I’m tied up in a family matter these days and unable to blog as much as I would like, but my brother is the official photographer with the Georgia Delegation at the Democratic National Convention. I’m pleased to post here his daily blog.
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Welcome to Convention Blog 2008. For those of you who were along for the ride in 2004, welcome back. For those of you new to the scene, it is my hope to share with you the real privilege of being part of this critical milestone in our presidential selection process.
Some have become cynical about these quadrennial fetes, but I believe they play an immensely important role. They signal the real start of the fall campaign, that period where the undecideds start to pay attention and un-undecide themselves. They provide both camps with the opportunity to clearly lay out their arguments – about themselves, about their opponents, about their vision, about us, about what we can be. Sure this is a big pep rally and those of us fortunate enough to be in hall are props on the set, but it’s also highly relevant and can affect the outcome of a race that quite simply has enormous consequences.
One of the side sports at a convention is wonk spotting, an appellation that’s clearly commentary on the spotter and the spotttee. So far, the list includes George Will, Jim Lehrer, Ray Suarez, Al Sharpton and Ken Salazar. Of these, I can report that I found Lehrer to be exceptionally warm and gracious. As for Sharpton, well, you knew he’d show up somehow, somewhere. He was screeching at a podium set up in front of the Art Museum… to an ad hoc assemblage much smaller than his ego. Of particular note, Will is writing a biography of Wrigley Field and opined that of the new baseball parks the finest is Pittsburgh. You didn’t expect to get ballpark architectural critique from the Democratic Convention, did you?
Scenes from the tented market set up in the park in front of the state capitol…
• A button with a pink ribbon… “I survived Bush, too!”
• Sign held aloft… “Please don’t feed the leftists”
• A t-shirt with “Hope” written in eight languages
• And especially fun… Russian matryoshka nesting dolls… with Obama on the outside! Three different variants actually… one with five different Obama visages; one with Dem presidents… Obama (aspiring), Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy; and one with African American leaders… Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Andy Young and Julian Bond.
And amidst all of these displays you can pick up organic coffee and a sleep number bed!
Also, for those of you blue folks in red states, check out britebluedot.com, brought to you courtesy of those in the Alabama delegation from Birmingham.
As we sit on the eve of Convention 2008, I thought I’d offer a bit of what I’ll be looking for in the coming days. Presidential campaigns are unlike any other political contest in America. The rules and workings are simply different… electoral math, message containment, the commander-in-chief test. I believe that one of several core layers in such contests is branding. A successful candidate has to succeed in defining himself (or, one day, herself) and in defining the opponent. In the past two cycles, the Bush camp did this extremely well. They defined themselves with little challenge from the Dem opposition, and they largely prevailed in defining their opponents as well.
Which brings us to 2008. Will the Obama campaign clearly articulate what they stand for (“change” is not a mandate for actionable direction)? Will the Obama forces successfully fend off the attacks of the McCainiacs who seek to paint their own spin on Brand Obama (recent tightening in the polls reiterate this concern)? And, especially significant, will Obama and company articulate a clear picture of John McCain that debunks the mythology (nascent efforts in recent days may bode well)?
So, that’s the look from the eve of. Gavels bang and cameras roll tomorrow.