Monday, August 25
Good Omen: the people sitting in front of me on the plane read The Nation! Anna and Russ from Washington DC are coming to the convention as tourists. Apparently a lot of people are doing this. Who knew? Anna and Russ are huge Obama fans, and (like everyone I will meet today) are confident he will win in November. For extra fun they’ve brought along their two year old, Juliet. Brave souls. “What do you say about George Bush?” says Anna, using her singsong mommy voice. “Do you remember what we call George Bush?” I imagine it’s something not too favorable, but Juliet, who has clearly already begun her life in politics, just gives a diplomatic smile.
You’re not supposed to write about interviewing cabbies, which is too bad because the extremely good-looking and cheerful Somali driver who takes me into downtown Denver has a lot of interesting things to say about American intervention in Africa that I’ll just keep to myself. But I have to report that, like most of the taxi drivers I’ve met in the last year, he’s for Obama. “America used to be admired all over the world. It’s fixable! If foreign policy changes, America is America again.” Put that way, it sounds so simple. “If he loses, it’s because of race. When people say ‘we don’t know who he is’ — that’s race. When people say, ‘he’s really a Muslim’ — that’s race. He went to a Christian church for twenty years, but he’s really a Muslim? What kind of a Muslim is that?” Not for the first time, I’m struck by how many ordinary people not only have as much political acumen as most pundits, but have learned to talk like them too. Why can’t this driver go on TV, and Chris Matthews drive a cab?
While waiting to check in at the Comfort Inn, I look around for possible interviews. “Are you a delegate?’ I ask a well-padded, carefully-casually-dressed man who is visibly suppressing his annoyance at the slowness of the check-in process. He smiles at my naivete. “Major Donor.” While trying to fathom the mindset of someone who would describe himself this way–donor, ok, but major donor? Isn’t that a little vain?–I latch on to Jeffrey and Brian, who look to be in their late forties, and tag along with them to the Convention Center for the Gay Caucus meeting, already well under way. Like many gays, they were Hillary supporters from way back; Jeffrey describes them carefully as “warming up ” to Obama. What are their issues? “The economy,” says Brian instantly. “The war.” What about gay marriage? No! they say practically in unison. “Civil union is fine — it’s the benefits that matter,” says Brian. I guess he doesn’t read Andrew Sullivan. “There are a lot of other issues that matter more,” adds Jeffrey. Such as? “Anti-discrimination laws, hate crime laws, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”