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The nomination itself

The convention was wonderful last night, with several moments of real drama (or at least theater) and emotional highs. It was as good as I could imagine. I watched almost the whole thing, staying up later than I had intended, but I didn’t take very many notes. I did, however, exchange a lot of text with Dr. Cline over at Rhetorica; you can read the whole night’s liveblogging at the rhetorica site; I don’t think I’ll bother getting my sparse notes into shape for this Tohu Bohu. I will try to write a note about Bill Clinton’s speech, and another about Joe Biden’s, and I have the kitchen table note still to write, not to mention I still haven’t actually watched Michelle Obama’s speech, Clare McCaskill’s speech or Hillary Clinton’s speech, much lest written about them. And they’re doing it again tonight, although I will almost certainly miss the whole evening, what with brush-up rehearsal and all.

Anyway. I do want to write about the actual nomination. If you weren’t watching at that point, you probably missed it, and I don’t think the newspapers are conveying how well it was done. It was aimed mostly at the conventioneers, and to a lesser extent to hard-core convention watchers like Your Humble Blogger. You need a little background to enjoy the show, for this one, so even if you were watching last night, if you hadn’t watched a bunch of roll-call votes, you might have missed the drama. So, here’s a little description of what the roll-call is usually like, and then I’ll get to yesterday afternoon’s version.

Before 1968, in the days when it wasn’t absolutely sure who would win the roll call, this was the center of the convention. The whole reason for it, in fact. Speeches were made to persuade the conventioneers, who were free agents, near enough. They would call out each state, and each state’s delegation would cast its votes, and there would be a tally, and when nobody had more than half, they would do it all again. There weren’t as many states, then, of course.

After the McGovern Commission (and its refining) took away the purpose of the roll call, it became a ritual. I think I remember the 1976 one, and I certainly remember 1980; everybody knew who was going to win, but they went through the states anyway. The Great State of Blurvidia, home of the national champion high school bridge team (go Bashers!), birthplace of the cigar-store Indian, and proud neighbor to the home state of the next vice-president of the United States, casts one vote for its native one Emil Grabecky! (wild cheers), and twenty-glob votes for the next President of the United States, whats-his-name!! And the Secretary of the Convention repeating it, and the tally of the votes. The states go in alphabetical order, but the rules allow for a state to pass and come back, or for a state to yield to a different state, to change the order. The tradition was for the candidate’s home state to cast the votes that gave the candidate a majority, so that the candidate’s home delegation got to put him over the top. It was a nice tradition, a bit quaint and formal, but with people wearing lobster hats and a billion buttons. I believe that last cycle they simply nominated by acclamation, that is, instead of going through the roll call at all, they just have everybody shout “Aye!”, nobody shout “Nay”, and declare that the man was nominated. Faster, but not as much fun.

This year, as usual, all of the losing candidates have released their delegates and indicated that they are voting for winner. There are no more delegates “pledged” to vote for anyone but Sen. Obama, although many delegates have said they will be voting for Hillary Clinton anyway (as is their right, under the rules). Off they go on the roll call, then. American Samoa spoke in Samoan (I think referencing Daniel Inouye, but I don’t, you know, understand spoken Samoan) and then in English. I tried to figure out whether the fellow who spoke for Arizona was a Goddard; it looked a bit like one, but bald and thickset, where Terry is slim and has hair. I don’t know if the other Goddards are involved in politics. Arkansas, one of Hillary Clinton’s home states, cast all its votes for Barack Obama, despite Sen. Clinton winning the primary by a landslide. That seemed like a big deal, a signal that whatever CNN imagined, there was not going to be contention or protest.

And so it went, with California passing (California has umpty-’leven gazillion delegates, so it made some sense for them to pass if there was going to be a chance for a lot of other states to cast votes before there were two thousand for Barack Obama) and Illinois passing (so that it could be yielded back to them for the votes to put him over the top), and on until New Mexico. Barack Obama was still six or seven hundred votes shy of the total at that point, so when the great state of New Mexico (Land of Enchantment, Tierra Nuevo Mejico!) yielded back to Illinois, it didn’t make any sense to me. But then Illinois yielded to New York, just as both its Senators, its governor and its Charlie Rangel (shouldn’t every state have a Charlie Rangel?) walked onto the floor.

Wow, I thought. They’ve planned it so that Hillary Clinton will announce that New York casts all its votes for Barack Obama, and then they will yield back to Illinois, and that will put him over and end it, and it will be Hillary Clinton doing it. Which, I have to say, would have been cool. But what actually happened was cooler than that.

Sen. Clinton asked, after a very brief but quite moving speech, in the name of unity and in support of Barack Obama, the next president of the United States, for the convention to suspend the roll call (by a two-thirds voice vote) and to nominate Barack Obama by acclamation. Which they did.

So, after a magnificent and mostly fictional drama about supposed disunity between the Clintons and their associates and Barack Obama and his associates, Hillary Clinton took the floor and personally introduced the adoption of consensus in support of our candidate. Which was carried, with cheering and applause and dancing and everything but the confetti.

I’m not sure if I’ve given an idea of how what a surprise this was (to me—some people evidently had advance notice) and how moving it was (again, to me). I don’t think there could have been any better way for the party to signify unity. And I don’t think it could possibly have been clearer that these two people, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, are the leaders of our Party. I have my disagreements with each of them. But they are fascinating, intelligent, charismatic people, and (what with, if you haven’t heard, neither of them being a white man) it makes me proud that my party did not exclude them or belittle them. It makes me proud that my country is a country where the leaders of its majority party (in both houses of the legislature, as well as the largest party by registration or by self-identification) are a woman and a black man. I like the fact that in my party, Barack Obama did not feel that he had to crush his rival or hide her from view. I like the idea that the Next President of the United States, please the Divine, will be someone who is capable of that kind of diplomacy, not just of saving face for people he needs to beat but of honoring them.

I sure hope Barack Obama gives a magnificent, powerful and inspiring speech tonight. But I doubt I will be as moved tonight as I was last night. I mean, leaving aside the whole bit where I won’t actually get to watch it.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Golly. Watch Senator Clinton's speech. It starts kinda weakish, I thought, but it's a hum-dinger. I was inspired. Not enough to regret my primary vote (for Ron Paul, obviously*), but enough to understand that she would have been a good choice too, I think, which I'd known, intellectually, but that's not enough for happiness.


* This is a lie.

You know, one of the things that hasn't been emphasized in the whole phony narrative of conflict/unity is that Hillary Clinton was in some danger of being rejected by the Party. It was a hard-fought primary, and a lot of rank-and-file supporters of Barack Obama held grudges for some of her attacks on him, particularly a couple of quotes where she hinted that John McCain would be preferable. I think she did a lot more to bring herself into the fold this week than she did to bring Barack Obama any additional support.


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