A Young California Delegate Reports from the Floor of the Democratic Convention: Hillary Clinton Tamed PUMA’s and Won Wavering Democrats for Obama


Hillary Clinton proved why she inspired millions of Americans. The grand speech she gave reaffirmed the support that she garnered from her years of public service. Before she started speaking, she had 2 minutes of a standing ovation to her. Her speech would not have brought in every PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) supporter but it effectually convinced all of the iffy supporters to vote and campaign for Obama. My mom who supported Obama in the primaries was cheering and clapping watching her rally the crowd. All of the hardcore Clintonites that I personally know were more than wooed over. These people were not only reaffirmed their love for Senator Clinton but were moved beyond the bitterness of the primary. The beauty of it was that she played to her reasons of her supporters while taking in those unsure of the support.

My friend and die hard Clinton supporter John Vigna said “So tonight, Hillary elected Barack Obama”. He is right. I do not have any more significant qualms about voting for Senator Obama.

The two other speakers that really stood out to me were Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Dennis Kucinich has the spirit of the flaming liberal in all of the delegates there. He speaks to that part of our mind that wants to get out and do huge social change and reform. It is not a view that would win an election across the country but is something that all progressives have. It helps keep that liberal side of the Democratic Party true to their roots by having a presidential candidate represent that 20% to 30% of the party that wants huge change. It helps keeps the Democrats in touch with their hardcore base.

It was by far the most impassioned speech I have seen by the representative from Ohio with emotion and passion flaring through. Governor Schweitzer has the populist style that shined in the crowd of cheering supporters. He by far outshined the keynoter Former Gov. Warner from Virginia. The speech that Schweitzer gave spoke to true American values that resonate in America. He walked all around the podium which helped show his great emotion and passionate speech. In my book, he should have been the keynoter.

Yesterday I was a whip for the California Democratic Delegation. If you noticed in any of the shots, we were the ones in the neon vests. We had the pleasure of directing traffic and telling elected officials that they need to keep moving in the hallway. There was more than one time that I wanted to tell someone that they needed to move, but I thought: he or she represents over 600,000 people; I am just going to let everyone else figure it out.

There were over six different sign changes. For the whips on the floor, it hell to figure out what goes when and where. Because of the rapid fire succession of the changes in the signs with the moderate democrats, such as Governor Sebelius of Kansas and Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, we had to have the right signs waving at the right moments. It did not run smoothly. Many of us were picked up at the last few hours before the start of ceremonies. I had the pleasure of doing whatever needed to be done at the moment such as clearing out the hallway or passing out the latest sign. The whips are what ensure that the choreographed event goes off like it should. I knew what I was supposed to be doing at the convention hall but not the people attending.

There were far too many people who were not elected delegates that snuck in with their spouse or other passes. It was also my job to tell them that they should not be doing that. It was tough telling someone “I am sorry that you and your husband have been sitting together for the last 2 hours but elected delegates worked very hard to get here and you are taking their spot.” Being a bouncer is not on a career path right now.

Today, Bill Clinton. I have seen him speak 2 times before and have always been awestruck. Then, VP candidate Biden will be speaking. I am looking forward to jokes by him about McCain in the same fashion of Hillary’s.

I hope all of the PUMA’s sleep in and do not cause a ruckus at the roll call vote which many of us are not sure how it will work. I was elected to vote for Hillary and that is what I plan on doing. I do not see anything that will change my vote as of now. Hillary had her light in the sun and the American people listened. Obama may have just won the election because of this amazing woman.

On Monday, Michelle Obama gave one of the best speeches I have ever seen. Her speech about her husband’s values was an incredibly honest description of who is he. The best thing about the speech was her style of presenting it. She spoke in a perfect mixture of calmness shielding powerful emotion. The most fun part was when Obama came in over the television link and his kids came out. I am still in a state of amazement on how great that speech was. The only way I could compare it to my universe was like seeing the Oakland Raiders win the Super Bowl in person.

Monday’s speeches were all about getting to know who Obama is. It is working and I have been learning so much about this man.

The tribute to Edward Kennedy was a historic speech. It is likely to be Kennedy’s last convention speech and a powerful statement from him now and his past. Giving every American health care is a passion and Obama is the person who could lead the way in actually doing that. His words wring strong in his passion for public service and his great legislative successes.

Media from all over was at the Pepsi Center and Al Jazera was under a seat of my friend.

The significance of being a delegate is becoming clear to me now and why people spend thousands of dollars for this experience. Sitting next to the state’s biggest leaders while waving signs all united for a common cause is a powerful feeling. There are only 441 delegates from the biggest state approaching 40 million people. The rate is near 1 in 100,000 people living in the state. The green floor pass that was given to us is practically a magical ticket that lets you get into all but the most exclusive parts. We are able to avoid security for the Denver Convention Center. It is so important that people do not lose their passes because they are very strict about not replacing lost passes. These passes just look like the run of the mill tickets but they have little sensors within them that are actively scanned when people go into the Pepsi Center. On the rumor mill, they are actively tracking the delegates and where they go, I personally doubt that they are doing that because of the cost and lack of need.

The convention has almost 3 levels of security. The first one is getting onto the charter bus with the police officer. Then after the 45 minute to hour ride, delegates need to go through metal detectors, then before walking in the door of there is a final check before walking in the Pepsi Center. The final is before which section of the stands you go to, you need to show the pass again. There is more than one person I know who is trying to sneak into the good seats but it does not look easy for them.

The protesters are well hidden. At least the ones who want to do marches, I have only seen them once. I heard the police shut down the street my hotel was on because of a intense protest where tear gas was shot but since I rarely can access the internet or watch TV to double check this. The bus ride took a long time to get to the Pepsi Center and my assumption is that they wanted us to avoid the protesters outside of the center. They have kept us very isolated between the protesters up until today.

That brings me to PUMA. There was little visible tension, just one or two unorganized people standing on a corner is what I have been used to seeing. Today at the state delegation breakfast Gloria Allred, who won election to be a delegate, is the person who started trouble.

It first was with people walking into the hall where speeches and breakfast is served. When people were taking the tickets a few of the PUMAs were passing out white ribbon for people to tie around their wrists. It was first told to some people that it was to show support for woman’s suffrage but it was really for Gloria’s media grab. Out of the 441 delegates there may be only three that is actively undermining the normal activities. A smart delegate took the literature and tore it up right in front of one of the PUMA! And then a person next to them did the same. Their stunt is saying that they are “gagged” and not giving Hillary a voice even though her name will be on the ballot. The bad thing about this is that as I have been saying all along, the vast majority of activists are on board while only a few people hog all the media which loves controversy.

On the better side of things Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi has been reaching out to the Young Delegates at the convention. He sat down with 25 of us for an hour to talk about what our issues are. He is the only person that I know of, offering to sit down with all of us while we are at convention.

Don Gibson is a UC Davis Student, President of College Democrats, and an elected Hillary Clinton Delegate to the Democratic National Convention. This article first appeared in the People’s Vanguard of Davis, a progressive blog that covers mainly Yolo County but also some California news. It is republished with permission.


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