So, yes, obviously I ended up voting. I know they say eighty percent of success is just showing up, but this is ridiculous.
It has been a long but worthwhile day. The drive to Worcester took about an hour; there was not a lot of traffic and some deer in a hayfield. We got to the DCU Center around nine-fifteen in the morning and choco_frosh
went off to climb Mount Wachusett while I participated in representative democracy. The initial protocols were much like a science fiction convention: I wandered through crowds of people who already had their nametags until I found the registration tables with their alphabetical signs, showed ID and spelled my last name for good measure, and was given my turquoise-blue alternate delegate's pass, which I then proceeded to carry around in my jacket pocket and flash at security like a badge since registration had run out of lanyards. The convention center itself was a cavernous space reminding me of high school science fairs, only with more in the way of stadium-sized video screens and inappropriate flashbacks to The Manchurian Candidate
(1962). Seating for delegates and alternates was divided by district and I wasted five minutes scanning for people I knew in the wrong quadrant of the audience just because it had a sign reading "Second Middlesex." (Turns out that "Second Middlesex & Norfolk" is not the same thing at all.) I found my ward chair and one of spatch
's radio drama colleagues and someone I hadn't seen since high school. The convention itself started around ten with the presentation of colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem, which was more patriotic ritual in one place than I had seen probably also since high school. I still appear to be the only person within earshot who omits "under God," but I learned the pledge from my mother who learned it before the religion was inserted in 1954 and I am pretty sure what matters more than anything right now is "liberty and justice for all." People were constantly passing around slips of paper with proposed amendments to the state party platform and clipboards gathering signatures for other proposals. As an alternate rather than an actual delegate, I couldn't sign my name to any of the petitions, but no one stopped me from collecting amendment slips. I forgot to take notes. I was enjoying the show. And because I was wearing earplugs as usual in crowds and situations involving sound systems, I think it took me longer than it should have to realize around quarter of noon that the people all around me were suddenly shouting my name. The teller with her book of records (we had to register twice, once by QR code and once by three-ring binder) was looking for me. One of the delegates from my ward was a no-show. I was the first alternate. I had gotten a field promotion.
So I called several people enthusiastically and then I paid attention. There were very good speeches given by Setti Warren
, Bob Massie
, Jason Kander
, Maura Healey
, Elizabeth Warren
("Silence is no longer an option. Hairsplitting is no longer an option . . . It is time for real courage in this country"), and Ed Markey
. There was nothing wrong with Joe Curtatone
's speech ("Massachusetts needs to stick its thumb in the eye of the President's harsher, crueller vision") except that it came late in the afternoon at a point when whole districts of delegates had started hollering "Vote! Vote! Vote!" like the world's most politically responsible fraternity. I am amazed and honestly delighted that the real, adult, world-changing political process involves—at least at the Massachusetts state level—a lot of shouting and leaping to one's feet. Initial votes were taken by shouts of "Aye" or "Nay," after which it went to a standing vote and a headcount if there was not an obvious winner by decibels. Two or three times we had to vote whether to suspend the rules of the convention in order to vote on a proposed amendment that fell outside the scope of the state platform and once we had to vote on whether we should reconsider a prior motion in order to vote on whether to suspend the rules of the convention in order to vote on the proposed amendment, "which the chair does not recommend," the relevant official said dryly. It pleases me that I got to vote not just to adopt the state party platform as it was developed over the series of statewide hearings held this spring (of which I attended the nearest in April), but on some specific issues important to me: refugees, gender and race, disability, criminal justice reform, mental health, student debt, climate justice, the Safe Communities Act. I started fading during the charter amendments due to the whole seven-in-the-morning-hour-of-sleep thing, but Rob's colleague almost certainly kept me functional until then by getting me a roast beef wrap and a second bottle of water during Warren's speech. It helped that I found in the crowd someone I hadn't seen since the local caucus in March when I got elected as an alternate in the first place. I made it to the closing arguments and fled. Many of my fellow delegates were doing the same. I hadn't expected to acquire quite so much swag in the process of doing my civic duty: I have three more buttons on my computer bag than I left the house with this morning. (My favorite came courtesy of the Worcester Democratic City Committee and reads "Get Off Your [Democratic logo
].") I even finished the day with a lanyard, courtesy of a passer-by who'd ended up with an extra. Choco Frosh really capped the experience: on returning from Wachusett, he had contrived to park directly behind a car displaying, I have no idea why, but I rejoice in it forever, an artichoke bumper sticker.
We went to Mamaleh's
for dinner. I got home to find the new shirt I had hoped to wear to the convention had arrived sometime during it. My plans at the moment involve either starting the second serial of Sapphire & Steel
or passing out.
I really think I should see how far I can take this career of accidentally backing into public office. I recognize that the nightmare endpoint of walking off the street and into government is our present administration, but if the Twilight Zone happened tomorrow and I got catapulted into some kind of Claudius setup, I am almost confident that the worst I could be is incompetent and working overtime to learn on the job, not complacently and opportunistically evil. Just as I was finishing this post, I got word of 45's exquisitely sensitive response
to the terrorist attack in London. Really, I promise, it's not that hard to express sympathy. You know who could do it? All of the people I heard speak today. Everyone in the audience. My cats. Me. An artichoke. I can't believe I'm developing political ambitions out of spite. Well, it works for writing.
So that was the Democratic State Convention. I am so very glad I didn't sleep through it. On to 2018.