends the country to make, and to directly rebut the charges the McCain campaign has made against him.
The 2004 convention nominated Sen. John F. Kerry - this year a key supporter of Sen. Obama - who came to his aid when the Illinois senator's remarkable fortunes briefly waned under withering fire from conservatives over his ties to a radical Chicago pastor, whom Obama was eventually forced to disown in a critically acclaimed speech on race relations in Philadelphia.
With Kerry came Sen. Ted Kennedy, presidential daughter Caroline Kennedy, and Maria Shriver, the wife of the present Republican Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lifting him through a rough patch with their broad popularity, they helped to ensure that Obama would go on to win the nomination, buoyed by crowds that grew exponentially, it seemed.
After defeating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former First Lady who many expected to win the party's nomination without significant opposition, in 32 primaries (Clinton won 23), Obama strode with an easy confidence to the center stage of American politics, suddenly, unexpectedly and decisively the unchallenged hope of his party.
After the primaries, Obama spoke to more than 200,000 people in Berlin, and dozens of the Germans who listened there came to the United States Thursday night to listen to him again and join his large staff of volunteers.
Millions of new young Democrats who voted or will vote for the first time in November gave him broad personal and financial support that now remains the recurring nightmare of Republican party strategists.
All else being equal, it was not likely Obama could defeat war hero and three-term U.S. Sen. John McCain, but the massive influx of new, eager voters attracted by Obama's campaign into the Democratic Party has changed a near-static equilibrium that persisted through two decades of Republican power ushered in by Ronald Reagan and consolidated by Newt Gingrich to an ignominious end in the final term of President Bush.
Speaking of McCain, Obama said "For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most, and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is: you're on your own," he said.
Entertained by music luminaries like Stevie Wonder, the crowd sat through hours of speeches and other presentations from 9 AM, when they first began to line up, to after 8 PM, when Obama's 44-minute speech began. The weather was extremely nice, with temperatures hovering just below 80 most of the day. The campaign had placed water bottles labeled "Change We Can Believe In" throughout the serpentine pathway to the stadium.
At 7 PM, the huge line of supporters entering the stadium through several winding miles of asphalt paths and parking lots and met by high-level security finally came to an end. Hundreds waited there at the last public gate in the vain hope they would be admitted when people stopped coming, but only those with tickets or official convention credentials were allowed in. Two American Reporter Correspondents who had signed up for press and community credentials months ago never received either and were turned away.
The far upper right field bleacher seats appeared to be near empty as the line finally straggled to its end, but that was deceptive. There was not a single seat available in the stadium when Obama was introduced by his Illinois colleague, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
Some of those turned away luckily found a Mexican sports bar with wide, high windows that overlooks the field in a building that also was hosing a temporary Al-Jazeera studio. After a Latin band was persuaded not to play during the CNN report, the restaurant quickly became thronged with enthusiastic Obama supporters.
They watched the events at Invesco Field a few hundred yards away on giant screens normally reserved for sports - until the fireworks began. Then they thronged the windows and cheered the spectacular display.
American Reporter Correspondent Ted Manna is based near Denver, where he has covered convention activities and the presidential primary campaign for the past year. Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter and is in Denver for his fourth convention.