So I’ve just finished a full day and evening roving around Denver on Day One of the Democratic Convention, ducking into the inviting Lime Cantina for a round of nachos and margaritas to restore my flagging energy and mellow my overwhelmed mind before I tackle reporting on the massive dose of information I got at the events I attended today.
First, however, some personal reflections from a first-time Scrogue guest blogger. I’m feeling a bit like a political Pollyanna confessing this, but being here in this hyper-stimulating setting refreshes my faith in the whole enterprise of politics. From the minute I got on the bus from Boulder to Denver this morning, standing in the aisle with a youngish crowd mostly en route to convention activities today, I felt a bit of the starry-eyedness I remember on my first visit to Washington, D.C. as a Girls Nation delegate when I was 16.
Okay, so I was a bit of a government geek as a teenager, but still, there’s nothing like entering the nexus of power, rubbing shoulders with real decision makers, listening to policy positions being hammered out, allowing myself to feel a flicker of hope that we can actually improve our collective future. I felt that again today, here in Denver.
My focus today was talks and panels on climate and energy. Never before had comparative kilowatt output per dollar spent been so engrossing, when the goal was U.S. energy independence that could also shrink our country’s huge carbon footprint and start reversing our so-far inexorable path to planetary destabilization while at the same time growing our economy (yeah, this topic was a mouthful). Actress Daryl Hannah introduced the panelists on Climate Solutions in the bloggers’ Big Tent. There was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., 20 feet away from me, making a compelling case that solving the future of the global climate crisis was not only doable, but a potential economic boon for the U.S. Later, at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, New Republic editor Franklin Foer quizzed Congressmen Miller and Markey, Senator Bingaman, Sierra Club head Carl Pope and other panelists on the future of energy in the U.S.
Those were the luminaries – but everywhere, on the bus, on the streets, on foot, bike and Blackberry, were ordinary citizens, here to try to effect change, or watch and evaluate the efforts in progress. College students working with Rock the Vote. Hillary supporters still carrying her signs. Gay protesters. Hispanic caucus members. Catholic anti-abortion demonstrators saying Hail Marys as they walked down city streets carrying a wooden cross. People with concerns, causes, cares, willing to be here – to invest their time and presence – to make a difference. The grassroots, striving, thriving.
The whole colorful mess of it moves me still. It may be cooler, in some circles, to be a cynic. But I’m not. Though I’m not so naïve as to deny an enormous and disproportionate influence to money and privilege on the course of the political process, politics happens here in the fray: among individuals, in conversations, in coalitions, in a million intricate interactions that lead to opinions, decisions, and action. And that animates me, because it makes me think of what’s possible. There may be a “system,’ but ultimately it’s comprised of our collective choices. Change happens. Change can happen. It often happens slowly, gradually, or sporadically, but it does happen.
For those here who want to “Recreate ’68,” I’m not so sure. Turn back the progress we’ve made for women? Would we have had a Hillary – or a Barack – running in 1968? Go back to an era before the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, NEPA? What about ’58? No civil right for blacks? No vote? Segregated schools? I’d rather create the 21st century than recreate the past, even in its more inspiring moments.
We’ve had a lot of change in the last half-century. And we have a lot more to work for. I’m here in Denver to record and discuss some of those initiatives. I brought only my black, over-sized sunglasses along, ‘cause I’ve never been partial to rosy-colored ones. But I’m still an optimist, however guarded, when it comes to politics. The alternative seems rather pointless.