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Sunday, Aug 24, 2008, 8:59 pm

Convention Eve: Kaine’s Geography Lesson, The People Party’s HQ & Connective Tissue

By David Sirota
I'm just home from the first unofficial day of the convention (officially, the event starts tomorrow). I'll give you a blow-by-blow of my day, and some random thoughts in between. This is the first convention I will be going to in any real way (though I was at the 1996 convention for two nights, I was only a college student) - so it should be an eye-opening - or maybe eye-closing - experience, especially with it in my hometown.

My morning started out watching the Sunday talk shows from my bed. When I hit Fox News, I stopped because I saw my governor Bill Ritter on the panel. That's when I heard the other panelist, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine trumpet the Biden VP nomination as a help for Democrats in Virginia, saying "Joe comes from a state, Delaware, that borders Virginia." When I heard this, I felt a synapse in my brain fire - one that hadn't fired since 4th grade geography, and that remembered something about Virginia not bordering Delaware.

But Kaine then repeated the assertion again. So I checked a map, and indeed, Virginia does not border Delaware. Not to (nit)pick on Kaine - he seems like a really decent guy - but the borders of one's state seem like something a governor should know, especially when referencing a question (ie. Biden's viability in his swing state) that he probably knows (or should know) he's going to get - and it suggests he may have needed some polishing had Obama selected him for VP.

At about noon, I trekked down to the Sheraton - and specifically to its basement - to pick up my media credential for the week. The U.S. House press gallery is coordinating the credentialing for the media, and they were actually quite helpful. I also got a convention gift bag, stocked with corporate and interest group gifts. The lanyard for my credential, in fact, is sponsored by Qwest.

Out on the 16th Street walking mall, I strode down to the convention area alongside an antiwar protest. Though there were only probably 300 or so protesters, the police were out in force, dressed in full riot gear. The protesters, while loud, were actually quite disciplined, respectful and on message. I was impressed.

At about 2pm, I arrived at The Big Tent - the headquarters for bloggers and new media at the convention. The Big Tent is really something special. A few weeks ago, it was a parking lot outside the Tattered Cover bookstore. Now, thanks to ProgressNow, DailyKos and the Alliance for a Sustainable Colorado, it is a huge, two story space, with full wireless Internet access and all sorts of necessities - not for the Big Media, but for The Rest of Us. At a convention whose sponsorship and symbols happily promotes The Money Party, the Big Tent is the place for The People Party - and that's basically how I described it when me, Markos and Bobby Clark officially opened the Big Tent at a press conference right at the entrance.

On the second floor of the Big Tent, I was part of the Media Consortium's Live from Main Street townhall meeting, which you can watch here. The room was packed with people, as activists from all walks of the progressive movement discussed how progressives can seize this election as an opportunity for change.

I was on a panel with Jay Fawcett, the former congressional candidate who runs the Western Strategy Center, and Andre Banks of Color of Change - it was a vigorous discussion, to say the least, and one that focused not simply on applauding the Democratic Party, but on challenging it to be the best party possible. Andre made the best point of the discussion, noting that as the country gets more and more frustrated with the economic crisis, the war in Iraq, and the dysfunction of both parties in Washington, the progressive movement has to continue building tools (like Color of Change) for people to feel like they have a chance to wield real power. He's absolutely right - simply "getting our message out" isn't enough. Polls show progressives have won on the issues - now we have to make people feel like getting involved can make a difference - and part of that means making sure the Democratic Party's actions don't demoralize people.

My night ended with a drop by at SEIU's reception at Tamayo - one of the best Mexican restaurants in Denver. I caught up with a bunch of friends, including Anna Burger, who I recently suggested as a VP candidate. I told her I was disappointed she wasn't picked, but glad she got a major convention speaking role. More generally, the event was a good example of some new bridges being built. Not only were there union leaders and state legislators, but also prominent bloggers like my buddy Glenn Greenwald, Christy Smith, Jane Hamsher and Dave Niewert. The personal relationships and connections being constructed across the typical progressive silos suggests that some of the essential connective tissue of a movement is starting to grow.

Now I'm home, after a dinner of veggie burgers at my brother's place (he lives across the street from me). After 3 months on the road for my book tour, it's great to be able to come home - especially since I am lucky enough to live in a quiet, middle-class oasis a bit removed from the downtown hullaballoo.

I'm going to need that quiet tonight because I need a good night's rest: I'm getting up at 4am for a 5:50am MST (7:50am EST) live interview with CNN on the floor of the convention hall. It's about the Biden nomination, and I plan to give my unvarnished opinion from a progressive perspective - both what's great about Biden's nomination from a progressive perspective, and what's not so great about it from a progressive perspective (anyone expecting me to serve as a partisan shill in the media should look to someone else - that ain't what I'm about - I'm about holding both parties feet to the fire). Then I'll be on Jay Marvin's radio show at AM760 (which you can stream at www.AM760.net). Tune in - see you tomorrow.

David Sirota, an In These Times senior editor and syndicated columnist, is a staff writer at PandoDaily and a bestselling author whose book Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything was released in 2011. Sirota, whose previous books include The Uprising and Hostile Takeover, co-hosts "The Rundown" on AM630 KHOW in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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