Democratic Convention: Day 1

A Maine state rep from Kittery reports from Philadelphia

What an incredible opening night party on Sunday night at the Philly Museum with a full run of exhibits, food tables everywhere from nachos to sushi to gelato, and music blasting. The forecourt, with a huge tent and the immense Rocky Balboa steps, opens to the city skyline beyond. Every once in a while, a statue look-alike would come to life, revealing a completely believable costume job. The changing colored light display transformed the venue constantly.

After finding some of the Maine Delegation, we danced to the white-robed funk-soul band dominating the outside party. Near midnight, the band started chanting Hillary to the music. The audience joined in, but gradually the majority of the crowd transformed the chant to Bernie. The power of the Revolution again revealed its strength.

The shuttle bus to our airport had trouble even leaving the neighborhood as the bus driver circled the area looking for the route. About 45 minutes later, the exhausted passengers realized the driver was again lost looking for our hotel beyond the airport. Several of us took charge, opening our phone navigation apps. Three people stood next to the bus driver yelling conflicting directions until we were finally saved by a former Philly native who actually knew the correct route.

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On Monday we checked into our first 7 a.m. breakfast of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. After five hours of sleep, we were already groggy at Day #1. Division tension was in the air as buttons, T-shirts, and hats made our allegiances known.

Logistics were explained, with the biggest hurdle being the two separate venues for the convention. Caucuses, meetings, affinity groups, and pre-convention are all at the Pennsylvania Convention Hall, an immense new complex in downtown Philly. The actual proceedings are at the Wells Fargo Center, near the sports arenas, seven miles away, near the airport.

The shuttle bus was definitely better than the night before, but stepping off the bus was a shock. The 105-degree humid heat was nothing like I have ever experienced in New England. The oven was on high. Luckily, it was only two blocks to get inside the air-conditioned Convention Center, where Bernie had called an afternoon meeting.

Security was handled by both the TSA and Homeland Security and was as intense as airport security, but we could keep our shoes on. Thousands of Bernie delegates were shoulder to shoulder trying to enter the auditorium. Nurses were handing out Robin Hood hats (‘tax the rich, support the poor’). Excitement was heavy when Bernie stepped to the podium.

Unfortunately, he delivered essentially the same speech as at the Portsmouth endorsement the week before. He encouraged us all to work for Hillary, and there was some booing. Berners were not ready to give up their redeemer. And there was anger over the WikiLeaks scandal, revealing the bias by the Democratic National Committee, which Berners had suspected from the beginning of the campaign.

Exit from the hall was confusing, with no clear direction for the convention opening hours away. Unwilling to wait in the oppressive heat for a shuttle bus, Troy Jackson, Bob Saucier, and I hopped in a taxi to get to Wells Fargo, which was even hotter than outside. Cabs can’t get anywhere near the convention, so we walked some more, took an employee shuttle, and then security with dogs, scanners, and the pocket dump.

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Music, pledge, fanfares, and then the Dem leadership’s first mistake: Hillary Rodham Clinton was mentioned in the opening prayer, instantly starting thousands of boos from the crowd. Of course, people were shocked to hear boos to a prayer, and the Berners kept booing for the next hours whenever HRC’s name was mentioned without an official roll call being complete. Although incredibly orchestrated, there was no forethought by the organizers that it is not over until it is over. A simple schedule change with a vote before the continual hammering of Hillary’s name and accompanying boos could have changed the climate of opening day.

Instead, it took Michelle Obama to make this change. No one dared boo this champion, and she delivered her incredible vision of America, our children, and our future. This gave the Berners more to think about than just booing.

Deane Rykerson is the founder of Rykerson Architecture, a Maine state representative, and a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He holds a masters degree from Harvard University. He lives in Kittery Point.