The California delegates at the Democratic National Convention, most of whom had stayed up late at our California Bash event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, woke up to have the rumors confirmed: President Obama would be accepting our party’s nomination at the Time Warner Arena, not at the much larger Bank of America Stadium as originally planned. The cause was fear of a lightning storm, but for many non-delegates the news was horribly sad as their ‘community credentials’ would be pulled.
But as the day unfolded, it became clear that the night would still be a good night for our 2nd Congressional District delegation. I had the opportunity to attend the Muslim American Caucus, hearing from Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Keith Ellison, Rep. Andre Carson and others about various issues affecting this community. Ellison, the first Muslim American elected to Congress, talked about the need for Muslim Americans to exercise their political power and for politicians to make efforts to understand and engage Muslim voters. Candidate Barack Obama received 89 percent of the Muslim American vote in 2008, a stark contrast to 2000 when George Bush received more than 80 percent of the Muslim vote, proving that the Muslim American community can be a very important constituency for the Democratic Party.
At the arena that afternoon, you could feel the energy and the enthusiasm among Democrats. The media keeps leading us to believe that somehow there is an enthusiasm gap between 2008 and 2012 and between the Democratic and the Republican parties. But in that arena on the final day of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, it was clear that Democrats were just as excited, motivated, fired up and ready to go elect Barack Obama than ever before.
Delegates and those watching on TV heard from Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana about how Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts affected middle class families there: cuts in education funding and increased fees, not exactly the record Romney is conveying to voters. We heard from former Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan about how Barack Obama didn’t listen to cynics and invested heavily in our auto industry, saving a total of 1.1 million auto jobs. Her passion and excitement made the crowd erupt into the loudest applause thus far that night, as most of the crowd got to their feet to cheer and didn’t sit back down until it was over!
By the time Vice President Joe Biden came to the stage, my fellow delegates and I were pumped up, and though most of us had gotten little sleep over the past three nights, we wanted nothing more than to hear from our vice president and of course, our president.
President Obama’s speech, as those who watched it from afar saw, was a call to arms to keep moving our economy forward, and to expand upon the foreign policy and domestic successes of the past nearly four years.
President Obama’s authenticity came through as he blended the personal with the policy prescription, a bold defense of his policies and a reserved respect for those still struggling in this tough economy. But what was clear to me was that those in the room understand that this election is about which direction the United States would turn. The President made clear that the choice is between building upon the successes of the past few years or returning to President Bush’s policies of trickle-down economics and a foreign policy of rash decisions and perpetual war.
While many progressives have been disappointed that President Obama did not fight for single payer healthcare, did not end the war in Afghanistan fast enough and could not persuade Congress to join his call to close Guantanamo prison and pass comprehensive legislation to lower our global warming emissions, it was clear that the President made advances on a number of issues important to progressively minded voters, and most importantly, has shown that his heart and values set are in the right place and that we the people must be the change we wish to see.
So now it’s up to us. We can bring the energy from Charlotte back to our communities and organize to re-elect the President, retake the House, and hold the Senate, or we can let our politics be dictated by an increasingly extreme Republican Party. We can sit the election out, or we can move our progressive vision forward.
I know which option I’ll be choosing, so let’s get it done!