The Independent

Conventions for Convictions: Perspective from the DNC

Roger Byrd, Contributing Writer

September 19, 2012

  Political national conventions have become the polarization of two parties as they set for the last leg of the race towards the oval office. Deemed the “halftime show” of a long and grueling political season, they officially close the primaries and kick off the general election. The hype, glitz, and glamour that go into these conventions can be lost on the average citizen. Many ask if conventions are still necessary, as 85 million dollars of tax payer money goes into the budget for the Republican and Democratic National Convention respectively. Historical numbers have indicated that a `poll bounce’ averaging only five percent happens after each national convention has showcased their respective candidates. So why have them? Who really pays attention and does it make a difference at the polls in November? The Democratic National Convention (DNC) was a great place to find these answers and more. People from all over the country and around the world packed in for an action-packed festival on Memorial Day. This was the start of what was expected to be a highly-charged DNC, as CNN and Fox News set up camp at the convention site, just blocks away from the festival. Every face seemed to be welcoming as ‘Obama-rama’ buttons were distributed, and families walked by with the kids wearing ‘Born and Raised a Democrat’ buttons. What a beautiful sight, a far cry from dysfunction, chaos, and confusion often seen on TV as representative of the DNC. This was the start of DNC 2012 and it was going to be special. Attending the Illinois delegation breakfast the following days was a real treat. Governor Pat Quinn spoke, Jesse Jackson was in attendance, and all the movers and shakers of Illinois democracy discussed their agenda. The “Strength in numbers” cliché comes to mind, as the delegates set forth with their daily agenda. While interviewing newly seated Illinois delegate Karletta Kelly, she offered a unique perspective on the need for political conventions. “The purpose is to galvanize and strengthen your base within your party. However, it’s more about building connections, networks and working with others with like-minded issues who are looking to find solutions. From that perspective, one can draw from their self-interests and understand how the burden of one can become overwhelming. Individuals whom mobilize with those same issues, while working together to make solutions, lightens that load. The might of people coming together to engage and encourager seems evident empowering people to work towards change.“ People would be amazed how the process of getting credentials (passes needed to get in events) seemed to be never-ending battles based on three forms of hustling. The sole purpose for mixing and mingling for some outside the convention is an opportunity to gain credentials to parties, speeches and important forums. This tended to the best way individuals were able to establish professional networks that might have been impossible otherwise. The connections were the true prize of attending the convention, not just to hear the best speeches of the campaign. The overall message displayed at the DNC in Charlotte, was that the inspiration of a few can rub off on many. Everyone has a voice and convictions, and political conventions allow both parties to display their platforms. What may be right for some may not be right for others, which is why knowing the issues is very important. Every aspect of our lives is affected in one way or another by political decisions; it becomes that much more prudent to know where those who are fighting to become the leaders of the free world are standing. The last general election accounted for the highest voter turnout in US history as 64% of registered voters made their voices heard. How much of that was due to the uplifting, rousing DNC in Denver 2008? There’s no way to tell, but if the energy and passion that filled the Bank of America Stadium was any indication, more voices will be heard in 2012. The greatest power a citizen has is in exercising their right to vote, and the galvanized democrats seem poised to lead the way....

Becoming Civically Engaged at the RNC

Sarah Paulis, Contributing Writer

September 19, 2012

Being chosen to represent Northeastern Illinois University at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida was a significant learning experience. After growing up and going to school in a major liberal city it was nice to gain a better understanding of the “other” side. The best way to learn more about conservative perspectives on issues in America during this presidential election cycle was to be immersed in the Republican climate. The Washington Center (TWC) for Internships and Academic Seminars is the largest bipartisan educational organization in Washington D.C., and offers internships for students within a diverse range of majors. Through this program students are able to meet and speak with many experienced and honorable professionals with political, educational, and media backgrounds. “Campaign 2012 Academic Seminar Series- Republican National Convention” was one of the programs which lasted from August 18-31, 2012. TWC is committed to developing students' leadership skills and encouraging participants to become civically engaged. Over the course of the two weeks in Tampa, there were many students with different upbringings who saw the world in a perspective that I had not previously considered. Early on in the program there were a few times when I felt out of place and isolated because of my beliefs and background. Being first-generation American was not the norm within the 140 student participants at this event. Having parents who were born and raised in Iraq, who then immigrated to America over 30 years ago, meant that I had a different definition of what the word “immigrant” means. A few days prior to the start of the RNC an orientation for the internship with Cable News Network (CNN) was held. Day one of the convention was cancelled due to Hurricane Isaac, the main concern being the high winds. Buses bringing delegates, guests, and students to the Tampa Bay Times Forum had to cross bridges which could be dangerous. Though the first day of the convention was cancelled, the day was still spent at the Forum, the Tampa Convention Center, the CNN anchor and producer booths, and the CNN Grill. The main lesson of the week was that news coverage never sleeps. The internship supervisor at CNN, Lucy Spiegel, has been in the news industry for over 40 years. Marc Bullard, a co-intern from Southern Methodist University and I were in charge of picking up CNN correspondents from their hotels, making sure they got through security smoothly, and were prepared to go on the air. Most of the time during the RNC was spent getting to know CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, John King, Piers Morgan, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, Candy Crowley, as well as CNN correspondents Ari Fleischer, Donna Brazille, Alex Castellanos, James Carville, Roland Martin, and David Gergen. There was also a chance to meet the politicians being interviewed by CNN. Far too often we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, but it is important to consider the other side. The role of the national conventions has changed over the years. Today they are more of a celebration rather than deliberative session. The Republican National Convention felt like a television show. Programming was planned, scripted, and served the purpose of entertaining the audience. Neither RNC candidate Romney or Ryan described how they planned to accomplish their goals. For individuals who are not very well informed it probably sounded great, which is slightly frightening considering the number of people who do not pay very much attention to politics. For someone hoping to learn more about conservative perspectives, the speeches were very general and more about individual stories rather than how the candidates were going to move the country forward. Politics is about compromise and understanding. More time should be spent making decisions that will benefit Americans, instead of playing Democrats and Republicans against each other like NFL teams....

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