“I’m feeling really terrible,” the bloke at the Union Station bar said.

His suit was crumpled, his rosette was slightly askew. He couldn’t have looked more like a Convention delegate if he was wearing a panama hat and carrying a placard saying, “Ma Ma where’s my pa? Gone to the White House ha ha ha.” (The first person who’s not Charles Richardson to identify the campaign wins a personalised cartoon from First Dog on the Moon — Email [email protected]).

“It’s altitude sickness,” said this wearied traveller, remembering two days and nights spent in a Santa Fe motel watching the funny lights move across the ceiling.

“You need to drink four litres of water a day and take eight deep breaths every 10 minutes.”

“Does that mean I’ll stop feeling like this?”

“In about a week.”

“But we’re only here a week.”

Indeed. It takes the particular genius of the Democrats to hold a week-long convention in a place that takes at least a week to get used to. After two weeks at a mile-high attitude, you actually feel great — you’re running with 20% more red blood cells, your lungs have been doing pushups for a fortnight, and you go striding across the platte. First week? Faggedabatit. The worst thing you can do is overindulge in alcohol so it’s lucky that nothing of that sort takes place here.

Anyway, here we we all are in the mile-high city, a half-modern wreck half restored chi cho place of warehouses turned into reiki massage juice bar condominiums, with a mile wide security cordon thrown around the Pepsi convention centre (another Democratic special — choose the cola with 15% market share) and fleets of media crews buzzing around interviewing each other. The Convention starts tomorrow with a keynote address by Michelle Obama, an event that already has me clenching my glutes in tension.

Quite aside from her “first time I ever felt proud of America” remark, the only bum note in the Obama family interview when she was asked what the most romantic thing she did for her husband was (Obama had been asked the same question), “well I look after his kids,” she replied, opening the must never-be-spoken-of crevasse in the elite professional marriage.

Never really a professional politician’s wife, she must have got with the programme to be giving the speech, but the gaffe potential is awesome. Jimmy Carter will also be speaking, a man who is a historic figure, a sepiatint, for anyone under 40, but owed what is due to presidents past. There’ll also be a tribute film by Ted Kennedy who is slowly croaking in Massachusetts, and in tribute to his life’s work, live on stage, an intern will be groped.

Tuesday will be a potential biggie, with Hillary giving her right of repl … sorry, speech, and an unknown bunch of supporters — unkindly labelled by Wonkette the Hillarytards – ready with signs and shouts to express their dissent from an Obama ticket. The convention floor manager interviewed about an hour ago said with thin-lipped quietness that an orderly convention would be “managed”, and one suspects they might find themselves waking up four days later in a Tijuana prison with a half pound of brown heroin in their backpocket. At least that would show some decisiveness.

If by any wild weird chance, Hillary is planning an upset and has organised numbers for a coup on the floor — and I don’t think for a second this is likely but bring it up as sort of prescient political insurance — we’ll get some hint of it then, more by what she doesn’t say than by what she does.

Of course on Wednesday, as well as famously prolix speaker VP candidate Joe Biden, we will also hear from Bill Clinton, which in terms of hubris, delusion, false piety, wit, and sheer danger is going to be like watching a gay man doing a solo performance of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane at the Melbourne Fringe. Wednesday is the day Hillary has to release her delegates to Obama (prior, confusingly, to her roll call vote) to allow for him to be voted in with full convention support.

Thursday it all moves to the Invesco stadium where the roll call will happen and if there’s that upset, then it will all of a sudden be Hillary addressing the assembled masses. No of course it won’t happen. Obama will give the speech and better be a farkin good one, if he’s toget this half-ass campaign refocused and back on the road.

Around all this there’s a range of caucuses and fringe meetings, in various hotel ballrooms, af-am caucus, womens caucus, vets caucus etc — no mention of a middle class caucus, still less one for the working class, dread phrase which must never be mentioned.

And around all of that there’s the protests. Chinese-style the city authorities have awarded a “protest park” although perhaps they won’t Chinese-style use them as a way of rounding up dissidents for re-education – or, as it’s called in the US, education.

There was a protest march through the streets of downtown today, a couple of thousand people from what appear to be a dizzyingly divergent set of groups, all looking pretty much like it was letter number (you know J18, S11) protest from the turn of the century. That one of the groups is called “Recreate 68” would appear to indicate the bind that the movement appears to find itself in, its innovations ossified into custom, its insrugent radicalism become a conservative repetition.

But aside from about two thousand parties, there ain’t much happening tonight — Fox News, in that standard way, has been reduced to running a half hour special about its own broadcasting HQ (“this is called the green room …”) and unless Hillary can save us all this is pretty much how it will run all week.

Still, you never know. Lack of oxygen can make you do strange things…

Peter Fray

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