DNC Day 4: Strangers in a Strange Land

Our whole time here, while we’ve been blogging, nobody has really asked Ravi or I what we do. I know what I am suggesting is silly. Why should they? We are Sepia Mutiny. We blog. A lot of them read the blog. What else is there other than that we are bloggers here to report? But that is not what we are and there is an important point here so bear with me. Blogging is just a hobby. It was created out of nothing four years ago and my personal objective was to gain access to this convention. Access to “power,” so that we could tell the story from the inside. We are still outsiders here though, both at the fundraising luncheons and in the press room where people keep bitching about how the celebrity press (Couric and Cooper) gets treated better. We are here because we claimed this spot. We wanted it bad enough because we see the potential our community has if they get more involved…and not by simply raising money. A life in politics where money is important isn’t the only way in.

Ravi is about to enter college at Harvard next week and major in applied math. I have degrees in aerospace engineering and geology. We are not bundlers, politicians, or journalists. We aren’t getting paid a dime for any of this and we aren’t asking for a dime for our posts. We are doing what we do because we have something to say and something we believe in. For those of you sitting at home watching the coverage and thinking you have to be rich or an important politician to participate in this process I’d like to point you to an article about the headline speaker tonight. Sometimes you just show up and think on your feet because you believe in yourself and what you want to do:

The Democratic National Convention is akin to a longstanding family reunion. And eight years ago, Barack Obama was not on the guest list… He was drained of money and confidence, fresh from a punishing defeat in a Congressional primary race here. Even the Illinois delegation did not have room at the party’s gathering in Los Angeles for Mr. Obama, then a 39-year-old lawyer, who had annoyed some state Democrats for not waiting his turn to seek a higher office.

Never mind all that. Mr. Obama bought a plane ticket and headed west anyway.

He persuaded a clerk at the car rental agency to overlook the unpaid balance on his credit card, and he made his way to the festivities. He was not a delegate — not even close to being a superdelegate — and without a floor credential he had all the sway of the junior state senator that he was.

“I have no memory of him there,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, recalled in an interview the other day. “It was a disastrous trip for him…”

When party activists gathered in Chicago to nominate Bill Clinton to a second term in 1996, Mr. Obama was making his first run for political office, but he did not have enough clout to get full access to the convention. Instead, he concluded that high-dollar breakfasts and dinners seemed to lock voters out of the system, grousing to a reporter, “The convention’s for sale, right?”… [Link]

This week I have been repeatedly “taught” that money equals access. And yet, Ravi and I are here with better access than many journalists we’ve met, not because we have money to donate but because we have a mission. I am sitting in the press box at the 50 yard line (pics coming later) waiting to hear Obama accept his party’s nomination 45 years to the day after Dr. King’s “I have a Dream Speech.” Someone pinch me. And then someone tell me to get back on the ball and give you more behind the scenes action so maybe you’ll be inspired by the events here to make your own change.

27 thoughts on “DNC Day 4: Strangers in a Strange Land

  1. Our whole time here, while we’ve been blogging, nobody has really asked Ravi or I what we do.

    In other words, your whole time there, you 2 have yet to have a conversation with an eligable desi girl.

  2. Hi Abhi and Ravi! Thanks for this post and for all the coverage of the DNC, I’ve been reading each post avidly. Your comments really hit home for me, Abhi. Reading about Obama’s determination is really inspiring, thanks so much for sharing. I was actually going to feel sorry for myself this evening for some mistakes that I feel are holding me back. Yet, If Obama can go from being “drained of money and confidence” to “accept his party’s nomination 45 years to the day after Dr. King’s Speech”, then I can acheive my goals. You and Ravi may not be paid, but I am certainly sending you good karma for the posts and having inside access to the DNC. Can’t wait for the pics!

  3. Abhi: Ravi and you both deserve congratulations. Aren’t we all strangers in this strange world of ours? Yes money is important, but more than money what is more important is human dignity and honest, practical and yet firm determination to forge ahead. Like BO said: it’s to explore what lies beyond the corner, is what AMERICA is all about. Godspeed in your pursuit of unknown on this planet and beyond. p.s. Fly home safe. Will pick you up at DCA tomorrow afternoon.

  4. Will pick you up at DCA tomorrow afternoon.

    First Kilimanjaro, then the Dem. Convention–when exactly is the taxpayer-funded job getting done? Just kidding–good job on some interesting posts about the convention!

  5. What a sincere and moving post, Abhi! Thanks to you and Ravi for your several clever, whimsical, and authentic insights from the Denver DNC.

    (Is it time to change the anti-spam password from “brown” to “maccaca?”)

  6. Thanks Abhi (and adorable Ravi),

    I was in tears during Obama’s speech, and your words are inspiring. Glad y’all are having a good time a the Convention. Only in this wonderful country are such things possible. Let us know where we can see pics!

  7. well abhi, i don’t know what it was like at the stadium, but from my vantage point, a barstool in a harlem steakhouse, the earth just shook. by the end of the speech, as mlk was being invoked, a man tremored uncontrollably, another couldn’t even look at the tv, and eyes were glazed everywhere. i thought for sure he was about to end with a “free at last, thank god almighty we’re free at last” but thank god he didn’t b/c half the people there would’ve keeled over. it was the most moving politcal moment i’ve witnessed since the fall of the berlin wall.

    but thank the flying spaghetti monster that i disagree with his specifics, b/c at least i have some sense of detachment to say he’s the most skilled political performer in modern history. hillarys speech was spectacular, in another league from everyone who preceded her, but Obama managed to carve out another league above her, proving my fears that she’d just upstaged the nominee unfounded. After what seems like an eternity of being smocked around by clinton then mccain, crawling past the primary finish line while being double teamed, obama got his mojo back, showing everyone how he beat one of the most formidable and vicious political machines of our lifetime. his talent is scary, literally so…when he ordered the crowd “down, down” as they chanted he seemed almost fascistic.

    and he pivoted, proving he had a second act, something I feared he didn’t, as charismatic leaders like ross perot often often proove to be one shot wonders. He was more partison, an attack dog even, almost questioning mccain patriotism (won’t follow bin laden) while labeling mccain accusations of him playing politics with war as questioning his. ballsy, unfair, especially considering half his party has accused bush of playing politcs with war and even going to war for oil companies…but he did what was needed, showing he has the right amount of cunning and machiavellinaess to get the job done w/o losing his vision. i think even people who disagree with him will respect him for his toughness.

    well, i’m out of my ideological comfort zone obviously, so i think the pumas should be able to come around too. i think his party will be unified. he may still get tripped up by falling gas prices , an elusive recession, if OBL is captured game over of course, and mccin is a underrated debater (but a pathetic orator)…but right now obama looks mighty formidable.

  8. 9 · Manju said

    almost questioning mccain patriotism (won’t follow bin laden)

    it was hardly a comment about his patriotism, but specifically about mccain’s ability to be consistent even with himself on a very specific topic, and tying himself up in knots on a purported area of his expertise – national security.

    ballsy, unfair, especially considering half his party has accused bush of playing politcs with war and even going to war for oil companies…

    nice game, calling the dems his party. and in any case, obama didn’t say repubs, he said mccain. as for the iraq war, you don’t need accusations, there is evidence after mounting evidence that the case for the war was completely manufactured, and even chief architects like wolfowitz have admitted to lying about the casus belli. so unless you are alberto gonzales still shilling for your boss in your spare time, i don’t know how you can claim any modicum of certainty about the motives for the war.

  9. it was hardly a comment about his patriotism

    that’s waht mccain said about his comments

    nice game, calling the dems his party.

    i don’t get it. why is nice game to call the dems obama’s party?

    i don’t know how you can claim any modicum of certainty about the motives for the war.

    so if you don’t know then you must object to dems claiming bush played politcs with the war and went to war for oil companise.

  10. Abhi and (the very handsome, not that I am objectifying) Ravi,

    Thank you for your wonderful coverage. I spend most of my online political time at DailyKos and Jezebel, but the coverage here was the most unusual, delivered from original angles, and most of all, just plain fun. Thank you.

    Tonight Barack had me in tears. Two nights ago, Michelle had me teary-eyed. Last night when Hillary interrupted the roll call to amend the nomination by acclamation, I cried. Sounds wussy, but really, who can deny the confluence of histories. Could MLK have imagined today in his wildest dreams? Ah. This is beautiful.

    There I go crying again.

    Thanks again for the coverage, Abhi and Ravi.

    Ravi, kick ass at Harvard, k? Also, when you are ready to get married, find a nice, educated South Asian girl. Now don’t you be rollin’ dem eyes at me, young man. And spit out that gum when muttering under your breath at me. And get off my lawn.

  11. Double post–sorry.

    Abhi: Idea for a T-shirt

    Face of McCain (looking angry) with the caption: Get off my damn lawn!

    (Sigh. Making fun of old people is just too easy.)

  12. and he pivoted, proving he had a second act, something I feared he didn’t, as charismatic leaders like ross perot often often proove to be one shot wonders. He was more partison, an attack dog even, almost questioning mccain patriotism (won’t follow bin laden) while labeling mccain accusations of him playing politics with war as questioning his. ballsy, unfair, especially considering half his party has accused bush of playing politcs with war and even going to war for oil companies…but he did what was needed, showing he has the right amount of cunning and machiavellinaess to get the job done w/o losing his vision. i think even people who disagree with him will respect him for his toughness.

    What speech were you watching?

    He clearly did not really near questioning McCain’s patriotism, even going out of his way to give the sop that everyone has to about his service to the country- his whole point was to take the whose-more-loyal issue off the table – to shift the discourse. What he accused McCain of doing was being stupid.

    If half of the Democratic party had explicitly and publicly accused Bush of playing politics with war, I would probably still be a registered Democrat. It nowhere nears what McCain’s campaign did, which was to explicitly and publicly accuse Obama of wanting to lose the war in order to win an election – in other words, similar to above, Obama’s trying to take the “more patriotic than thou” argument off the table because he knows he can’t and won’t win the argument as a goofy looking mixed race dude against a guy known for being in a POW camp in Vietnam. What he’s saying is that it doesn’t matter – the approach he’s advocating is better than McCains.

    None of it changes the soft imperialism of it all, but then, he is running for president of the United States ;)

  13. In other words, your whole time there, you 2 have yet to have a conversation with an eligable desi girl.

    Hilarious. Great post and great job to all you guys. This was the most exciting convention I’ve ever seen and all your posts have made it even more interesting.

  14. 15 · Dr AmNonymous said

    None of it changes the soft imperialism of it all, but then, he is running for president of the United States ;)

    which speech were you watching? He made enough dobbsian economic populist “market is not the answer” type points to satisfy even the most craven statist, tariff-loving, non-voter. (remember the promise of non-outsourceable jobs…whatever those are). It was like Lou Dobbs crept into the speechwriters room on a stomach full of broccoli, lost control of his bowels for the 85th time that day, harrumphed, and stumbled out.

  15. which speech were you watching?

    The one where he was talking about the war in Iraq as wrong because it distracted from the war in Afghanistan (which apparently now includes Pakistan); the one where he referred to Bin Laden as living in a cave; the one without an apology or expression of regret for the innumerable civilian casualties in Iraq and elsewhere (that I heard); the one where he repeatedly invoked U.S. security interests; the one that was preceded by an entire day devoted to “national security”; the one in which U.S. imperialism (of the friendly or the naked kind) went completely unacknowledged.

    Yes, it’s probably all necessary to win an election. That still doesn’t mean I have to agree with the politics.

    Also, I think he mentioned “biofuels” which, Iowa’s vote notwithstanding, has had a serious impact on probably hundreds of millions of people around the world by raising food prices.

  16. I think your post as well as your trip clearly illustrates what Al Gore said when he quoted, “When you pray, move your feet.” The concept that you have to have money to have influence is something that people tell themselves so they can justify their apathy and inaction. Keep up the good work.

  17. Awesome speech! Flawless delivery! Obama did what he does best.

    Good work, Abhi. This I have to hand it to you.

    it’s to explore what lies beyond the corner, is what AMERICA is all about.

    Contradicts

    Our whole time here, while we’ve been blogging, nobody has really asked Ravi or I what we do

    What you do is what America is all about. “So, what do you do”, the icebreaker for any conversation is the most AMERICAN of all phrases. Considering that this was not posed to you at the Democratic convention goes to show the moral decay in the party.

    M. Nam

  18. goes to show the moral decay in the party

    Oh c’mon !!! Its not the Dems who are having Gay sex scandals all year. To suggest that somehow Dems are in “moral decay” is beyond ridiculous. One advantage of Gay sex scandal is that you dont have to worry about a potential abortion :-) )

    BTW, I am of the opinion that Obama should have kept the speech a little bit of a low key affair. Have it in the stadium but not the fancy set. It played into the “celebrity” attack from McCain (which Obama defending in the speech. I think the O campaign needs to stop defending stuff and start attacking more)

    But, Kudos to Abhi and Ravi on the great coverage. Congratulations for achieving your aim of getting access.

    I think that Palin pick by McCain is an interesting one and as some one on Politico wrote a couple of months back that this election may turn out to be a whole lot closer than anyone thinks. (Actually the recent polling alreday shows how close it is) It might come down to 1 or 2 battleground states. …. Just what the political junkies love !!!!!

  19. >>Our whole time here, while we’ve been blogging, nobody has really asked Ravi or I what we do What you do is what America is all about. “So, what do you do”, the icebreaker for any conversation is the most AMERICAN of all phrases. Considering that this was not posed to you at the Democratic convention goes to show the moral decay in the party.

    Totally disagree. I think it was a) Ravi and Abhi kept bumping into brown people who read Sepia Mutiny and thus they didn’t need to explain who they are or b) BLOGGERS are now finally considered credentialed media, and it is accepted that bloggers get to have the same access that other media does. I think it’s incredible that folks from the Mutiny can head out to the DNC and not be asked, “So your a blogger? What do you really do?” – shows the advancement of online blogging and media as a form of real media and real influence on politics. Sure it takes more moving of the feet to get Sepia Mutiny there instead of Daily Kos, but we were there – and I must say Abhi getting 50 yard line seats at the media box as a blogger is something that we could have only dreamed about.

  20. The speech was impressive but I was kind of slightly put-off with too many emotional, moving and personal references were raised to make a case instead of hard policy issues/debates. I don’t consider myself a struggling working class American so these references were slightly jarring. But anyways I think this was just an acceptance speech in a Democaratic convention so he was playing to the base that tsill needs convincing where his celebrity status won’t work. Btw this is a capitalist country and companies have to make profits and cut corners and many of the hard decisions are purely business decisions. And is it really true that the regulatory role of the govt. in taking care of interests of people took a backseat under the Republicans ? Many of these Democrats voted for the Iraq war so the economic burden cannot be solely blamed on the Republicans.

  21. 12 · Manju said

    so if you don’t know then you must object to dems claiming bush played politcs with the war and went to war for oil companise.

    your faith in the good intentions of the bush admin – after such an extensive record of malfeasance in every department on an unimaginable scale – is very touching. i hope you retain your wonderful belief in pink unicorns and rainbows and all that is beautiful. oh, and i have a bridge in brooklyn you might be interested in…

  22. Ravi -

    Make sure you check out the South Asian Association and the South Asian Men’s Collective when you reach Cambridge :)

    Shoot me an email sometime if you have any questions about life here at Harvard (I’m a junior and a computer science major, so if you’re seeking good CS courses to supplement your AM, I’m your man). spaul@fas

  23. I think we need to start a Ravi fan club. Why do I see him in office in several years?

  24. Our whole time here, while we’ve been blogging, nobody has really asked Ravi or I what we do. I know what I am suggesting is silly. Why should they? We are Sepia Mutiny. We blog. A lot of them read the blog.

    Well, Mr. “I’m too sexy for your t-shirt designs,” I guess the one I submitted (which read “Yes. I am Abhi from SepiaMutiny.”) would have been appropriate after all. *__^

    Loved reading your reports from the convention.