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August 25, 2016
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DNC 2016: Day One
by Karen Eckstein-Sarkissian

On my train ride into the city, I was so excited. I just couldn’t wait to start. I spent the initial part of the day at the convention center, where caucus and council meetings took place and interest groups set-up tables to talk to passers-by and distribute literature. Anyone could attend. As I’m sure one might expect, most of the interest groups represented what one might describe as liberal causes. Planned Parenthood, One Vote 16 (dedicated to end extreme poverty), J Street (the Political Home for Pre-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans), Defend Our Future (committed to solving climate change), Black Girls Vote (committed to transforming areas where bias has the most profound impact on black women), and the Human Rights Campaign (dedicated to supporting LGBT rights) were just some of the groups present. Other groups included Democrats for Life of America (Democrats who are Pro-Life – no, I did not err - that is correct) and Vietnam Veterans of America.

I then spent the latter part of the day at the Wells Fargo Center. One needed certain passes to go and each pass provided specific access, be it only to the outside of the center, hallway, or into the stage area. My pass only allowed me to wander around the hallways, amongst the clubs and concession stands, but the center placed plenty of television screens along the walls and in the various clubs, so I could see and hear everything. Media stations filled with camera equipment, laptop computers, coffee pots, and haggard appearing personnel filled the main entrance. Most of the main news organizations were present, including BBC and Fox. There were numerous phone charging stations, beside which people pouted and sighed heavily as they frequently checked their phones and sighed yet again. Groups of reporters stood in the few wide spaces and either spoke live or recorded their segments to cameras – many even spoke foreign languages. The few clubs provided the only available places for those of us who did not have a place to sit. Dan Rather was the most famous person I recognized. He was sitting with the Sirius Satellite Radio people. I sneakily snapped a photo of him as I casually strolled past.

Democratic National Convention - Day 1
Photography by Darryl Cobb Jr

I then spent the latter part of the day at the Wells Fargo Center. One needed certain passes to go and each pass provided specific access, be it only to the outside of the center, hallway, or into the stage area. My pass only allowed me to wander around the hallways, amongst the clubs and concession stands, but the center placed plenty of television screens along the walls and in the various clubs, so I could see and hear everything. Media stations filled with camera equipment, laptop computers, coffee pots, and haggard appearing personnel filled the main entrance. Most of the main news organizations were present, including BBC and Fox. There were numerous phone charging stations, beside which people pouted and sighed heavily as they frequently checked their phones and sighed yet again. Groups of reporters stood in the few wide spaces and either spoke live or recorded their segments to cameras – many even spoke foreign languages. The few clubs provided the only available places for those of us who did not have a place to sit. Dan Rather was the most famous person I recognized. He was sitting with the Sirius Satellite Radio people. I sneakily snapped a photo of him as I casually strolled past.

Democratic National Convention - Day 1
Photography by Darryl Cobb Jr

The lines at the concession stands stretched out – people were hungry and eager to taste original Philadelphia cuisine. As one proudly born and raised in Philly, I prayed that the pretzels and cheesesteaks were top notch. I carefully studied them as they were being prepared, as people carried them away from the concession stands, and as some were eating (I’m sure they thought I was nuts – or hungry). Mostly I was satisfied and all seemed pleased. But, I was disappointed that no one was selling hoagies. How can one come to Philadelphia and not sample a hoagie?

Most of the people to whom I spoke were from out-of-town. They were excited to be in Philadelphia and were very much enjoying their experience. Everyone did, however, complain about the heat. Well, it was hot. Excuse my TMI (too much information), but within moments of walking in the center city, I was coated with a layer of sticky, disgusting sweat.

Except for one person, everyone I met, and this means delegate, interest group representative, and others beside press who had permission to be at the Wells Fargo Center, were Bernie Sanders supporters. They wore his buttons, believed that the Democratic National Committee cheated and deceived them, and thought that without their actions, were convinced that he would have been their candidate. The one genuine, original Hillary Clinton supporter I met explained that he supported her because of her centrist principles - $12.00 minimum wage, no free college, no single payer health care. He also said that he did not feel comfortable freely admitting his support amongst all the Bernie Sanders enthusiasts.

I also met two young delegates. They, too, wore Bernie Sanders buttons. I asked if they would protest Hillary Clinton’s nomination. They said that they would not as Hillary Clinton is now the candidate and there is nothing else that can be done about it. I asked them if the recent news about the Democratic National Committee concerned them. They shrugged. Defeating Donald Trump was much more important to them right now. A few others standing close by nodded.

To me, there was not all that much excitement in the hallway. It was mostly quiet and somber. People quietly chatted with one another. Cheers and applause echoed from the stage, but no one ever turned toward the televisions to see why. In one of the lounges, I sat beside a woman giving an interview to a Rolling Stones journalist. Her face was red with emotion. She was upset over Hillary Clinton and repeatedly said that she just could not vote for Ms. Clinton.

On my train ride back home, I felt strange. I could not explain why. Something was making me feel confused and bewildered and I felt alone. Why? I am a passionate democrat and extremely liberal. I had just attended the Democratic National Convention. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. What was wrong with me? Perhaps tomorrow with provide me with some answers. By the way, I must say that I was so proud of my city. It gleamed with beauty, history, and accessibility.

Photography by Darryl Cobb Jr.