Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One for the history books

Some people have the Olympics, but if you're interested in American history and politics, there are more important quadrennial events - the Democratic and Republican conventions. And the roll call of the states is the most exciting part. It's like swimming, gymnastics, basketball, track and field all rolled into one.

I love the roll call because it gives each state's delegation a moment in the spolight, a chance to whoop it up and holler and recite the litany of things that make their state great. (Sports teams and food are big). And believe me, in the roll call, every state is great. It's always fun and I usually learn a few things I didn't know. But this roll call at the Democratic National Convention was infused with so much history and symbolism.

Anderson Cooper at CNN got it right: this is a day for the history books. Barack Obama is nominated by acclimation as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, the first African-American ever to be nominated by a major party.

The Massachusetts delegation, led by the state's first female Senate president, Therese Murray, and first African-American governor, Deval Patrick paid tribute to the Red Sox and the Patriots and the Celtics, but also to the state's heritage as a pioneer in education and universal health care and the first in equality in marriage in the United States. (Take note, Democrats. Don't soft pedal your commitment to equality for all Americans - trumpet it proudly.)

The Mississippi delegation referred to the state as the home of the blues and of the late Fannie Lou Hamer, an African-American who was a leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that challenged the state's all-white and anti civil-rights delegation to the 1964 Democratic Convention.

The New Hampshire delegation noted the historic nature of Hillary Clinton's victory in that state's primary. Clinton released her delegates earlier in the day, and recalling a line from Martin Luther King's dream "from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire," the state cast all of its votes for Obama.

Of course, there's always a lot of boosterism in the roll call: Kansas, a pioneer in wind energy and home of the Orange Bowl champion Jayhawks; Minnesota, the state that always has the highest voter turnout in the country; Louisiana, home of gumbo, jambalaya crawfish pie, Kentucky, home of next month's Ryder Cup golf tournament.

But my favorite was Maine: "The sun comes up in Maine first in the nation and we feel very honored to have that as our singular, whatever, privilege. As Maine goes - you've heard this before - so goes the nation."

The roll call used to occur in the evening, on national television. Now, sadly, it's banished to early evening on CNN and C-SPAN. It's really a shame because even though we know the outcome it's still got plenty of humor, poignancy and drama. And this year, for all Americans, no matter what your race or political viewpoint - history.


Amanda said...

I dont' watch the conventions. Politics in that amount of congregation really bores me. I have limited patience for politics. I can talk about issues and such, but when it gets to dealing with the politicians themselves, it all bores me. I prefer to study candidates behind the lines, because if I watch them speak, I get disillusioned with all of them. I'd rather read about their actions and stances than listen to them. Ah well.

Esther said...

Well, I understand your viewpoint. Personally, I really enjoy watching the conventions even if the outcome is preordained. And I've heard some pretty inspring speeches. I think Obama's speech tonight may be in that category.

Amanda said...

I did watch Obama's speech. It was nice. I liked it. Mostly I just get bored by politics but I didn't for that one.

I think my problem is that this sort of thing falls under the 3-P category of things I just have never been able to understand: political science, physics, and poetry. With everything else, I'm find, but if I try any of those, I'm lost.