The Unconventional Diaries: Optimistic Democrats look past a shaky start

Banners are hung, Wasserman Schultz resigns, protests are underway and Bernie supporters are on the ground in Philadelphia. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos (clockwise, from top right): Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Scott Audette/Reuters, Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images, Spencer Platt/Getty Images, background photos: Getty Images [3])
Banners are hung, Wasserman Schultz resigns, protests are underway, and Bernie supporters are on the ground in Philadelphia. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos, clockwise from top right: Drew Angerer/Getty Images, Scott Audette/Reuters, Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images, Spencer Platt/Getty Images; background photos: Getty Images [3])

Yahoo News has enlisted participants at the Democratic National Convention representing different viewpoints and roles to file daily diary entries on their experiences in Philadelphia. They are your eyes and ears at one of the most unconventional political gatherings in generations, offering a front-row seat on the convention floor, behind-the-scenes access to key political meetings and a vivid picture of what conventions are really like, both inside and outside the arena.

Here are the Republican entries from last week.


I was very happy to put my feet up on Sunday morning and not have to sit in a meeting. Even for someone who cares about the rules as much as I do, a meeting spanning from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. is long.

Despite all of this, I’m still smiling because I’m reminded how much I love seeing all the people who come to Democratic Party events, especially those who I don’t often see because they work all year for their home state parties. My husband likens the convention to a hybrid between a political event and a family reunion. These are the cousins you don’t see very often, but, boy, are you happy to see them when you do.

Gosh, there’s just such a good mix of people here in Philly. For example, there were some DNC staff members handing out copies of the resolution whom I worked with in the 1980s, when I was political director of the DNC.

For me, the 2016 Democratic National Convention started at 11 a.m. on Saturday when the Hillary Clinton supporters on the Rules Committee met for a pre-briefing. We were there until a few minutes before 9 p.m. on Saturday night. Large parts of it were spent waiting, because the representatives for Clinton’s campaign were trying to work out a compromise with Bernie Sanders’ supporters. We were able to reach a significant compromise, one I’m really pleased with.

The concerns that the Sanders’ campaign had about superdelegates turned out to be the same issue that other people, including myself, had with the caucus system. The caucus system, in too many cases, is inaccessible to many voters. We have language included in the rules that establishes a commission to look into addressing both issues. Out of 150 members of the Rules Committee, only five members voted against these rules.

Our dinner arrived during the third recess there, and there was one of those wonderful, democratic moments. We had one long table of sandwiches and salads. On the other table there was pizza. I must say, the pizza was very popular.

This week I’m looking forward to the opening session on Monday. I know I’ll be getting goosebumps. We take this common practice of the conventions every four years and add to it this historic drama, this moment of knowing that this week the climax will be nominating Hillary Clinton, the first woman candidate for a major political party. She’s going to win the election. It’s a wonderful combination.

The location of this convention makes it special, too. It’s crazy to think that in 1915, Pennsylvania was one of the states that voted down women’s suffrage. Here we are in 2016, and we’re going to nominate Hillary Clinton. When you look at how hard those women worked, you would never say women were “given” the vote in 1920. There was no “give” about it. They organized, they mobilized, they strategized and they did everything that we do for politics today. It’s just a wonderful example of how American democracy works and how you can make real change. And here we are.

To be honest, I haven’t really sat down to look at who is speaking on what days. I know I have the list of them, but at this point, it’s still whirling around in my mind. I’m going to have to go back again and look at it.

It’s the convention as a whole that I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to the opening moments when we play the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and we see the flag. And you think to yourself: “We’re doing this again.” We’re the world’s oldest democracy, and every time we do it, it gets better.

A sign on top of a delegate microphone stand at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A sign on top of a delegate microphone stand at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Tomorrow at 4 p.m., I’m speaking at an event that is sponsored by the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs on honoring Jewish, Democratic women. I’m going to honor the wonderful Jewish congresswomen Barbara Boxer, Nita Lowey, Dianne Feinstein and Jan Schakowsky, among the number of terrific women who will be there. Then I’m going to talk about women’s history, paying particular attention to suffrage as I’m passionate about that. I’m going say since this week we will be nominating a woman for president for the first time, it’s appropriate to stop and think about the women who fought so hard for the right to vote.

I’m going to talk about Rose Schneiderman, a Polish immigrant who came to America when she was 7. She was forced to work in a factory when she was 13 after her father died. This woman wound up becoming a union organizer who fought for suffrage. She believed working women need the vote to protect themselves. She also made friends with this woman named Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s not only a great American story, but it also shows that we don’t always know whose courage made our lives possible.

I’m going to conclude my speech to the group by talking out what’s at stake in this election. Everything — our history, our values — is at stake in this election. We’re all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. It has been scientifically proven that there were no Jews meeting Christopher Columbus. Just like Rose Schneiderman, we’re going to use our vote to protect ourselves. Just as Bella Abzug used her voice and her heart, we’re going to use our voices and our hearts in this election. It’s really important for women to know what we’ve done and what we can do again. It gets more important every year.

As told to Susanna Heller/Yahoo News


This is my third go-around at a Democratic convention and I’m excited. We’ve got stellar speakers. I’m happy for Mr. Trump that his children spoke at the RNC, and like him, but we have some of the strongest policy voices in the country coming to our convention.

The media is trying to create an impression of internal dissent within our Democratic family. I’m sorry that Debbie Wasserman Schultz felt the need to announce her resignation, but I think all this will soon be something of the past. Sen. Bernie Sanders is sending strong signals to his delegates to be polite.

You have to give Donald Trump credit for making something out of nothing and trying to persuade Sanders’ supporters to support him, which is utterly illogical. It makes no sense at all. I think Sen. Sanders will do a great job of laying out a case for not only why his supporters should be opposed to Mr. Trump, but also why they should be supportive of Hillary Clinton. I think that will set the tone for the rest of the week.

My Sunday was mostly dedicated to arriving in Philadelphia and getting acclimated to our hotel. The local Arkansas press is here, and we had a couple encounters with them, and we took care of a couple interviews. We also went to the DNC welcome party at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and got our pictures taken with the statue of Rocky.

A giant Bernie Sanders puppet is carried as protesters march against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of the DNC. (Photo: Dominick Reuter/Reuters)
A giant Bernie Sanders puppet is carried as protesters march against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of the DNC. (Photo: Dominick Reuter/Reuters)

I have my family with me, which is a lot of fun. My daughters made a compelling case as to why they should order room service, so my wife and I left them to that and headed out to eat. They’ll be able to see some local attractions, including Independence Hall. Our hotel is close to the site dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, which they’re excited about. They want to go to the art museum, but I’ve also gotten them credentials for the arena, so they’ll be around for the action all week. Our daughters have been looking over the speakers list. It is great to see them so excited about the convention because the issues that are being discussed in Philadelphia are all about their future.

Tomorrow, we have our delegation breakfast. I’m also on the Financial Committee because of my fundraising. We have a policy panel in the morning, and I’m excited to hear former Attorney General Eric Holder speak.

Then we have meetings all afternoon. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, but fun. I know for a fact we’re going to get a Philly cheesesteak for lunch.

As told to Andrew Bahl/Yahoo News


I’m with a team of about 50 people the Republican National Committee is sending to Philadelphia. We’ll be here all week.

There’s no question that the DNC email scandal revealed that the system is rigged. But the problem for Democrats is that the divisions in the Democratic Party are ideological. So Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation is not going to solve that problem.

We Republicans have got a series of rigged games here at the Democratic National Convention. There’s a cornhole game. The “Bernie” cornhole is closed at the top; you can’t get the beanbag in it. There’s a prize wheel, and Hillary wins almost every time. We’ve got a giant Connect Four game where there aren’t enough pieces for Bernie to get “connect four.” We have a press conference every day at 1 p.m.

Some of the "rigged" games that Republicans have set up at the Democratic National Convention, which feature Hillary Clinton winning almost every time. (Photo: Sean Spicer/Republican National Committee)
Some of the “rigged” games that Republicans have set up at the Democratic National Convention, which feature Hillary Clinton winning almost every time. (Photo: Sean Spicer/Republican National Committee)

The other thing that’s really interesting is our venue. We’re at 2300 Arena. Rocky trained here. It’s hosted MMA and UFC matches. When we pull out of here, I think ESPN literally comes in the next day for a boxing event. So you could not have picked a better venue to highlight the division within the Democratic Party right now.

I was also in Charlotte, N.C., for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Some people are really polite. The Democratic operatives are good, but a lot of the time, the activists who recognize me are not as nice.

We had a big press conference that kicked off at 6 p.m. with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Then we had an off-the-record session with the press. The theme that we’re presenting is “Enough.” What that means is it’s enough Clinton. It’s enough of the status quo. It’s enough of the corruption.

This is probably the most intense three or four weeks that I have had in my life, and it’s been largely fueled by sugar-free Red Bull.

As told to Hunter Walker/Yahoo News


There were big marches and rallies on Sunday, both of which were awesome. A lot of the movements in Cleveland got shut down, but today really showed that there are people on the outside pushing for change. It showed that there are people who are for Hillary but who still want to pressure her to be better on the issues.

We at NextGen Climate Action do everything to motivate people to vote and to rally people around environmental issues. One thing that is really cool is we didn’t get involved in the Bernie-Hillary fray — we just wanted to push the candidates to have the best possible policies. People can trust us to be all about the issues instead of being about one candidate or the other.

I don’t really care about Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepping down. I’m cool with anything that will help people come together and get people more excited about kicking Trump’s butt. If it helps smooth things over with some people with ruffled feathers — and helps those people chill — then I’m fine with it. I thought Debbie Wasserman Schultz was fine — I’ve never met her or anything. Now that she’s gone, I hope they appoint a person of color to replace her. We need the leadership to look more like the people who make up the party and not the people who fund it.

We have a team in Pennsylvania working as part of NextGen Climate because this state is an important center for political and environmental issues. They’ve been organizing and trying to do bigger events to attract young people who are passionate about the issues or politics in general.

Activists march through downtown before the start of the DNC in Philadelphia. (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Activists march through downtown before the start of the DNC in Philadelphia. (Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

This week, we want to meet as many people who are passionate about politics and then get them involved. And then we want to meet other people who are already involved in activism and learn from them. Having a party with the Roots won’t suck either!

Filmmaker Josh Fox said he’s pulling together some of Bernie’s celebrity surrogates for a Sunday night rally, and we wanted to be part of it. This was a celebration with music and young people, trying to get them excited for the next 100 years. Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley were there. We screened a movie about climate change and how to better organize around the issue. And then we finished it off with a concert. It is an example of an event that is more about the people, not about big money. The message of the election is not to focus on the crazy BS but to instead focus on getting people out to vote.

As told to Andrew Bahl/Yahoo News


This will be my third convention, and the days and the weeks leading up to this convention have been different from the other ones. In 2008, we also had a very divisive primary. But I was an Obama delegate, so I had the luxury of being on the winning side, so to speak. In 2012, we obviously didn’t have a contested primary at all, which was a great thing.

Now I’m here as a Bernie Sanders delegate, and obviously he didn’t win. But even though I did support Sen. Sanders during the primary, I am now enthusiastically rallying behind Hillary Clinton. I truly believe that unity is the only way that we’ll beat Donald Trump.

If you asked me a month or two ago, I didn’t think there would be any problem unifying us. The days and the weeks leading up to this convention, especially the last few days, have been tricky because of the way the media is covering the convention. There have been a lot of very vocal Sanders delegates online calling for division within the party and for defiance at the convention.

I’m not sure if this is the general feeling or just some malcontents talking on the Internet. That’s not what I’m about. This time around, I’m trying to build bridges and unity. I just got here, so I’m not sure how it will go.

When I first heard the news about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, I wasn’t too fazed by it. I’ve been around party politics long enough to have seen all kinds of drama and infighting. I haven’t put a whole lot of importance on that. I will be interested in seeing how this plays out over the next few days. The situation had been brewing for a while, and the timing was surprising — that it didn’t happen sooner so it wouldn’t have been so close to the convention.

A Sanders supporter in Philadelphia holds up a sign calling for firing of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then chairwoman of the Democratic National Committe. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)
A Sanders supporter in Philadelphia holds up a sign calling for firing of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then chairwoman of the Democratic National Committe. (Photo: Alex Brandon/AP)

All of that aside, we’re in a good place. I think Sen. Tim Kaine was a good, competent choice for Clinton’s VP. That’s what we need right now: competent government officials and not reality TV stars.

Of course, I’m excited to hear Sen. Sanders speak tomorrow. He’s having a meeting at 2 p.m. on Monday with his delegates off-site before the convention. Initially, the convention was supposed to start at 3 p.m., and many delegates were speculating online that it would be best to skip Sen. Sanders’ speech in order to avoid missing the discussion of the rules at the opening gavel. However, the convention pushed the opening time until 4 p.m. so we can do both.

Tomorrow, I’ll also be attending some caucus meetings. I’m helping to build up an Asian-American Caucus in my home state with the North Carolina Democratic Party. I’ll be going to the Pacific Islander and Asian-American Caucus meeting tomorrow where I will talk to the people about facilitating state and national level caucuses.

With all that in mind, I think it will be a good week. I’m excited to reconnect with some old friends from other parts of the country. I’m looking forward to meeting delegates and like-minded people from other parts of the country who share the same beliefs.

As told to Susanna Heller/Yahoo News

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