Rising at 5 AM, I was on the road over an hour before third trickers are ready to pack it in. As a delegate to the South Carolina State Democratic Party convention, I was about to overeat, clap and hoot like a college freshman at a Kendrick Lamar concert, urge my aging ass up and down off assorted seats dozens of times, meet a few new like-minded people, collect a modest swag of free stuff and chat up the state convention’s Keynote speaker, a rising young congressional star and identical twin brother of the Charlotte Democratic Convention’s Keynote Speaker, another rising star.
My nephrologist doctor friend and I arrived pretty much on time thanks to his quick little Infinity coupe and picked up our credentials and a braided blue necklace hooked to our 3 ½ X 7 name tags. We wandered down an open tunnel of long county tables on either side of the massive hallway.
Here are some highlights of our little 7-hour political adventure.
The first thing that struck me was that the Vincent Sheheen people were all over the center passing out bumpers stickers and all manner of political candidate materials. Sheheen, a state Senator, is challenging South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for the state’s top office, just as he had done in 2010, losing by just 4 points. He could prevail this time as Haley has been the worst governor in modern times.
Sheheen mounted the podium at the opening breakfast meeting and optimistically proffered that “If everybody works and believes and spreads the message, the results could be that in 2014 you will see change in South Carolina like you’ve never seen before and Lord knows we need it.” Amen brother Sheheen!
Jaime Harrison, the 37-year-old lobbyist wunderkind was next to address the delegates. I’ve already written about Harrison, an anointed candidate with no opposition who carries a sterling CV, but owes his bones to his employer, the hugely powerful Podesta lobbying group. That’s not to say he isn’t impressive. He says all the right populist’s words, most of which make practical sense. He’s an excellent speaker and juices up the crowd. “Good morning Democrats!” He makes his exclamations in such as way that you can’t help but respond. “Good morning!” He makes you feel good and optimistic. He added something I completely agree with, “We’ve got a secret weapon. It’s the Democratic women in this state.”
After Harrison, who ended with “We have to drain the swamp”, there were numerous other speakers including State Representative firebrand Gilda Cobb Hunter, a wonderfully fearless African American who advocates strongly and loudly for everything Democrats hold dear. As for the Busch/Sanford race she warned that “We’re not 9 points ahead (most current polls show a dead heat). We can’t claim the election until the votes are cast. We better stop celebrating and get out and start working for Colbert Busch.”
The South Carolina Progressive Network head Brett Bursey wound up the breakfast session. He’s an indefatigable dynamo and told the delegates to be bolder about the word Democrat.
The next order of business was the convention itself. The crowd moved to the largest room in the center.
After the current Minneapolis Mayor spoke a few timely opening words, the “election” of Jaime Ricardo (who knew?) Harrison was then made official by acclamation. South Carolina bound multinationals could now start to draw up their pricey incentive plans and hiring union prevention specialists. Don’t get me wrong, Harrison is a true, blue Democrat. He’s shelled out over $100,000 bucks for Democratic candidates over the past 2 elections.
Next was Keynoter, Joaquin Castro. After a slow start he picked up the pace saying “We don’t believe success should be guaranteed but we don’t believe success should be a lottery.” He called on Congress to pass immigration reform, background checks and fiscal solutions that don’t prefer billionaires over the middle-class.
For want of a better term the next 10 minutes were bizarre. Charleston attorney Dick Harpootlian was walking away from the party chairmanship. In a supposed ‘tribute’ to his service a video was shown on a giant screen of people praising his work and people criticizing his tenure. It was clear that some of the latter number couldn’t stand the man. Very weird. In his speech Harpootlain referred to a comment by his opposite number that the Democratic Party Chair was often “profane.”
This was followed by Harpootlian’s best moments. “I’ll tell you what’s profane. A kid in a classroom with water leaking, a 4-year-old kid with no kindergarten (may have meant pre-kindergarten) and people that are hungry. Their belief is not “love your brother”, it’s “screw your brother.” Women and children first; IN the ocean.” He then spoke of the blatant hypocrisy that most ignore, “For all the Christian love, don’t they need to get back and read their bible?” He closed with an assurance that Busch would win. I jumped up and clapped and hooted.
Harrison was introduced as the new Chairman. The convention was almost at a close. There was another Busch guarantee of victory. Harrison pledged to conduct town meetings across the state and pushed to have every elective slate filled with Democratic candidates. “We have to run the party like a business and get involved in our communities. If we work together we can rebuild this party.”
A few minutes were occupied with a fellow offering up a few administrative additions from the floor, but as for Joe average delegate having any input into bylaws or resolutions at the convention; highly unlikely.
Next on the agenda was a “special appearance” by Colbert Busch. All on video no less. She was on a bus campaign tour and didn’t have time to address the hardest working and most dedicated Democrats in the state.
After the monitor was devoid of all things Colbert Busch, a plea went out to the delegates to call one page of voters (all registered Democrats) at that very moment from their cell phones and urge them to vote this coming Tuesday. There was a stampede for the door.
You can lead a horse (err Democrat) to water (cell phone?), but you can’t make it drink (call). It would have taken those in flight about an extra 20 minutes.
The convention ended on a high note for me. While eating a closing meal of barbeque and banana pudding, I happened to spot Representative Castro entertaining visitors by the buffet line. I walked up to the surprisingly short (5’7″ or so) twin and we had a very pleasant 15-minute chat. We talked mostly about restoring the Fairness Doctrine, correcting the huge unchallenged talk radio right-wing imbalance. He was sympathetic. We didn’t talk much about the Texas West Fertilizer Company obscenity. I’ll save that for an email.
After dinner and an exchange of contact information with a delightful Swansea District 3 African American Councilman named Jerald, the doc and I headed home. There’ll be another one of these in 2 years.
If you’re a District 1 South Carolina Democrat, vote Tuesday, May 7th.