Downtown Charlotte is buzzing with excitement as delegates, media outlets, and big-name politicos are beginning to make their way to large caucus meetings and other events that are presently occurring prior to the official kick-off of the big events at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The anticipation that is increasingly building up partly signals the Democrats’ desire to enliven and galvanize, once again, a voting base that will connect with a platform that will carry the US progressively forward under four more years of Obama’s leadership. Talk within the convention halls will surely center on these goals, but then there is also the talk that is mounting on those spaces without that one must take into account.
Ten minutes away from the official convention events, about 75 other “delegated” gathered at the Community Outreach Christian Ministries. They are part of another assembly of self-professed “progressive democrats” who, too, are sending delegates to sketch out alternative visions of a democratic future, which is meeting concurrent with the DNC official gathering. The program, organized by the Progressive Democrats of America, is headlined by John Nichols, a progressive political blogger who Gore Vidal once named a “giant slayer” and Rev. Jessie Jackson, President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
While the DNC is situated within the comfort of Charlotte’s downtown (and alleged to be the reason for the spike in motel fees and the displacement of low income and poor individuals and families), Progressive Central 2012, as it has been named, is being held in one of Charlotte’s neighborhoods that was before notorious for its crime. Visitors to the Charlotte Convention Center or Times Warner Center might notice the presence of many volunteers, police personnel, and check-points along the periphery, while visitors to the gathering of a hundred or so “progressive democrats” a few miles away will notice several volunteers and a “killer drone” (as a sign of peace protest) situated on the outside of the entrance. Contrast the placement of the “killer drone” with the “placement” of Bin Laden pictures in the multi-media presentation that opened the official Women’s Caucus meeting at the DNC and one might really begin to evidence distinctions between the democrats representing the party at the DNC and the so-called democrats who have chosen to literally modify their democratic affiliation by virtue of a self-defined “progressive” politic and label.
We were only on hand to hear the opening remarks provided by Nichols and Jackson, which lacked the luster and exhilaration of even the brief remarks provided by Nancy Pelosi at the opening of the Women’s Caucus, but listening to Jackson wax poetic about Martin Luther King, Jr. and a “new and different south” where we “don’t have to live on the segregated side of segregation where you only get shadows and never sunlight” was moving, still—if only the applause had mirrored that. It was even more intriguing to watch Jackson speak such Kingian words at a podium situated in front of banner that read “Bust Bank of America”, across from a “Stop Killer Drones” poster, in a room comprised of mostly older White progressives that could have easily resembled (with a bit of divergence in age) the panel of speakers at the DNC Women’s Caucus. All of the Dems, regardless of their claim of progressiveness or not, a short distance away, did begin to touch on policies that impact our nation’s marginalized citizen, like universal health and “freedoms to vote,” however.
Maybe the only difference between the gatherings are the spaces that they are actually occupying—the space in the US political imagination and, quite literally, in Charlotte proper. And, maybe that small difference is really immense after all.
Reprinted with permission from The Feminist Wire, September 4th, 2012