Sorry to have been absent: I’ve been having internet problems. I did manage to catch a little CNN coverage after I got in last night, and it was absolutely surreal: the convention they are covering bears no relation whatsoever to the one I had been walking around observing all yesterday.
I’ve been wandering around having random conversations, and by pure chance, all the delegates I’ve talked to have been Clinton delegates. I have asked all of them whether they will have any problem voting for Obama, or are in any way aware of any of the disunity I see so much about on CNN. In every case the answer is not just ‘no’, but something closer to ‘are you crazy?’ The first Clinton delegate I talked to said: “For heaven’s sakes, we’re Democrats.” The second said: “I’m sure some Clinton supporters, somewhere, won’t support Obama, but everyone who thinks will.” I cannot pretend that the delegates I’ve talked to are in any way representative, but for what it’s worth, they have all reacted to the idea of not supporting Obama by looking at me as though I had come from Mars.
What they are concerned about, more than anything else, is the economy. I would have thought that a convention full of people who can somehow afford to take a week off and get to Denver might be somewhat insulated from that, but I would have been wrong. One of them was telling me, at some length, about the economic problems in her town: the way everyone is cutting back, the fact that she and her husband used to go out to eat every so often, but have cut that out along with the rest of their luxuries, the effects this is all having on local restaurants and other merchants, her fear that it will only get worse, and that politicians do not really get how bad it is. She was sure that the Republicans don’t get it; she has her doubts about some people in the upper reaches of the Democratic party. She had none about Obama.
The delegates and politicians I have talked to are all passionate this year. They are really committed to Obama, and their concerns all involve whether or not he will win, not whether or not he will be a great President if elected. Again, I have just been wandering around talking to utterly random people — the politicians I referred to above are local officials — and I have absolutely no reason to think they are representative of anything. But it’s striking that none of them have expressed anything other than real enthusiasm about the idea of Barack Obama being President. (I should say that because I have been just wandering around talking to people I meet at random, I really don’t think any of them were saying things they didn’t think for public consumption.)
To them, the drama this year involves the campaign between Obama and McCain: a lot of them are very, very afraid of four more years of a Republican presidency. It does not involve Clinton vs. Obama at all.