Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Unforgettable Experience at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

The hug felt around the world (Wednesday)
MICHELLE! (Monday)
Even now, following four days in Philadelphia, one travel day with a brief stopover in New York City, and one full day to rest and’s still hard to know where to begin.

The #DemsInPhilly experience was just so many things for me: inspirational, emotional, fascinating, intense, exhausting, and ultimately overwhelming. On Monday, I went in determined to cover it as a “serious” blogging journalist, even reporting from the floor before the proceedings began. But by Thursday, my sole mission was to simply hang onto my energy and sanity enough to fully experience the history unfolding before my eyes as an unabashed Democratic fanboy. So be it!

Before I go any further, I want to send out a HUGE thank you to Daily Kos user mconvente (and his housemate) for letting me crash on their downstairs futon for five days straight and being so nice in the process. Also, it was great to have lunch with some of you on Wednesday afternoon, and I only wish we had more time to hang out. And I can’t forget to thank user Onomastic once again for the fundraiser that almost singlehandedly took care of my travel expenses. And also to everyone that has supported Hillary HQ over the past few months. What a great community!

I stepped out of the house on Monday to some of the hottest and stickiest weather imaginable following an intense late-night thunderstorm. Walking around downtown Philly, picking up my credentials and figuring out the subway, I really was a bit concerned about possible dehydration and heatstroke. So when I finally finished the very long walk from the parking lot metal detectors to the inside of the Wells Fargo Center in the early afternoon, I was resolved to not leave the building until the day was done. That basically became my strategy for the rest of the week.
One great thing about arriving early that day was that they actually let me onto the floor itself, and when I first stepped foot there I had a sudden rush of feelings that I don’t think I can properly describe. While there, I was able to see Gabby Giffords rehearse her speech up close, stand a few feet away from NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell as she prepared to report, say hello to a friend in the Texas delegation, and do a live report via Twitter:
From there, I settled into a good seat in the mezzanine and watched the entire 7 ½ hour session without any breaks or meals. Nothing mattered to me except witnessing every moment, and speeches by the likes of Karla Ortiz, Anastasia Somoza, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and especially Michelle Obama (best of the week?) certainly made it worthwhile.
Something that was reaffirmed in this experience is that I’m most definitely an introvert! Because after being in a huge crowd for that long, I couldn’t even imagine going to a bar or any sort of afterparty. The only thing I wanted to do was eat a much-belated dinner on the futon, read some reactions from around the web, possibly write a little something, and pass out. Each of the next three nights resembled the first, and I was perfectly happy about it.

On Tuesday, I immediately ran into Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe in the lobby and asked him if Tim Kaine pretty much locked up his state for Hillary. His response:
Standing with my state (Tuesday)
This turned out to be my only interview during the entire convention. It was just too crazy, and my access was too limited. However, I did have close run-ins with famous folks throughout the week. For instance: Al Sharpton cut through the line right behind me when I was about to order a cheesesteak. I was standing right by the press food tent and witnessed Anderson Cooper preparing a sandwich. I walked right past Carl Levin in the crowded lobby. And I came face-to-face with Dennis Kucinich while crossing the street near City Hall.

I wasn’t able to get onto the floor to cover the roll call Tuesday, but by a great stroke of luck, my home state’s delegation happened to be right next to the main press stands. Standing next to fellow Texans as they gave the vast majority of their delegates to Hillary Clinton, and joining their voices with my own “AYE!” as part of a deafening chorus that officially made her the first woman nominee of a major party in 240 years of American history, was an incredible honor that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In a week of seemingly endless highlights, this one meant the most to me.

To my relief, I was able to get a couple of free beers and cookies in the Facebook Elections bar right after that. But by then it was prime time, and I discovered that finding a decent seat was almost impossible. But somehow I was able to find one just in time for the Mothers of the Movement, Howard Dean, Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton.
I was right: Bill was in peak form and had the arena in the palm of his hand the whole time. Simply masterful!

After Tuesday’s very hectic experience, I made a resolution for the second half of the convention: Get there really early, find the best seat possible and don’t move until it’s over. This meant that writing during the day would be nearly impossible. And as the long, exhausting hours kept piling up, it became increasingly difficult to marshal my brain forces enough to write in the evenings either.

A dream come true! (Thursday)
Luckily, everyone saw what happened the last two days of the convention so I don’t need to tell you how amazing it all was (but if you did miss any of it, I highly recommend this page at However, I was able to snap a few photos and videos as you can see at the top and bottom of this piece. I considered my job those two days to be a witness to history and carry it with me going forward in my life and career. I can say for certain that I made the right choice and don’t regret a single second.

It was far from a “glamorous” experience. I didn’t have my own press area inside the arena and certainly didn’t get to hang out with Rachel Maddow or Dan Rather. And aside from one question to a swing state governor, I didn’t land any big interviews. I also didn’t have anyone to help me cover it, as Lysis unfortunately couldn’t make it.

But you know what? None of that really means much to me now. All that really matters was that I was there to see it all...because who knows when or if such an opportunity will ever arise again.

I consider it an honor and privilege of the highest order to have witnessed the greatest political convention of my lifetime from beginning to end with my own eyes. To be honest, it kinda felt like a four-day victory celebration three months before the actual victory. Why? Because while there was nothing close to complacency or gloating, the feeling that progressives were winning the future in that room in Philadelphia was very real and powerful.

And now that it’s over and we have just 100 days to go, the only thing left to do is actually win this thing.


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