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A Disillusioned Delegate’s Diary BY ROXANNE BOGUCKA THIS YEAR I WENT to my third state Democratic convention. This is the second time I’ve navigated the hazardous highways of Houston to make my way to the George R. Brown Convention Center in defense of democracy. The first two times I was elected out of my Northeast Austin precinct, but this year I suggested that someone who hadn’t attended before should get to go, and I was elected as a Jerry Brown alternate. Wouldn’t you know, the minute we got all that settled I decided that I really did want to go after all. I filled out the blue form and got moved up to atlarge delegate status. I like going to state conventions, at least I like the idea of going to state conventions. This year I was a bit more prepared than I’d ever been before. I’d been a precinct chair for two years, I’d actually studied the party rules, and I’d been a bit more active in a candidate’s campaign. I prepared to see and do politics. At my first convention, frankly I just held tight and hung on. Jesse Jackson was running then, and there was a real adrenaline rush. I barely knew what was going on, and relied on the floor whips to tell me, an average voter elevated to party delegate status, when we were supposed to vote and what we, as Jackson delegates, were supposed to think about each resolution and rule. Despite that, it was good theater and good bull, and I began to think that I’d been wrong to eschew all those pep rallies and yell practices in high school and at A&M. My second state convention had Ann Richards running for governor, and a considerable prominence of pro-choice activity, so it was pretty exciting too. I’d actually learned something about how the party worked by then, so I could even take a few cogent notes. In this presidential campaign my candiback position was Edmund G. Brown. Long before the convention it was obvious that my support had sounded the death knell for yet another candidate, but I kept up appearances and even managed a few cheerful remarks to friends and family while I secretly calculated whether I would pull the lever in November for Bill or write in Hillary. In the meantime I consoled myself with the notion Roxanne Bogucka is the Observer’s copy editor and a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Texas in Austin. that at least I would attend the convention, meet other Brown supporters, discuss the issues we felt were important, and be a part of the process. I wasn’t part of the process. I wasn’t even near the process. The process went on in some dim recess of the George R. Brown Convention Center. I was geographically close, but I wasn’t invited. The show didn’t start until 6:00 p.m. on Friday night. I, like many other bewildered delegates, wandered around the vendor displays looking for cool, kick-ass T-shirts \(not many great T-shirts since we lost Jim orange juice I’ve ever consumed in my life; and latching on like grim death to the few people I recognized. I don’t pretend to expect that all Democratic Party business could be open to examination by any or every delegate in attendance. I certainly didn’t expect to walk freely into any room or to be privy to any high-level meetings. I just expected that as a three-time delegate, now fairly comfortable with the convention scene, I would know what was going on. I think I did all the right things. I kept abreast of campaign developments by newspaper, NPR and CNN. I talked more with people who really do things in the party, and with people who want to do things in the party. I studied the party. The methodology was clear to me. The mystery remained. What gives? Basically, I discovered that even if you involve yourself in a political party to the extent of being a recidivist delegate, you’re no closer to what’s going on than the folks back home. You know what the committees are and you understand their reports, you attend the caucuses of your choice, and you recognize a lot more people, but your essential role at the convention is to raise your green delegates’ badge when your floor leaders say vote “yes.” There wasn’t any evidence that things were being kept from us, though it certainly seemed that way. It just seems that to really know what’s up you have to make politics and the Democratic Party your life. I have a life, full of children and work and graduate school, and I suspect most folks at the convention were in about the same fix. Most of us can’t embrace our political party like a religion. Frankly, we don’t have time. I thought the convention was pretty dull Even Saturday’s floor demonstration by Brown, Tsongas, and Uncommitted delegates and lackluster, and not nearly loud enough or disruptive enough. \(These folks were disgruntled that the 15 percent rule for delegate apportionment wasn’t voted down. They marched through the aisles with signs calling for a 7 percent solution, and in my state of ennui I thought of Sherlock Holmes and ritual appearance of a Lyndon LaRouche supporter before the convention failed to stir my blood. In this instance one Susan Schlanger, an earnest LaRouche-ite, challenged Bob of the convention. She was accorded 10 minutes to address the convention, during which I heard her reviled by people who apparently had no idea just why Lyndon LaRouche might be objectionable. Our side good; their side bad. Fight, team, fight. Bill Clinton gave a speech on Friday night, the gist of which my 12-year-old could have written. We’ve all got to work together, tax the rich, feed the poor, do good, and we’re just the guys to do it. Ann Richards wowed the crowd as usual, though before her appearance we were submitted to an extended promotional video for our governor. I admire Richards, and I must admit the sight of her on election night with the theme from Chariots of Fire blasting in the background raised a goose pimple or two. We also heard Leha Guerrero, who seems to be taking speech-making lessons from both Ann Richards and Jerry Brown. Between zingers, she exhorted the crowd to write checks for her campaign and even spelled her name for us. Give me a “G” … Give me a “U” … The most interesting things I observed were the benedictions. The Friday night priest read at length the words of Abraham Lincoln, a great man and a great thinker, but, as many folks around me complained, not a Democrat. The Saturday night preacher’s orisons were equally lengthy and highly and unapologetically partisan. I’d never heard a Democratic prayer before. Reminded me of The War Prayer but not so bloody. We were there not to change lives or even to find out how one begins to change lives. We were there to bow our heads and pray for victory, ridicule the other team, cheer for our quarterback, root for the backfield, and show spirit. In a place where fervor for football is the measure of one’s patriotism, this year’s Democratic convention was highly appropriate. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5