Flags wave, fists punch the air, and tens of thousands of people watch Grammy-winning artists belt their hearts out.
I’m standing in a football stadium on the edge of Denver as the four days of the Democratic National Convention are about to reach a climax, as presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama prepares to speak to a crowd of 70,000 and a television audience of millions.
Stevie Wonder is singing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” as people wave their provided US flags and clap along. Sheryl Crow and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am earlier thrilled the stadium, which is nearing capacity as the sun disappears behind its walls.
Invesco Field normally hosts the Denver Broncos gridiron football team, but tonight there’s faux-marble columns, a sea of blue carpet and enough references to faith and patriotism to wash away the rumours about the candidate — he’s a “secret Muslim”, he’s a radical — which have been so successfully distributed.
Former Vice President Al Gore just received an extended standing ovation, before telling the crowd elections matter.
“Take it from me we would not be bogged down in Iraq, we would have pursued bin Laden,” he thundered, if only he had beaten Bush. Which he did really.
The Nobel Peace Prize, Academy Award winner and 2000 presidential election loser showed off his grandpa-style humour by linking the policies of the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee John McCain with those of deeply unpopular President George W Bush.”Now I believe in recycling …” he said, as the masses roared.
On the ground delegates from the 50 states sit in a broad semi-circle, in front of a seven-step camera riser and a host of live broadcast tents.
In the stands, in the tiers and up the very top, supporters hoot and clap on queue. It’s like a Grand Final, except there’s only one team playing tonight. And the man called “The One”, “Bam”, “O-B-A-M-A” and, perhaps, the 44th President, hasn’t even taken the stage.
Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden put his hands in the air as the screaming intensified. It’s rockstar stuff.
He followed a host of generals who want a new Commander-In-Chief.
There are just so many things here you don’t see anywhere else. Next time you’re struggling through a numbers count at an ALP angst-athons or a Liberal lame-ons, think about this:
- Seats with cupholders. And flagholders.
- Mexican waves which work first time.
- A man – it’s Santa Claus with a trimmed beard – singing “America, The Beautiful”. People cry.
- Speeches with foreign language (Spanish) segments. Everyone cheers.
- Actually, forget everything I’ve written. Here’s the kicker: short speeches
The heart-wrenching sob stories are piling up so much one woman opens with “You won’t believe what happened to me”. This life-long Republican voter, a nurse who couldn’t afford health insurance, fell into penury just by falling ill. She’s hardly alone – health costs are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.
“(I) voted for Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Bush. But I can’t afford four more years like this.”
Not this time.