Friday, September 17, 2004
Carlisle goes to the RNC
With all the publicity and anxiety about holding this summer's Democratic National Convention in Boston, it was impossible not to be aware of New York's own political jamboree: the Republican National Convention. It seems that nobody fled the Big Apple in anticipation of traffic jams and crushing delays; people stayed around, went to work, attended the convention and its satellite events, and even protested in large numbers. A large police presence provided smooth security, and the whole thing went off, thankfully, with no major disturbances.
Among those participating in the convention were Doug and Mary Beth Stevenson and Adam Waitkunas of Carlisle. Doug, on his very first visit to New York City, had been invited to speak at an evening reception sponsored by the non-profit, non-partisan United Leaders to encourage political engagement among young people. In addition to that event, he and his wife Mary Beth attended three nights of convention speakers in Madison Square Garden, including Senator John McCain, former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, First Lady Laura Bush, and the Bush daughters. Doug was impressed with the "energy and power" of the speakers, in particular Schwarzenegger and Giuliani, who, he said, spoke "in positive terms about the direction of the Republican Party." Since 9/11, he affirmed, Giuliani "has been an inspiring individual," and he is a "very powerful speaker."
Another impressive event, said Stevenson, was a corporate-sponsored reception for Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, attended by over 1,000 people aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid. Stevenson termed the entire convention "exciting," and said that he felt part of that excitement while watching a parade of 50,000 protesters at the convention. Being able to be "part of true democracy" where all sides can express their views, he said, is an important part of what went on in New York that week. He was also moved by a visit to Ground Zero and Fire Station 10 in the Ground Zero area, where he had a chance to chat with some of his fellow firefighters.
Stevenson characterized both conventions as "coronations" of candidates, and great "rallies" for their respective political parties. He noted, however, that, "Both parties portray themselves as more moderate than their platforms seem to reflect." The platform tends toward the "extreme" views of the party, and "there is discussion and debate about the platform" during daytime sessions that are sparsely reported in the print media and not televised.
Mary Beth Stevenson agreed and explained that, "There is a huge contingent of Republicans, for example, that say the platform should stay pro-choice and that cannot change." On Tuesday afternoon of convention week, she, Doug, and Adam Waitkunas attended an event sponsored by the Republican Majority for Choice. Over 500 people attended this event, among them former Massachusetts Governors Bill Weld and Jane Swift, New York First Lady Libby Pataki, and Senator Arlen Specter. Stevenson was encouraged to see "both men and women speaking up and speaking outWe need to get off the far right and off the far left. We may disagree, but in the end we all want the same things for our families and our lives."
Adam Waitkunas, who declared that he got only "four hours of sleep the whole week," said that even though these national conventions no longer function as nominating conventions, "they play an important role. There is a lot of apathy out there, and the convention gears up the people and engages the electorate. It's one big rally for the presidential nominee, and a chance to highlight [the party's] rising stars and the direction in which they want to take the country." He felt that Governor Schwarzenegger was the most effective of the speakers he heard, but thought that all of them spoke with great "energy and enthusiasm and hit on all the important issues that our country is facing and on how we go about addressing them." He also thinks that the many satellite business and social events serve to enhance the excitement. He "got a real rise" out of a large party held at a "uniquely decorated" club owned by the rapper Jay-Z for the lieutenant governor of Maryland, and, like Stevenson, was impressed by the large Romney gathering on the Intrepid. He talked to several people who agreed that there seems to be "a lot more energy this year."
Laura Bush's speech at the convention impressed Mary Beth Stevenson, who said, "Laura Bush is a class act." However, she thought that the Bush daughters missed "an important opportunity to engage the young people of this country and get them to come out and vote." She said, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I thought to myself, 'Can you even believe you're here, listening to speakers like Laura Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger? Listening to the speakers and their ideas?' This is part of history."
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito