Democrats Unify at Party’s 2008 National Convention

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This article contains additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale, News Editor

(APN) ATLANTA — US Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) became the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Obama’s nomination was historic because he is the first Black nominee for President for a major political party in the US.

The over 4,000 delegates at Denver’s Pepsi Center picked Obama by acclimation on Wednesday after one-time rival, US Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) made a motion from the convention floor to do so.

Obama formally accepted the nomination one day later at Invesco Field before 85,000 people with a speech that compared presumptive Republican Nominee, US Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to President Bush.

“We are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight,” Obama said. “On November 4th, we must stand up and say eight is enough.”

Local Clinton delegate Bernita Smith said she had a great time at her first Convention. “I had great experiences.”

When asked whether she felt unity came out of the Convention, “I think that word’s been so overused. I’m so over that word unity. We’re all Democrats and you can’t tell me one delegate that won’t vote for a Democrat. The real concern is, what happens to everyone else,” Smith told Atlanta Progressive News.

“Exciting things were Senator Clinton’s speech on Tuesday, Bill Clinton’s speech on Wednesday night, the roll call vote and that process,” Smith said, adding that she also enjoyed meeting all Members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation except US Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA).

States participated in the roll call vote in alphabetical order, up until Illinois which yielded to New York, at which time Clinton moved the Convention vote by acclimation.

The Georgia delegation voted 82 Obama, 18 Clinton, with two delegates absent, Smith said.

“She [Clinton] did an awesome job by giving to him. It was an unbelievable class act what Senator Clinton did. She could’ve continued the process but she stopped the process,” Smith said.

“She told us that morning that she voted for Obama anyway and she told her delegates, vote your heart. She wasn’t going to tell us how to vote when she released us,” Smith recalled of Clinton’s 1 o’clock meeting with her delegates.

“It’s just a great week to be a Democrat. I think we have a great chance to win,” Smith said.
p>The crux of Obama’s argument against McCain is that he lacks the judgment to make the right choices.

“The record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. But really, what does it say about your judgment when you say that George Bush is right 90 percent of the time,” Obama asked. “I don’t know about you but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.”

Obama painted McCain as a long-time Washington insider who is out of touch with the needs of ordinary workers.

“For over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else,” Obama said. “In Washington, they call this the ‘ownership society’ but what it really means is, you’re on your own.”

But Obama also took time to list some key features of what he would do as President. Republicans have criticized him for using lofty rhetoric that lacks specifics.

On taxes, Obama said he would eliminate the capital gains taxes for small businesses, give tax breaks to companies that keep jobs in the United States, and cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families.

“In an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class,” Obama said.

Obama would stake the recovery of the economy to a complete transformation to renewable energy sources.

Obama would end the U.S. addiction to foreign oil by ending all oil imports from the Middle East in 10 years “for the sake of our safety, our economy, and the future of our planet.”

He wants to raise fuel economy standards, invest in renewable energy solutions like solar, wind, clean coal, nuclear, and the next generation of biofuels, and put US citizens to work building 1 million plug-in hybrids that get 100 miles per gallon.

One of Obama’s more controversial positions pertains to nuclear power. Obama was one of the strongest supporters of nuclear power among the Democratic nominees this year.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the nuclear industry has been pushing to open new power plants in Georgia, despite the facts that nuclear power plants emit radiation that appears correlated with increases in cancer rates nearby, and that they create nuclear waste the government does not know where to store.

Still, Obama included nuclear power in a list of several energy alternatives to gasoline.

“John McCain has said no to higher fuel efficiency, no to investment in renewable energy, to renewable fuels and today we import triple the amount of oil we did the day Senator McCain took office,” Obama said. “Now is the time to end the addiction and to understand that drilling is a stopgap measure, not a long term solution, not even close.”

On education, Obama called for increasing investment in early childhood education, recruiting more teachers who will earn better salaries in exchange for “higher standards and more accountability,” and giving money to young people for college in exchange for community or national service.

“I will not settle for an America where some kids don’t have that chance,” Obama said.

Obama said is committed to securing “affordable, accessible health care for every single American,” although his plan does not guarantee that coverage. During the debates, Hillary Clinton argued his plan would leave out 15 million citizens. Neither Obama nor Clinton’s plans were single-payer, however.

“If you have healthcare, my plan will lower your premiums,” he said. “If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage members of Congress give themselves… I will make sure [insurance] companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.”

Obama would change bankruptcy laws in order to keep pensions secure, find a way to protect Social Security, and fight for equal pay for an equal day’s work, he added.

Obama did not state he would attempt to overturn the 2005 bankruptcy law which made it harder for middle class families who are bankrupt to eliminate their debts, however.

Obama would pay “for every dime” of his proposals “by closing corporate loopholes and tax savings that don’t help America grow, go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work, and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.”

On foreign policy, Obama said “If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the Commander-in-chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.”

Obama noted he opposed the US Invasion of Iraq, wants to shift more military focus to Afghanistan to hunt Taliban leaders, and wants to provide for all troops in the field and when they come home from battle.

“John McCain likes to say he’ll follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell but he won’t even follow him to the cave where he lives,” Obama said.

Obama delivered his speech on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington.

US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a member of King’s inner circle, reflected on the moment earlier in the day.

According to Smith, in a post on Blog for Democracy, Lewis said in a pre-Convention breakfast there were only ten speakers on the day Dr. King spoke 45 years ago; Lewis was number 6 and King was number 10; and Mr. Lewis is the only one who still alive today.

CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS

The convention’s first day served as an introduction of Obama and his family.

Obama’s wife Michelle delivered the featured speech Monday night. She tried to make it clear her husband and family are just like ordinary Americans, and described his work as a community organizer in Chicago.

“He talked about the world as it is and the world as it should be and he said all too often we accept the distance between the two and we often settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.”

Securing party unity was an early convention goal and in order to do so, Hillary and Bill Clinton delivered primetime speeches on days two and three, respectively.

In those speeches, the Clintons heartily endorsed Obama and US Sen. Biden (D-DE) and detailed why both are qualified to serve.

Hillary called herself “a proud supporter of Barack Obama.”

“It is time to take back the country we love and whether you voted for me or whether you voted for Barack, the time is [here] to unite together as a party for a single purpose,” she said. “We are on the same team and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines. This is a fight for the future and it is a fight we must win together.”

“No way, no how, no McCain,” she added.

“Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us,” President Clinton said. “Actually, that makes 18 million of us because like Hillary, I want all of you who supported her to vote for Barack Obama in November.”

“With Joe Biden’s experience and wisdom supporting Barack Obama’s proven understanding, instincts and insight, America will have the national security leadership we need,” he said. “Barack Obama is ready to lead America and to restore American leadership in the world.”

While the party united behind Obama, a parade of Democratic Governors, Senators, Congressional Representatives, Veterans, and retired Generals relentlessly slammed McCain’s record and took time to outline exactly what Obama would do as President.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) spoke at length of the importance of a strong energy policy, noting Obama would create 5 million new “green collar” jobs and give tax breaks to people who buy fuel efficient and hybrid vehicles.

“The only thing green in John McCain’s energy plans are the billions of dollars he’s promising in more tax cuts to oil companies,” Rendell said. “And the only thing he’ll recycle is the same failed George Bush approach to energy policy.”

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) poked fun at McCain’s ownership of seven homes. “There’s no place like home, or a home, or a home, or a home, or a home,” she said.

Gov. David Patterson (D-NY) quipped, “If John McCain is the answer, the question must be ridiculous.”

US Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) thanked President Bush with this: “Mr. President, we’ll forever be in your debt.”

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) stole the show on day two with a rousing speech highlighting alternative energy strides in the Western US. Delegates roared with laughter and sent Schweitzer off with a sustained, standing ovation.

Keynote speaker Mark Warner, former Virginia governor and 2008 Senate candidate, raised the stakes in the race to alternative energy. Warner said Obama would pave the way for 1 million plug-in hybrids that get 100 miles per gallon, all built in the United States in 24 months.

On the final day, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and former Vice President and 2000 Presidential Nominee Al Gore rallied the tens of thousands at Invesco Field with powerful remarks.

Richardson scolded McCain for changing his stance on immigration, taxes, torture, gun rights, and big tobacco. “Let’s be honest, America: John McCain may pay hundreds of dollars for his shoes but we’ll be the ones to pay for his flip flops.”

“President Obama and Vice President Biden will shut down Guantanamo, respect the Constitution, and make clear once and for all the United States of America does not torture – not now, not ever,” US Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, said.

Kerry painted McCain as a “flip-flopper” in the same way Republicans painted him as such in 2004.

“Candidate McCain now supports war time tax cuts that Sen. McCain once called ‘irresponsible,'” Kerry said. “Candidate McCain criticized Sen. McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain said he would vote against the immigration bill that Sen. McCain once wrote… Talk about being for it before you were being against it.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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