Democratic Convention Diary (Day 1): Philly Welcome, D.C. Expectations

PHILADELPHIA — The last time there was a convention in Philadelphia, it was 2000. That year, it was the Republicans. They nominated George W. Bush, and he picked Dick Cheney to be his running mate. We all know what happened in election year 2000. Al Gore chose Joe Lieberman and that ticket won the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes, but supposedly lost the election.

The Democrats last met here in a tumultuous year, 1948. They nominated President Harry S. Truman, and he picked Alben Barkley as his running mate. The party was split from both the left and the right. There was a walkout of the Dixiecrats led by then Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. This after the young mayor of Minneapolis, Hubert H. Humphrey, made a stirring and eloquent speech advocating a civil rights plank in the party platform.

Henry Wallace, FDR’s second vice president, led a revolt from the left. In fact, there were four separate conventions in Philadelphia in 1948. The other one was the GOP convention, which nominated Tom Dewey. His running mate was Earl Warren, the Governor of California who later went on to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

That’s enough historic trivia for now.

Last night, there was a wonderful welcoming reception sponsored by the City of Philadephia. It was a perfect location: the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In this illustrious setting, everyone took pictures from the “Rocky” steps with the Philadelphia skyline as the backdrop. There were plenty of cheese steaks to devour.

In attendance, some blasts from the past: former lieutenant governor of Maryland and former candidate for governor Kathleen Townsend Kennedy, as well as former Washington Bullet and University of Maryland basketball star and U.S. Rep. Tom McMillan.

At the D.C. delegation breakfast this morning, the speaker was Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Four years ago, she was not allowed to speak in Charlotte. This year she will speak, but definitely not in prime time. Four years ago, the speaker at the breakfast was — of all people —the chair of the Democratic National Committee — Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This time, she has been pushed out and humiliated. Norton hugged her last time.

The hugging did not seem to help D.C.’s seating arrangement. Just like four years ago, D.C., which has more registered Democrats — at 76 percent — than any other state, is sitting “in the rafters” (the words of party counsel Don Dinan).

Norton made a big deal about how Hillary Clinton will be a champion for D.C. statehood. She quoted Clinton’s words, published in the Washington Informer before the D.C. primary. Norton’s most memorable line was: “We got it in writing. We are going to hold her to it.”

I am going to hold Norton to her own statement.

She went on to say that Clinton “wants to carry statehood into the White House.” Norton has been herself the major obstacle. She talks a good game but doesn’t do anything but talk. In 2014, she refused even to contact Democratic senators to vote for the D.C. statehood bill. 

The real test for the D.C. delegation is this: Will any other speaker in their remarks say the words “D.C. statehood” in their speeches. Will Bernie Sanders? Will Michelle Obama? They are the featured speakers tonight.

Donna Brazile, D.C. resident, will be the DNC chair. Will she actually push and elevate this issue? I seriously doubt it. (Surprise me, Donna.)

Tonight, Senator Elizabeth Warren will speak. Much is expected of her. Will she sparkle? 

All the talk is about the CNN poll which shows Trump getting a bounce from his convention and leading now. And, of course, about the ejection of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. One D.C. delegate called her “Debby nobody.”

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