Photo by Cynthia Baughman
Denver, Colorado, August 28
I came to the Convention as a middle-aged female Obama delegate eager to make peace with Hillary women, and I did not get off to a good start. Along with my stack of convention-week party invitations, I’d gotten a letter from NARAL asking delegates to sign an “I’m a Pro-Choice Delegate” pledge, and looking for volunteers to be Pro-Choice Whips in their delegation. One of the Pro-Choice whip’s duties would be handing out the “Yes We Can!” can at Monday’s breakfast: a cute little piece of Convention chum containing a “Yes We Can! Opener,” and a “Pro-Choice, Pro-Obama” button. I stationed myself by the door of our delegation breakfast room on Monday morning and doled out the cans to delegates happy to support reproductive rights and load up on more freebies. But one Hillary stalwart read the label and shoved the can right back at me. “I don’t want anything from NARAL,” she said. “And you should be ashamed of yourself for endorsing him.” Yikes. I’d forgotten that NARAL had infuriated some Clinton supporters by endorsing Obama during the primaries.
Hillary Clinton’s candidacy touched many of her supporters in a very deep way that the rest of us struggle to understand. Adrienne Venson, a convention guest from Maryland told me that a women’s group she belongs to “organized a three-day retreat for formal grieving over losing our candidate, as if Hillary had died. There was not nearly that wringing of handbags and gnashing of teeth when the election was stolen from Al Gore! We just got up the next day and went on. What gives?”
Monday night I watched several clusters of well-heeled, stone-faced Hillary supporters in our delegation who didn’t wave the Obama signs our floor whips distributed, who didn’t rise and applaud when Nancy Pelosi, or Caroline Kennedy or even Ted Kennedy hailed the prospect of an Obama Administration. But when lovely little Sasha and Malia Obama reached for the mic after their mother’s speech to say, “I love you Daddy,” these women smiled, and strained for a better view. Maybe, I thought, this convention will work, after all. We are the generation for whom the personal became the political, and now we are living through a moment in which the political became personal. This week in Denver, doing political work has felt like doing emotional work.