By LINCOLN ANDERSON
July 28, 2016
After the spectacle of last week’s Republican National Convention, intelligence (finally), inspiration and idealism have reigned at this week’s Democratic National Convention. And after all the xenophobia and fear-mongering in Cleveland, Lenny Kravitz, rocking the D.N.C. stage on Wednesday, urged Americans to put aside their differences and “Let Love Rule.”
Members of the New York Democratic Delegation have had a front-row seat on it all, since they hail from Hillary Clinton’s adopted “home state,” earning them pride of place right by the stage.
Most of the elected officials attending from the Downtown Manhattan area are Clinton delegates. Although there is also notably District Leader Arthur Schwartz, Bernie Sanders’s New York campaign counsel.
Meanwhile, fresh from covering — and protesting at — the R.N.C. in Ohio, former East Village activist John Penley is at the D.N.C. in Philadelphia — again covering it, and again protesting. His photographs of marches and rallies outside the convention center are filled with Sanders supporters and barely any Clinton backers because that was the makeup of the protests.
Inside the Wells Fargo Center, the television cameras frequently panned the New York Delegation for reaction shots. Photogenic local state Senator Brad Hoylman frequently seemed to be in the center of the shot. During Kravitz’s performance, there was a glimpse of Senator Chuck Schumer doing a slow groove to the tune.
Wednesday morning, The Villager reached out to local politicians and activists at the D.N.C., asking for their thoughts and impressions after the first two days of the quadrennial political-palooza.
“For political junkies, the Democratic National Convention is nirvana,” Hoylman said. “It seems you can’t walk two feet without spotting an icon from the world of government or media. The conversations among many of us delegates are often like, ‘Look, there’s Donna Brazile! Rachel Maddow is at the next table over! I saw Governor McAuliffe in the gym today!
“But the core of what we’re doing this week as delegates to the D.N.C. in Philadelphia couldn’t be more serious,” Hoylman reflected. “Our goal is to unify the party and provide a forum to explain to the nation why Hillary Clinton is our best choice in November. And thanks in part to Bernie Sanders, the platform we approved this week is “But the core of what we’re doing this week as delegates to the D.N.C. in Philadelphia couldn’t be more serious,” Hoylman reflected. “Our goal is to unify the party and provide a forum to explain to the nation why Hillary Clinton is our best choice in November. And thanks in part to Bernie Sanders, the platform we approved this week is the most progressive in history. Helping make the case have been an amazing array of everyday Americans who’ve addressed the convention, including moms who’ve lost kids to gun violence, a young woman with a disability, and the children of undocumented immigrants.
“Hillary Clinton will win New York handily,” Hoylman predicted. “She’ll also help propel candidates down the ballot, too. So I’m extremely hopeful that, based on the strength of her candidacy we’ve seen on display in Philadelphia this week, New York Democrats will ride her coattails and flip control of the state Senate.”
City Councilmember Corey Johnson praised the depth and values on display at the D.N.C.
“What a contrast it’s been from last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland!” Johnson said. “One thing that’s really striking here is how much depth each member of the party has brought to the national discussion. Whether it’s President Bill Clinton, disability-rights advocate Anastasia Somoza, Senator Cory Booker or any of the other incredible speakers, we have heard one convincing argument after another about why Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are infinitely better suited to face our nation’s challenges and look out for the best interests of the American people. Unlike the other side of the aisle, we’re talking about the needs of every community in America, and engaging in a real dialogue about how we can do a better job for each of them.
“As somebody who has been raised with the values that we must all care for one another and work together to build stronger communities and a healthier planet,” Johnson continued, “I feel right at home here among so many outstanding like-minded leaders. Perhaps Michelle Obama put it best when she said, ‘This election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.’ Even though we’re only halfway through this convention, I think our Democratic leaders have made it clear that we, under President Hillary Clinton, are the party that will actually instill the right values in our children and create positive change for everybody across our great nation.”
Much was made in the media of the Sanders supporters’ raucous chanting for their candidate and booing Clinton and her proxies on Monday night. But Schwartz said he wasn’t among those making a ruckus.
“Bernie asked that we not boo, or turn our backs, or be disruptive, so I followed his wishes,” Schwartz said. “To a certain extent, I think that those who were disruptive don’t really understand that political change is a long-term process, and don’t understand that Donald Trump is fascistic.
“In the New York Sanders Delegation, we voted not to boo,” he said. “The New York Sanders Delegation has been holding meetings around the state, and today we voted to create a new grassroots Democratic organization to pursue reform politics in New York. It will be the New York chapter of the national group Bernie wants to create, but we are ahead of his schedule. We meet again tomorrow — I have been one of the co-chairpersons — and will do a press event on Thursday.”
As for his feelings about the D.N.C., Schwartz said, above all, he’s extremely scared — scared about what he sees as the glaring weakness of their candidate. Indeed, bombastic G.O.P. nominee Trump recently edged ahead of Clinton in the polls.
“The convention conveyed some powerful messages,” Schwartz said, “and the Democratic Party, on most issues, takes compelling positions on inequality, racism and social justice. But we have a very flawed candidate, who has done admirable things in her life, but is broadly distrusted. I am scared to death that Trump might win. Bernie would have killed him.”
Conversely, Assemblymember Deborah Glick put a very positive spin on things. For starters, she said she has been getting a lot out of her convention experience.
“There have been lots of interesting panel discussions — the Hispanic Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, the L.G.B.T. Caucus,” she said.
As for the speakers, they have been amazing, she said.
Michelle Obama was “spectacular,” while Bill Clinton “is an incredible storyteller and hits the high points,” she noted.
As for the Bernie boo birds, she said, “There has certainly been a Bernie Sanders segment that has been rude and disrespectful, frankly, to people who didn’t deserve it. The first day was the worst. It really was an isolated group, near the press box, so it was amplified.
“A lot of people are here for the first time,” the veteran pol observed. “The Sanders campaign, to his credit, brought a lot of people in. They’re not used to — ‘You don’t always win.’ You have to be able to say, ‘Yes, that we got most of what we wanted.’”
Glick maintained that Sanders honestly has pushed Clinton to the left on some issues, for example, like higher education and foreign trade.
As for the takeaway from the Republicans’ confab, she said, “Look, it’s not a surprise. It was a very negative, hostile message about a country I do not recognize. Doom and gloom — make everyone afraid, and the strongman will come in.”
Schwartz had hoped to challenge Glick in the September primary. But he recently called it off due to concern about his heart, having experienced high blood pressure during a confrontation with an obstreperous group of Glick supporters.
He and the assemblymember are longtime political nemeses. Asked if he had buried the hatchet for the sake of party unity, or at least chatted with or sat near Glick, at the convention, Schwartz said no.
“There are 291 delegates from New York,” he said. “I sat next to Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Mike Schweinsberg from the 504 Democratic Club — the disabled-rights group — last night. The first night, I sat next to former state Senator Tom Duane. We are all staying at the same hotel and eat breakfast together in a huge ballroom, but Deborah and I haven’t spoken.”
Speaking of conflict, things were about to boil over on the steamy South Philly streets near the convention center Tuesday afternoon, when Penley called in to give a brief report.
“All hell is breaking lose,” he said. “Almost turned into a riot, but it didn’t. There’s a massive amount of people gathered at the F.D.R. Park and AT&T subway stop. It’s usually where the delegates come out. It’s a combination of Bernie people and Black Lives Matter people. I’m right in the middle of it here. Gotta go!”
Schwartz there was “talk of a protest” against former Mayor Mike Bloomberg when he spoke Wednesday night, but that apparently didn’t materialize.
“Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business. God help us!” Bloomberg said at a highpoint of Donald bashing during his speech. The camera panned to Hoylman and Co. for a reaction shot.
Penley’s former East Village roommate, radical comic book artist Seth Tobocman, was also in Philadelphia. Last Friday and Saturday, he painted a dozen banners for Sunday’s environmental march. The banners show the various steps — and dangers — of fracking.
“Railcars that carry fracked gas are explosive,” the artist explained of one sign. “The storage of local gas in communities, refineries,” he said of others. “There’s a refinery in Philadelphia that releases toxic fumes to a whole community. There’s this infrastructure that a lot of us are unaware of.”
Tobocman said Clinton actually isn’t a flip-flopper on fracking.
“She’s for fracking,” he said. “The only candidate who’s come out against fracking — outside maybe [Green candidate] Jill Stein — is Bernie Sanders. If the Democrats were to come out as the anti-fracking party, they’d have a lot of support.”
Environmentalists at the D.N.C. are actually looking beyond the convention, he said.
“The conversation is about a major protest at the inauguration of whoever is elected in January,” he noted. “We know it’s going to be either Trump or Hillary, and neither has good positions on the environment, for sure.
“Bernie was very popular with environmentalists,” Tobocman reflected. “It’s probably his best issue. He’s from Vermont, c’mon. He wants a ban on fracking.”
After Schwartz dropped out of the Assembly primary, veteran gay activist Jim Fouratt decided to run in his place against Glick in September. Fouratt, who is not a convention delegate, watched the D.N.C. on TV in the Village. On Monday night, he posted his thoughts on Facebook as Sanders spoke about the importance of coming together for the sake of defeating Trump.
For Fouratt, who was a fervent Sanders supporter, the fact that the next president will shape the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court was the deciding factor for why he’ll vote for Clinton.
“I am sitting watching Bernie and tears are streaming down my cheeks,” Fouratt posted. “Sad at what could have been, that for whatever reason is not. I realize that Bernie’s political revolution is not over. That is why I am running for state Assembly. I share Bernie’s vision for the future…one election at a time. But I can’t at this particular moment stop crying. Life goes on… I believe CHANGE is possible… I will vote for the Clinton the Democratic Party chooses for president in this election because I use the Supreme Court as my litmus. Period. I will continue to oppose the T.T.P. [Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal] and fight for universal healthcare. And commit to building a national organization based in grassroots organizing to make the Sanders political revolution a reality. Thank you, Bernie.”