Features

Down and Out in Tampa and Charlotte

Two Weeks of Apocalyptic Daydreaming, Brilliant Speechifying, and Other Strange Visions at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions

Down and Out in Tampa and Charlotte

Sitting behind and above Clinton meant I could see his teleprompter. He would stray from the Star Wars word crawl for five minutes at a time, launching into numbers-heavy digressions off the top of his head.

  • comments (65)
  • Print
+ Enlarge this Image

I oozed into Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention on a Greyhound bus right as a sky full of nasty clouds cracked and spilled down lush streamers of piss-warm rain everywhere around me. I’d boarded the bus in Tampa, after the Republican convention, and it was full of the sorts of broken people that nobody mentions at political conventions anymore, if they ever did. They’re not the sainted American middle class that every candidate, however ineptly or skillfully, tries to woo. They’re the American underclass. People with criminal records, warrants, credit agencies on their tail. These aren’t the sorts of people politicians talk about when they talk about the good, decent, hardworking people of the United States. These people are hard to love. They get drunk in public. They engage in light child abuse. They get neck tattoos that virtually ensure they’ll never have a decent job. Some of them don’t speak English; a few who can speak English can’t read it.

Throughout my two-week convention adventure, everything kept breaking. I would like to attribute my many equipment failures to some unholy mixture of the humidity and the broken-down aura of the Greyhound, but really it started long before that. About 10 minutes out the door of my house two weeks ago, one of the wheels on my rolling luggage shattered into splinters. After scratching and screeching awkwardly along the streets of Seattle and then Tampa for a week, I finally traded out the busted cart for a duffel bag at an Army Navy Store, only to learn on my arrival in Charlotte that the new bag made every item in my possession reek of pungent mildew.

But that was only the start: My USB cords coughed and sputtered and died for apparently no reason; I’m on my third one this trip. My laptop, which bolted gracefully through the internet like a gazelle not so long ago, is now a choking, backfiring jalopy that can barely keep a solid connection for 15 minutes at a time. It shuts down at random moments, which means that I’ve lost whole chunks of my work at frequent intervals. The strap of my laptop bag keeps falling off. My belt is hanging on by a millimeter of leather; it was fine for three years but sometime in the last 10 days it developed a tear, and now it looks like it was gnawed to death at the throat of the buckle by hungry ferrets. My shoes suddenly decided to start tearing great, pasty white sheets of skin from the backs of my feet, and blisters started to form between my toes. I’ve had to swaddle my feet in Band-Aids the last few mornings to even achieve a passable limp. The elastics in my socks are failing. The Charlotte apartment building I stayed in caught fire the day after I arrived, and dozens of us gathered on the lawn to watch three trucks full of firefighters roam around the smoky interior of the apartment, their flashlights making the whole small space glow eerily in the night as water cascaded down the hallways and stairwells of the building below. My phone has become a greasy, crippled puck that occasionally shrugs and stops working. I’ve had “Call Me Maybe” stuck in my head for two solid weeks.

Maybe it wasn’t the humidity or the 17 hours on a bus that made every item I own fail me in one way or another. Maybe it was all the negativity of the Republican National Convention. I’m talking about negativity both from the Republican speakers onstage—at times, it felt like the secret meeting of a virulently anti-American organization on the eve of their attempted coup—and from inside me. There were brief, fleeting moments (like when I’d hear someone sputtering about our Muslim president or feminazis) when I wished violence to befall all of us, when I wanted a torrent of switchblades to fall from the sky and reduce us all to slick red ribbons, or a pack of feral, blood-red Dobermans to spring from beneath the sidewalks and drag us all, screaming, back below the hot, sticky tar. You simply can’t hate at that temperature and intensity for too long without the hate taking some sort of external form, like a festering boil or a cut that never heals or every inanimate object within your reach devolving into useless plugs of ugly gray-black plastic that no landfill will ever be able to fully digest.

You should know that I’m not complaining. Throughout the trip, I’m always aware that this is a rare experience. I’m one of the last few newspaper reporters assigned to a political convention in the early 21st century, and I’m a college dropout, besides. I was experiencing something not many people get to experience. There wasn’t a second that went by when I didn’t realize that I shouldn’t be there, that I didn’t realize how lucky I am to have had this opportunity. And Charlotte was much kinder to me than Tampa. The transit is quick and reliable and affordable, with a light rail running right from my mostly-not-burned-down apartment building right through the heart of downtown. Unlike the buses in Tampa, which were entirely devoid of any trace of the Republican convention save for grumbles about the gridlocked traffic, the trains and buses in Charlotte have been rolling Obama rallies, packed full of delegates and volunteers and media. They’re boisterous and friendly. The first night of the convention, the word “Michelle” weaved through the background of the trains like a breeze; people—especially the women, especially the African American women—couldn’t stop talking about the first lady’s speech. They used tones that were generally reserved for beloved spiritual leaders, or Oprah.

The second night, the crowd was all about Bill Clinton. And a crowd that’s drunk on Bill Clinton energy is completely different from any other kind of crowd. Suddenly, everyone was as folksy and relaxed as if they were at a backyard barbecue, talking about the great old uncle who shows up only every once in a while, when the weather is nice, but who never fails to bring unadulterated good times when he arrives. It felt like the best kind of nostalgia, for a time when everything was simple and good and we didn’t even know it. Like all nostalgia, it was bullshit, but for the evening, it seemed like harmless enough bullshit, allowing the men to pretend that they had hair and waistlines again and the women to forget what the Bush years did to their bodies and their lives. You can flirt all you want when you’re feeling young again, and reality will snap back soon enough, anyway, to remind you about all the things you can’t do.

It stands to reason that of course Clinton would dominate the conversation. Even from his back side, he was amazing. I was sitting behind and high above him—the press seats at the DNC are somehow even worse than at the RNC—and I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he spoke, even though he was smaller than a G.I. Joe action figure. But my position meant I could see the giant teleprompter from which Clinton was reading, which meant that I knew exactly when he was improvising. He would stray from the Star Wars word crawl for five minutes at a time, launching into numbers-heavy digressions about health insurance premiums seemingly off the top of his head before fusing that digression seamlessly with the prepared speech, and then the suspended words on the teleprompter would lurch to life again and accompany Clinton for a while before he decided to wander off, in search of some other fact or figure with which to brutalize the Republicans. (On Twitter, reporters noted with some sense of awe that Clinton’s prepared remarks were just over 3,000 words long. He wound up saying more than 5,000 words.)

I have never been a fan of Bill Clinton. I resented his baby-boomer smugness, the calculating way with which he inveigled the Democratic Party into giving up some core values for a few fleeting moments of centrist popularity—particularly, giving up its devotion to the citizens who could not, for reasons of mental or physical competence, take care of themselves. And I detested the way he tried to tear Barack Obama down, to force him into waiting his turn in line for the presidency back in 2008. But I had never seen Clinton speak before in person, and so I could never understand what makes him so appealing.

Clinton has that one-in-a-million mixture of crippling neediness and unadulterated, (almost literally) unimpeachable self-confidence that generally breeds rock stars, or the kind of writers whose books teenagers keep lovingly rolled up in their back pockets. He desperately needs the love and affection of every single person in the Time Warner Cable Arena (some 26,000 people, with many thousands more turned away at the door) and he has the gall to believe that he deserves that love and affection, too. You can’t deny that kind of pulsing spiritual vacancy, that starving need for love, in a person. You want to help fill his need for attention, and you’re flattered by his attention in return. I giggled at his over-the-top exclamations of “heck” and “listen to this, now, ’cause it’s important” precisely because they were so over the top. I knew it, and he knew it, and it didn’t matter that I could see through what he was doing, because he got me anyway. He seduced a small army of people all at once with facts and figures and his masterful ad-libs. I still think his presidency was too complacent and that he squandered some opportunities that could have at least partially prevented the mess in which we find ourselves now, but I cannot deny—nobody can deny—that Bill Clinton possesses a rare genius.

What Barack Obama possesses is something different. Many—myself included—expressed disappointment during his speech that the fiercely competitive Obama didn’t rise to the challenge thrown down by Clinton and, yes, his own wife. He didn’t deliver the kind of speech that the blogosphere wanted, the conversation-changing agitprop that would leave everyone reeling. Though it was of course light years ahead of Mitt Romney’s speech in terms of content and delivery, it wasn’t even the best speech of the Democratic National Convention. It was not, you know, historic enough.

Something that I often forget about Obama, though, is that he has another, special kind of genius. He always knows how much energy he needs to expend, and he doesn’t expend any more than that amount. Obama never plays an ace when a two will do. During the 2008 debates, Obama surely could have blown John McCain away with a sharp comment or a figure that would have torn McCain’s argument out from under him. But the problem with those showy moments is that they bear a certain amount of risk; every dive for the jugular can result in a self-inflicting injury. (Think of when Obama told Hillary Clinton in 2008 that she was “likable enough.” What was intended to be a funny, offhand comment felt dismissive and arrogant, and probably resulted in another red-faced finger-wagging session from Bill Clinton.) Instead, Obama just ran out the clock on McCain, being reasonable and common-sensical, to show Americans that he wasn’t a freak or a socialist or a monster. By being patient, and by expending just enough energy, he won the whole contest, even though he didn’t give the commentariat the blood for which they were bellowing.

Obama’s speech, then, was like that. It contained promises and mentions of important liberal causes like global warming and marriage equality, but it didn’t reframe the conversation or try to wriggle out of charges of class war by positioning himself as a moderate. This is presumably because Obama and his team have done the calculations, and they’ve realized that they can win on this conversation, that Americans don’t believe that self-interest should be the prime motivation of the country, that fairness and cooperation do have their place in the United States that they want to live in.

There was plenty of fight in the speech. The best moments came when Obama ripped into Romney, mocking his foreign policy claims that Russia was our greatest foe and making light of his disastrous trip to Great Britain that wound up with Romney being pilloried by the mayor and media of London for the amusement of the whole world. Obama, it’s clear, genuinely doesn’t like Romney. This is new for him; he obviously respected Hillary Clinton, and he seemed to admire John McCain’s biography and career, even as McCain tried to feed Obama to the slavering dogs of the nascent Tea Party. But now Obama finds himself butting heads with the kind of clueless entitlement and old-money ignorance that he’s bristled at his whole life. That WASPy old boys’ club that Obama learned how to dance with at the Harvard Law Review and in the Illinois State Senate suddenly has a face and a name—Mitt, no less, sire of a litter of young Aryan-looking boys with names like Tagg. This is the opponent, the symbol of a generation and a class that has always discomfited Obama, and you can tell he’s dying for the opportunity to prove himself against the man. For the first time, Obama is in danger of taking a little too much joy at attacking his opponent.

So it’s true that President Obama didn’t move heaven and earth in his speech, but the crowd in Time Warner Cable Arena acted like he did, anyway. They roared and cheered and laughed uproariously when Obama defined the Republican prescription for a cold as “take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.’’ They had been sitting in their seats for hours, waiting for him, and they felt as though it was their personal duty to make as much noise for him as possible. At the end of his speech, there was a climactic human thunderclap that I don’t think registered on TV. It was not unlike the sound of an apocalyptic engine launching into a new gear, or a plane breaking the sound barrier, or a fire finding a fresh new source of oxygen. It felt like a natural disaster, triggering my body’s flight instinct for a second. I expected a tsunami to crash down upon me. Nothing else came but more cheers, and then more cheers, and still more cheers after that.

And so we all poured out into the streets again. The older delegates climbed onto their buses and began the slow crawl back to their hotels. The younger delegates climbed on board the trains. Despite all the punditry chatter about an enthusiasm gap between angry Republicans and deflated Democrats, there can be no comparison between the crowds in Tampa and Charlotte. The Democrats swirl with energy. They cry from too much excitement. They laugh and smile at each other and break into spontaneous chants. I saw none of this in Tampa.

Something else that was not in Tampa: Hundreds of street vendors hawk all manner of bootleg Obama merchandise. Cheap T-shirts, Obama hand puppets, an Obama’s head piggy-bank, statues, bobbleheads, buttons, posters, programs, a generic home-recorded song called “The Obama Shuffle” (“to the left! To the right! That’s the Obama shuffle!”) and a remarkable bit of folk art, a painting showing Obama as the sheriff of a posse of African-American leaders on horseback: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Tupac. Obama is dressed like a SWAT cop in this painting. He’s wearing a black bulletproof vest, and the expression on his face is serene. The delegates couldn’t stop buying the souvenirs; their arms were heavy with t-shirts, and many were developing chitinous shells of buttons that spread across their vests and hats.

The truth about this jubilation is that these are probably among the last Democratic conventiongoers America will ever see, at least in the sense that we know political conventions today. Conventions are ridiculously expensive affairs, and networks just don’t seem interested in the work of putting them on. Why bother carting thousands of delegates from every state around two American cities for two weeks every four years when the outcome of their vote is never in doubt? Why upend and reshape an American city with the National Guard, Secret Service, and a truly disturbing number of television newscasters when everything is as scripted and unsurprising—Clint Eastwood aside—as a television sitcom?

I attended a couple of events with the Washington Democratic delegation. (To their credit, all their events were open to the media; the only time I even got close to the Washington Republican delegation in Tampa, three policemen threatened to arrest me and I got kicked off the grounds of two paradisiacal beach hotels.) The first was a party at a legendary local barbecue restaurant called Mac’s Speed Shop. There was a groaning table piled high with pork and macaroni and cheese and salad and sauces and banana pudding; the Washington delegation helped themselves to all of it.

The next morning, there was another all-you-can-eat spread at their hotel, a ridiculous breakfast buffet, with piles of sausages and pastries and mounds of eggs and bacon and a continually refreshed table of hot coffee and juices. Hangover jokes abounded. Washington state Democratic chair Dwight Pelz explained the rules of being a delegate (basically: go down to the convention floor, be on time, look enthusiastic for the cameras, and we’ll explain what happens when it comes time to vote) and read a satirical list of items not allowed in Time Warner Cable Arena thanks to new, stricter Secret Service regulations (“boiled eel, farm equipment, and intellectual property”). An array of speakers came and paid tribute to the delegates, including Senator Patty Murray, House Representative Keith Ellison, and, for some reason, former Scrubs star Zach Braff.

This kind of doting attention is no doubt fun—who wouldn’t like to be carted around a new city on a bus to be praised and celebrated by politicians? At the free breakfast, which followed the free dinner, delegates were buzzing about the free lunch to come, which reportedly involved a “battle of the BBQs.” They swapped stories about celebrities they encountered (“I had a beer with Jon Stewart,” one man said, to great cheers and backslapping) and discussed which rallies and parties they were going to attend during the day. It all carried with it a patina of incredible excess, the kind that politicians always say the American political process can no longer bear.

In his short book about the Democratic preparations for the 2012 campaign, Obama’s Last Stand, Politico reporter Glenn Thrush writes that party officials were considering doing away with this old and outdated style of conventioneering, opting instead for a series “of one night mini-conventions in four cities—possibly Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, and Vegas—but a secret consultation with a few TV executives yielded an angry ‘no way,’“ citing outrageous costs and logistical problems. But with internet video viewing on the rise, television executives are no longer going to be able to dictate parameters anymore, and the old-fashioned convention as we know it will surely die.

For now, though, the benefits of a convention are clear: The Democrats stated their case clearly and with a lot of gusto. They brazenly stole the mantle of foreign policy expertise from Republicans and tried to wipe the imaginary socialist foreigner Barack Obama that Clint Eastwood, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan lectured in Tampa from the public’s memory. And the incalculable human benefits are great, too. A woman from Detroit joined a woman from Alabama in leading a chant of “fired up! ready to go!” that got so loud, the train car seemed to shake from side to side on the racks.

But there’s always a party pooper, and in this case, it was a very drunk Charlotte native, an older African-American man who silenced everyone around him by snarling at a middle-aged white man’s broad smile. “You think you’re so great,” he muttered, and people started looking at the floor of the train. Many of his protests were unintelligible; the vapor of his breath was enough to send little jolts of drunkenness to your brain. But his point was clear. He resented being forced out of the middle of his town by the military and the police who have been bused in from Chicago for the cameras and the pretty lights and the street vendors. He felt ignored, and he was angry about it, and so he took it out on this one guy in a blazer and cuffed trousers who was having a good time up until now.

In response, everyone on the train tried to ignore the drunken man. The man in the blazer stared at the floor and tried to look either contrite or completely ignorant; I couldn’t tell which. The drunken man wobbled and tried to make his case, to dis-disenfranchise himself. He got so angry that a younger delegate finally said “Dude,” with an implied “stop” tumbling along after. And the train pulled into a station and the drunken man staggered off. The conversation started up again, and the enthusiasm returned to just about where it once was, with people recalling their favorite moments from a very memorable day in order to forget the discomfort that just demanded their attentions.

If there’s one moment I’m going to pull from both of these conventions and carry with me until I die, I know exactly what it is. There’s no doubt. It was a pure moment of grace and awe. When Gabby Giffords came onstage on the last night of the DNC to lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance in her halting, childlike voice, and blew kisses at the crowd, and was guided off the stage, I lost it. I was bawling, and so was everyone else in the print journalists section, far to the rear of the stadium. And so, I suspect, was everyone in the Arena. It was the kind of moment that TV reporters love to ruin with their careless choice of words, like courage and tragedy and strength. Those words are too blunt, too inexact, to express what that moment meant.

Almost two years ago, this woman took a bullet to the brain in an Arizona parking lot. News organizations around the country reported her to be dead before they corrected their mistake. She was there for just another dumb press event that congresswomen have to show up for every day if they expect to keep their jobs, and a mentally unhinged man who slipped through the cracks tried to force his will upon her, to make her dead so that he could have something he could call his own. He took something precious from her that will never be replaced, but he failed.

Giffords was broken on that day, and she’s broken now. I’m broken, too, and so are you. Every day breaks us in a different way. But broken is not the same thing as dead, and if you’re not dead, you’re alive, and if you’re alive, you can do something. That’s not courage; it’s just what you do. You wake up. Something’s sore. Your head hurts. You don’t want to do what you have to do today. You don’t want to talk to humans. There’s so much weight that it feels like you can’t do it anymore. It’s pointless. It’s unmanageable. It’s awful. You can’t do it. You know, deep down in your stomach, that you simply can’t do it anymore. It’s impossible.

You get up anyway. recommended

 

Comments (65) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
1
YES.
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on September 7, 2012 at 6:05 PM · Report this
2
I'm really glad you got up today to write this, even if you didn't feel like it. It's beautifully done.

And I'm really glad I found it because Dan Savage's tweet about it appeared on my (rather silly) Twitter feed.

What's missing from so much of the discourse and coverage of these events is the actual human experience of them. Reading this took me from my living room to beside you in the cities. (here, I brought some bandaids with me for your feet)

File me under the "New Fan" column.
Posted by amy redd-greiner on September 7, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
VelhoSorriso 3
Agreed.
Posted by VelhoSorriso on September 7, 2012 at 7:13 PM · Report this
4
Damn fine piece of writing.
Posted by CCL on September 7, 2012 at 7:17 PM · Report this
5
Paul
Great story. One quibble (cannot help myself):

"That WASPy old boys’ club that Obama learned how to dance with at the Harvard Law Review and in the Illinois State Senate"

If you think the Illinois State Senate is WASPY, uh, no. It's Chicago ethnic/racial politicos and their downstate Pig Farmer Republican counterparts. While the latter might formally be White Anglo Saxon Protestants, Springfield as far from Harvard Law Review as the Boston Common is from the Illinois State Fair.

But, again, this one quibble I cannot help only because I'm hip deep in Illinois right now. Thanks for your great coverage of both conventions, and now go home, heal your feet and your electronics and get some rest.

Bill
Posted by Chicago Fan on September 7, 2012 at 7:52 PM · Report this
6
That was great, Paul.
Posted by Eric Reynolds on September 7, 2012 at 7:54 PM · Report this
7
You've done excellent work all around the last couple of weeks, Paul. Thanks.
Posted by rainbird on September 7, 2012 at 8:16 PM · Report this
8
Awesome coverage, through both conventions! Thanks, Paul. And this wrap-up essay is a great piece of writing: insightful, heartfelt, candid and yet, art.

Get home safe, dude.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on September 7, 2012 at 8:18 PM · Report this
9
This is a damn fine article.
Posted by sisyphusgal on September 7, 2012 at 8:21 PM · Report this
10
A few months back, I took the bus from Kansas City to Denver. Yes it was cramped and crowded. But the miracle was that, at a certain point, when three batteries on the cell phones are running low, you actually start talking to the other strangers on the bus. Especially rolling through the purgatory of western Kansas, there's really no other alternative.

You meet the most interesting people that way.
Posted by Corydon on September 7, 2012 at 8:26 PM · Report this
11
Great job, Paul! I've been following your dispatches these past two weeks. I really appreciate that we have had a local reporter to bear witness and add depth to the coverage. 'Sounds like you had to suffer a little bit along the way with various discomforts and breakages. But you still managed to get the word back to us. This article today ties it all together. It's also a benefit that you were able to experience both conventions to compare and contrast. I am so glad that the Democratic convention followed the RNC so that you could end on a more positive note. Among the many speeches I saw online, I enjoyed Michelle Obama's and Clinton's the most. But I also agree that Gabby Gifford's Pledge moment was powerful, sad and very moving. Thanks for your work and dedication. ~N.O.
Posted by No Offense on September 7, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
12
It's been a pleasure reading of your journey. Thank you, sir.
Posted by rjsplow on September 7, 2012 at 8:45 PM · Report this
13
Paul, you are an excellent writer (but we knew that already). Yours has been the best coverage of both the conventions (and the bus trip in between) of any of the reporters I follow. Thank you so much.
I hope the Stranger gives you a couple of days off to recover (or a raise or something).
Posted by crone on September 7, 2012 at 9:17 PM · Report this
McBomber 14
Like your dispatches, this was a wonderful read. It's fascinating to get a glimpse of the author's story behind the actual reporting and it sounds like you may have just scratched the surface of the rich detail. Maybe it's time for Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 2012?
Posted by McBomber on September 7, 2012 at 9:33 PM · Report this
Doogie Fresh 15
What a FANTASTIC piece on your experiences at the conventions, Paul. I was directed here by Dan Savages' tweet and, being how I usually do what Dan commands, I dutifully clicked the link and was directed to this awesome writing. So glad I did! I'll be back for more.....

I also cried when I saw Giffords lead the DNC in the Pledge of Allegiance. Tears welled up in my eyes again just now when I recounted the event in your well-written recollection of that moment.
Posted by Doogie Fresh on September 7, 2012 at 9:36 PM · Report this
NaFun 16
Hat's off to you. I'm buying you a drink asset the nextSlog Happy.
Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on September 7, 2012 at 9:54 PM · Report this
17
Beautiful work, Paul. Fear and Loving on the Convention Floors 2012. Well done.
Posted by DawginExile on September 7, 2012 at 10:12 PM · Report this
18
Thanks Paul for making these two conventions so real. I'm a new fan. Kudos.
Posted by Idahoskipper on September 7, 2012 at 10:32 PM · Report this
yelahneb 19
Thank you.
Posted by yelahneb http://www.strangebutharmless.com on September 7, 2012 at 10:40 PM · Report this
20
Yes, this is great writing and exhilarating to read.
Posted by LMcGuff http://holyoutlaw.livejournal.com/ on September 7, 2012 at 10:51 PM · Report this
Rich Jensen 21
Like.
Posted by Rich Jensen http://bit.ly/donateSAWANT on September 7, 2012 at 11:27 PM · Report this
22
You worked very hard during the convention season. Thanks.
Posted by gloomy gus on September 8, 2012 at 12:00 AM · Report this
23
Well done. The Clinton feeling is right on. The analysis of the Obama team's strategy seems pretty accurate too. I think at this point they figure they've got it won and they just have to coast. It'd be nice if they started pushing for a democratic house and senate.
Posted by dirge on September 8, 2012 at 12:12 AM · Report this
Puty 24
What a touching and terrific article. I read your stuff almost every day, but this beautiful monster was something else. Just great.
Posted by Puty on September 8, 2012 at 12:46 AM · Report this
25
"They get neck tattoos that virtually ensure they’ll never have a decent job."

I have worked with very competent software engineers that have neck and head tattoos who make far more money than you, my friend.
Posted by Muffin Man on September 8, 2012 at 12:54 AM · Report this
26
Fantastic article. Reminds me of who I think to be the greatest American journalist of all time -- Ernie Pyle. (Seriously, look him up if you've never heard of him)

That was one great read -- all of your coverage have been great reads and I thank you for your time to do it.

Really, really good shit. Like really good.
Posted by ortolan on September 8, 2012 at 1:19 AM · Report this
27
very nice credulous 'wide-eyed naive hipster in the real world' democrap fanboy perspective, Paul.

here is the Real America take on the DNC.....

1- Clinton making the case that:
Obama hasn't gotten the job done-not even close- but, hey!- even a demigod like me couldn't have done it.....(plus reminding everyone how much they miss Bill and what a limp noodle Obama is)

2- The vicious snarling angry rank and file Democraps rejecting God and Jerusalem (with the yummy icing of the total fiasco hamfisted clumsy way in which it was handled, managing to Piss Off and Disgust, literally, every band on the ideological spectrum- the Godless Heathens know they had the votes to defeat the measure but were screwed over and ignored and humiliated and Godfearing Real America not at all fooled by the cosmetic repair to the platform.)
Priceless.........

3- Obama's limp speech, confirming the impression of inadequacy created by Bill's boffo performance and hinting at the job numbers to come....

4- the truly frighteningly GRIM job numbers that rushed in before the hangovers were even gone mocking the Democraps party.

You couldn't make stuff up this good.......
Posted by this is what a party in decline looks like on September 8, 2012 at 3:36 AM · Report this
28
Great piece, Paul.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on September 8, 2012 at 4:21 AM · Report this
29
Brilliant, thank you for writing this and even more so for living it.
Posted by dbgill56 on September 8, 2012 at 4:31 AM · Report this
30
Hey Stranger - give this guy a raise! He's earned it, he deserves it, he needs it!
Posted by Fluffy on September 8, 2012 at 7:09 AM · Report this
31
I was afraid there in the beginning of your article that the jungle would devour you, but with a little more fresh air, sunshine, and group identity you recharged your intellect and wrote on, lovingly and with erudition. Good work, man.

Get out the vote. Don't let the hoodlums take over.
Posted by Gonesouth on September 8, 2012 at 7:12 AM · Report this
32
Beautiful and transformative writing. I will forever remember those chitinous shells of buttons and the drunken disenfranchised man trying to communicate his needs. The space between being that chasm we cannot seem to bridge. Showing that space makes it salient. Does that space have a name other than despair? Keep on getting up. It is worth it.
Posted by heartfelt on September 8, 2012 at 7:21 AM · Report this
Bauhaus I 33
Loved it, Paul. Thanks! But dude! You need a raise if you can't afford to get a piece of emergency luggage.

Was the Greyhound your idea or was it forced upon you with budget restraints?
Posted by Bauhaus I on September 8, 2012 at 7:24 AM · Report this
emma's bee 34
Beautiful piece, Paul. Thank you for suffering for your art and sharing all of it with us.
Posted by emma's bee on September 8, 2012 at 7:55 AM · Report this
35
I think this is the first comment stream I have ever read that is almost all positive. I think you have achieved something here. For a "college dropout" not too shabby! Thanks for your great reporting. If only CNN and other news agencies would start covering news authentically too maybe they would be worth watching other than the clips on Jon Stewart making fun of what idiotic things they say.
Posted by Bruser on September 8, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
36
Really good read, Paul. You really did have me right there with you, up to and including the tears for Gabby Giffords.

Count me too as a new fan. Of yours and of The Stranger. Good show!
Posted by Kathleen Halcyan on September 8, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
37
Beautiful piece, from beginning to end. Thank you for your candid observations and your unforgettable imagery of what has been left out of so much of the other coverage. Brava!
Posted by Jessica Langlois on September 8, 2012 at 10:03 AM · Report this
38
"These people are hard to love. They get drunk in public. They engage in light child abuse. They get neck tattoos that virtually ensure they’ll never have a decent job. Some of them don’t speak English; a few who can speak English can’t read it."

Yup, sounds like a convention with 5,000 delegates and 15,000 members of the US media. They'll degrade the tone of any gathering.
Posted by bilejones on September 8, 2012 at 11:19 AM · Report this
39
"These people are hard to love. They get drunk in public. They engage in light child abuse. They get neck tattoos that virtually ensure they’ll never have a decent job. Some of them don’t speak English; a few who can speak English can’t read it."

Yup, sounds like a convention with 5,000 delegates and 15,000 members of the US media. They'll degrade the tone of any gathering.
Posted by bilejones on September 8, 2012 at 11:22 AM · Report this
40
ARE YOU A BUBBA-CRAT?


It was so exciting listening to those cheering crowds for Bill Clinton at the convention.

One finds it perplexing though, as to what they were cheering Bubba for?

Was it because as governor, Clinton killed collective bargaining in Arkansas and helped to make that state a "right-to-work" state?

Was it because as president for two terms, Clinton helped to offshore even more American jobs than Reagan did during his two terms?

Or was it because, after leaving the presidency, Clinton made over $100 million as a lobbyist for the jobs-offshoring industry?

Perhaps one of those witless, infantilized Ameritard sheeple who fancy themselves to be rocket scientists could answer this question for me?

Somehow, at the midnight hour for America, accepting either of the usual Wall Street choices for president is completely unacceptable.

A thinking citizen, one able to come to their own opinions independently and not hampered by various mental illnesses so prevalent among this almost-completely infantilized population in America today, would naturally opt for the most sane choice, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party.
Posted by sgt_doom on September 8, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
41
40

good question.

actually,

it was all the retards Bill electrocuted....
Posted by Slog loves the smell of burning retards in the morning on September 8, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
42
Beautiful.
Posted by David Nixon on September 8, 2012 at 2:49 PM · Report this
43
I read three paragraphs.

While an op-ed, human. Respectful, and respectable.

It's not so much danger as "These people broken."

ON NOW, TO THE FAGGOT BASHING.

The biological reason for the existence of all of us is,

"The furthering of one's own genetic material."

This week, on the bus.

I listened to some broken-down pathetic fuck telling his mother that in fifty years the view on homosexuals will be that of the inferior white South-Easter prior to the civil rights movement.

Water fountains and idiocy.

I envisioned her smiling sadly at her failure of a son before hanging up and doing something that is actually worthwhile.

Like, not talking to her son.

In fifty years you won't be here, nor will your movement.

Why?

Because you're a faggot.
Posted by whoDoYouThink on September 9, 2012 at 3:06 AM · Report this
44
Excellent, well written and provocative. Thank you.
Posted by lisa58 on September 9, 2012 at 5:54 AM · Report this
45
Excellent article, very well written! I think the Democratic convention was on an objective level much more effective than the Republican convention at getting the message out and seizing the momentum. I've heard for months about an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans - They said the Republicans were more enthusiastic, but I don't think they can say that now.

By the way, if your laptop's still having those issues, get it checked for malware. Mine had the same problem you were having earlier this year (shutting off at random points, it was very annoying) and eventually I had to get the hard drive and motherboard replaced, it was either due to a short or a virus. Make sure to back up any files beforehand if you're able.
Posted by Friendly Tip on September 9, 2012 at 7:48 AM · Report this
46
Yeah. Wow. Damn. Great piece. I loved it all but those last four paragraphs really got me. Thanks.
Posted by Strangee on September 9, 2012 at 9:01 AM · Report this
47
Another perspective on the Conventions: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/arun…
Posted by Linda J on September 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM · Report this
eclexia 48
Paul, I'm sorry I wasn't there to tell you this when it mattered, and it's probably too late now....

Moleskin. It's a felt pad with one sticky side. You stick it wherever a blister is about to form, even between your toes.

I never go hiking or traveling without a square tucked away in my gear.
Posted by eclexia on September 9, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
tharp42 49
This is terrific coverage. A great read.
Posted by tharp42 on September 9, 2012 at 11:52 PM · Report this
raven316 50
Great, great piece.
Posted by raven316 on September 10, 2012 at 3:07 AM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 51
I've known for a while that you're a great writer, but work like this demonstrates that you're a great person. Thanks for this.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on September 10, 2012 at 4:28 AM · Report this
52
Paul,

My husband forwarded me your article this morning. For the previous two hours I had been shepherding our 20 year old son with autism through his morning routine, all the while becoming more and more upset about our apparent inability to help him to learn more appropriate behaviors when he is frustrated and upset, wondering what is going to become of him and us. My husband told me to read the whole article, especially the last two paragraphs. Thank you for the whole article, which I loved, but especially for the last two paragraphs, which saved my day, and maybe the next year for our family. You are awesome!
Posted by Lynda on September 10, 2012 at 6:23 AM · Report this
jcsmith2 53
Brilliantly written Mr. Constant. Bravo.
Posted by jcsmith2 on September 10, 2012 at 7:03 AM · Report this
54
How dare that poor old black man sour the Obama lovefest. How very dare he.
Posted by origami isopod on September 10, 2012 at 5:20 PM · Report this
55
Excellent writing.
Posted by Rachel Jenkins, Austin TX on September 10, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
56
Wow. Bravo. Thank you.
Posted by bubbamagnet on September 11, 2012 at 7:32 AM · Report this
57
Wow
Bravo
Thank you!
Posted by bubbamagnet on September 11, 2012 at 7:36 AM · Report this
58
I read every last word. A FB friend posted this and I'm going back to thank her for sharing and share with my FB friends. I know 2 or 3 will read every word also. I have to go get tissue paper now. My face is wet. In my book, that's signs of an excellent writer. Thank You.
Posted by smooth stone on September 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Report this
59
Sorry Paul, you must have seen a different speech than I did. I watched President Obama give an amazing speech, but i guess you wanted candidate Obama back on the podium. I watched a man matured by his office facing the challenges of being the leader of the free world - you wanted to get wet over a rip-roarin', hootin'-nanny, barn-burner speech from a guy just bidding for the office. Pity you can't see beyond your veil. But at least you can feel smug taking for a dig at the greatest president I've seen in my lifetime.
Posted by montex on September 11, 2012 at 11:21 PM · Report this
60
@ 40, Nothing sane about the Green Party, almost as bad as the GOP.

Paul your wrong on Clinton he was an amazing president and one of the reasons I like Obama is that he is Clinton 2.0
Posted by Seattle14 on September 11, 2012 at 11:39 PM · Report this
61
@60,

Oh wow, if there's ever a perfect example of the zero-information voter, it is surely you, dood!

What was the high point of Clinton in office?

NAFTA? GATT? Signing the WTO's Financial Services Agreement?

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, for the final consolidation of the corporate media, and allow for the reconstituting of AT&T?

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999?

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000?

Clinton's signing of the Intelligence Authorization Act, just before exiting the White House, granting blanket immunity from the US Constitution to all US intelligence personnel?

Do tell......?
Posted by sgt_doom on September 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this
62
I made an attractive bracelet out of Obama's ass-hair, selling it on eBay. Takers?
Posted by Pelosi Facelift on September 14, 2012 at 7:14 AM · Report this
63
@61: At least with Bill Clinton, we had an economic SURPLUS, weren't trillions of dollars is debt over illegal wars, or bleeding average Americans dry so that so few could be so RICH, and anybody who wanted it could afford a college education or a house.

No president is perfect, but I'll take either Clinton or Obama any day over the Reagans, Bushes, and Romneys who STARTED this apocalyptic mess we're in now.
Posted by auntie grizelda on September 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM · Report this
64
You'd think someone organizing these conventions would have noticed they were scheduled during some of the year's toughest astrological aspects.
Posted by Aunt Judy on September 17, 2012 at 7:13 AM · Report this
65
Beautifully written, honest, and transported me in to the moment...your last paragraph seized my heart and brought me to tears. Thank you for writing a piece like this!!
Posted by Becky K on September 18, 2012 at 7:25 PM · Report this

Add a comment