A few final reflections as I sign off from this blog. One is that the tension between being a participant and an observer in the convention didn't really ever get resolved. Or if it did get resolved, it was only because I became a better delegate and a worse scholar as the week went on. I was able to conduct fewer and fewer surveys, and my perspective became steadily less objective with each passing day. It was probably inevitable. I was standing just a few feet from some of my lifelong political heroes as they delivered some outstanding speeches. I was also working very closely with my fellow delegates in very emotional circumstances. It was hard not to develop strong feelings for (and in a few cases, against) them.
I witnessed some really interesting episodes in intraparty politics. The divisions between Clinton and Obama delegates were real, if somewhat overhyped by the press, at least in Colorado. I saw some occasional ugliness along these lines, some of it bordering on physical confrontation. I also saw delegates overcoming these divisions. I believe Hillary's speech on Tuesday did much to help this (hopefully the surveys we collected will bear this out). And the Wednesday roll call, culminating with Hillary's motion to suspend the vote and nominate Obama by acclamation, during which Hillary went beyond mensch-like behavior to approach a state of grace, was particularly cathartic. I witnessed her delegates applauding and crying and being embraced by magnanimous Obama delegates. That didn't completely heal the rift -- I believe a few Clinton delegates are still not sure how or whether they'll vote in November -- but it took care of most of it.
The emotions continued on Thursday night. It was a great day at Invesco, and would have been an exciting enough event without Obama's speech. Besides, we'd already heard such incredible speeches from Bill and Hillary, and from Gore. I was frankly very proud to see the pool of talent in the Democratic Party. But Obama was just amazing that night, even if everyone predicted he would be anyway. My Blackberry, usually buzzing all day long with new e-mails, fell silent, and I realized that just about every human being I knew was watching the same thing I was watching. Being in the midst of 80,000 people, participating in something that felt like part speech, part U2 concert, part megachurch revival, was just astonishing. It felt like what politics is supposed to be. It had both substance and spectacle.
Great politicians have their own hooks. Reagan, as Peggy Noonan described him, could make you feel like he felt lucky to be with you. Bill Clinton can make you feel like he completely understands what you're going through. Obama makes you feel like you're part of a movement. I fully recognize that it's not a movement -- it's a candidacy. But it's a rare politician that can convey that feeling. Sometimes we support politicians for purely instrumental reasons -- we want lower taxes or particular favors or policies from government and figure we can get it from a particular politician. Sometimes we support politicians simply because they suck somewhat less than the people they're running against. But people actually enjoy the act of supporting Obama. You feel like you're part of something important and historical. That is rare.
To be a delegate, particularly in a caucus state, is to be, at least for a short time, a local politician. I have to say I enjoyed the perks that came with the job: the media attention, the VIP treatment, the camaraderie with other state politicians, etc. It was good for me to quickly detox at an academic conference. My grad school advisor expressed concern that he might lose me to politics. I don't think there's much danger of that, but I do see the allure.
Anyway, I'm trying to get back to some measure of objectivity here. I'll keep this blog on-line as a repository of my thoughts as they were happening, although I'm not likely to add to it beyond this. I do need to write down more of my experiences at the convention, and maybe I'll attempt to get something published along these lines.
For now, I should just thank all the people who made this possible. In particular, I want to thank the six students -- Evan Corzine, Chris Fettig, Jeffrey Graves, Jeremy Montano, M.J. O'Malley, and Kelsey Yamasaki -- and one faculty member -- Steven Fisher -- who helped get me elected as a delegate. I'd also like to thank Meredith Bennett for her advice on my campaign flier. Thanks also to Emily Pierce, who apparently is responsible for my appearing on TV, and to all the thoughtful readers of this blog, who provided entertaining and informative comments all through the week. I am grateful to my co-authors Michael Heaney, Joanne Miller, and Dara Strolovitch for suggesting such an interesting convention research project, which is what led to my long journey to become a delegate in the first place. I should also thank the Obama delegates to the 1st Congressional District convention who were kind enough to pick me as their representative. A big shout out to the Denver Democratic Party, which somehow scraped together some funds to pay for its delegates' hotel rooms. And a hearty salute to Pat Waak, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, for providing leadership and advice in what looked like a pretty frantic time.
I will continue to write political and pop-cultural postings over at my regular blog, Enik Rising, so feel free to read and comment over there when the mood strikes you. But for now, adieu, and thank you for visiting.