I'm back in Raleigh and collecting my thoughts about the Democratic National Convention for an Indy story next week. My logistics in Charlotte were tricky and didn't leave time for blogging after Monday morning.
For six hours Tuesday, 5-11 p.m., I listened to speeches. Good speeches. Some great speeches. And a few speeches that moved me like nothing I've heard in politics for I don't know how many years.
For the first time since maybe Ted Kennedy in 1980, Democrats spoke from the heart, without a lot of weasel words or hedging. They just laid it out there, what they're for. If you agree, they want your vote. If you don't, they hope you'll come around, but they're ready to go on anyway. I loved Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's line (and speech): It's time for Democrats to grow a backbone. Yes, and they're doing it.
I'll try to convey what this experience was for me when I sit down to write for paper. And I'll try to convey what it felt like for the delegates in Charlotte, and for thousands of other Democrats who were there as well, because I have to say, the sense in Charlotte was that the Democratic Party was finally, wonderfully, baring its soul.
And then, of course, last night it was Elizabeth Warren, who's a heroine in the party, and the great and powerful Bubba, Bill Clinton, for whom all is forgiven or forgotten — even the Republicans (I watched a little TV this morning) don't seem to remember that they impeached him. Clinton just ripped the Republican Party to shreds, as only a man who's been through hell and emerged stronger for it could've done.
When I woke up this morning, I jotted down the elements of what I want to say, without any clear idea of how I'm going to say it. Now that I'm able to sit at a desk with a computer and wifi and it's quiet (wow, this convention was seriously noisy), I can type it up.
What was it about this 46th Democratic National Convention? It was —
1. Women. They were front and center. They were stars. They are the party. Not represented at the party; no, at this convention, women were the Democratic Party as much as men were. I mentioned Warren. Lilly Ledbetter killed. Michelle Obama killed. But it wasn't just a few gender representatives. Women were in leadership roles, supporting roles, they were equal, and women's health issues weren't just brought up, they were fundamental.
2. Abortion. The A-word was used. Frequently. If women have a right to abort a pregnancy, then the word must be said — not choice, not reproductive rights, not any of the euphemisms employed throughout my adult life. No, the medical procedure is called an abortion. It's legal, and as NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan said so powerfully Tuesday night, women are entitled to a safe abortion with dignity if they want one.
3. Gays. Gay rights and LGBT Democrats were, like women, given the kind of prominence and embraced by the party in a way that would've seemed like a dream four years ago. I teared up worse than John Boehner.
4. Latinos. A DREAM teamer, undocumented and unafraid, spoke to the convention. The keynoter was a Latino. The convention chairman was a Latino. And, as with women and gays, the list goes on. Democrats didn't "target" the Latino vote. Democrats ARE the Latino vote, and the gay vote and the women's vote. And the education vote. (Can the Republican Party really win with only white male voters? Maybe in 2012. But never again.)
5. Public Education. We can't have a great economy without a great education system, and if it's to be a great system for all, it must be a public system. The point was made so repeatedly, and so well. And it was made by example: Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx; Newark Mayor Cory Booker; San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. And I'm not remembering half the folks who got up and said, my mother worked with a mop ... without a good education in a public school, I'd have a mop too.
6. Public investment. The point that a strong private sector rests on a strong public foundation of schools, roads, research, and all the other public systems that contribute to the common good shouldn't have to be made. But in light of the Republicans' "I built it by my own self" mentality, it did need to be made, and it was, with — again — so many great examples of enterprises started by people who had help from the rest of us. Pay it forward, from generation to generation. That used to be a Republican ideal.
7. Diversity. An old word. It once meant black ... African-American. It still does in the Republican Party, where the handful of African-Americans willing to say they're in the GOP are trotted out at convention time. At this Democratic convention, so many of the stars were (are) of color that their color didn't register with me right away . Deval Patrick, Foxx, Booker, and Michelle Obama all gave speeches that rated in the top 10, and that's a high bar given that Ted Strickland, Lilly Ledbetter, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Keenan and Bill Clinton gave blockbusters. Democratic leaders are black, brown, white, gay, straight, old, young, men, women — really.
8. Obamacare. Health care for all Americans is important. It's crucial. With education, it's the mark of a civilized society. Obamacare's kind of clunky, a framework for progress as much as it is a program. But it is universal. And the days of pre-existing conditions are behind us — and I think that's the case regardless who wins the presidential election. Universal health care's time has come.
9. Cooperation. Clinton hit it this idea so beautifully; listen to him in the first half of his speech last night, before he decimated the Republicans for their deceitful campaign and their refusal to cooperate or compromise about anything. I learned a long time ago (yes, I worked for business then), stuff gets done when you put partnerships together. True then. True now.
10. I don't have a 10. I wish campaign finance reform, an end to the idiocy of Citizens United, and an all-out assault on greed and the amorality of corporate socialism (!) could've made the list. But aside from Elizabeth Warren, the idea that corporations aren't people and don't live, love or take care of each other like people do wasn't brought up nearly enough, or nearly strongly enough. Nor did peace make the list.
And then there's Jobs. 8 percent unemployment. Tens of millions unemployed or underemployed, with wage rates falling so that even full-tme workers have trouble feeding their families.
The convention so far has been about who Democrats are, what's in their hearts and what they want for our country and the world.
But only Barack Obama can lay out a second-term plan for putting America back to work and back at the helm of world peace, prosperity and humanity. Which I hope he will tonight. I'll be watching in Raleigh.