Having just done some TV, and several radio interviews yesterday, I fear my reporting to opining ratio is perilously close to falling under the 1:1 threshold. (Keep this in mind when watching TV commentators talk on TV with pretenses to inside knowledge and lots of reporting. It’s incredibly difficult to be a full-time reporter and a full-time commentator) This was brought home to be yesterday while on Air America with Ron Kuby. We were previewing Michelle Obama’s speech, and I briefly went on pundit auto-pilot and said the campaign would be trying to “humanize” her. “Humanize!?!?,” Kuby yelled. “Do people really not think she’s human? What do they think she is?”
Angst aside, I just had an interesting discussion with Laura Flanders and a man by the name of Dan Slater who’s the Vice Chair for the Colorado Democratic Party. We were talking about to what extent the “change” that everyone’s being hearing so much about is in evidence at the convention. And I have to say that my initial impression, having been in Boston in 2004, is how surprisingly un-changed things feel. Howard Dean runs the DNC, we have the 50-state strategy in place and the first black nominee in American history, and yet, for the most part, my impression is that this convention, while perhaps more logistically frustrating, is just about what you’d expect: the parties, the many different organizations and constituencies sponsoring events and attempting to drive home their message and, of course, the insane number of police dressed like something of a dystopic sci-fi movie. It’s a useful reminder that the Democratic party is a very old institution, and is therefore subject to a kind of painful inertia. Change comes slowly.
That said, beneath the surface there are signs of a changing party. Obviously there’s the presence of the Netroots, camped out mostly in the Big Tent where Google is serving free smoothies and offering back rubs. But though I haven’t seen any comprehensive numbers on this (I’ve got an email into the DNC press shop), there are what feels like a lot of new delegates in attendance as well. I ran into two friends from Texas yesterday, both my age, who founded Texans for Obama before Obama had even announced his candidacy and are now members of the Texas delegation. It’s their first convention. Dan Slater said that the 80-90%(!) of the delegates in the Colorado delegation were first-timers, which he said was completely unprecedented and directly due to the party-building of the Dean DNC and the enthusiasm around Obama.
So while there’s nothing revolutionary happening in Denver (aside, of course from nominating the first black man for president) the Democratic party really has changed and is changing. Those changes aren’t particularly ideological at the moment (the party’s base has always been progressive, and to the left of the funders, lobbyists and career politicos), but regionally and demographically.
I’m hoping to get some more demographic information and revisit this topic later.
UPDATE: I agree with Ezra