The mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska spoke. A woman who lost her job at a Goodyear plant spoke. A senator spoke. A governor spoke. Somewhere I have a list with their names. E-mail me if you’re interested. I counted the phrase “living paycheck to paycheck” 20 times before I stopped counting. The concepts of hope, change, and the future were invoked again and again and again. I wanted to get a sandwich but was afraid I wouldn’t get my seat back if I left.
Every speaker mentions their own rags-to-riches story – tales of want and woe from the South Side of Chicago or the plains of Montana. The stories are meant to make them appear aw, shucks humble, but they have the opposite effect. Behold me, see how far I’ve come! Here in the artificial world of the Convention Hall, John McCain is a melodrama villain. Every time his name is mentioned, the crowd boos loudly, as if he were evil incarnate, a man with whom no common ground was possible.
But this is all preamble to the night’s main event: Hillary Clinton. By the time she took the podium in her flame-orange pantsuit, there was no trace of the schism between the Clinton and Obama camps. Everyone cheered enthusiastically. The press, however, was pensive, ears cocked. We all knew the list of things she must say, but would she say them, and how well?
As the crowd chanted her name, it was clear from her face that she had imagined all this taking place in a very different context, one in which hers was more than a supporting role. She did as she was supposed to: made peace, conceded victory, threw her weight behind Obama. If all this was done without much enthusiasm, well, who could really blame her? A few times, individuals in the crowd shouted, “We love you, Hillary!” If she heard them, it didn’t show.