Instant history, brought to us by so many messengers, as diverse as America itself. Their words and emotions mesh together, and the future suddenly begins to look a little more promising, a little less frightening.
Instant, electric history, shaped not only by the charisma and eloquence of Barack Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, but just as much by the procession of others famous or not, compelling or not to the podium: Joe Biden, Jesse Jackson Jr., Michelle Obama, Dennis Kucinich, Mark Warner, governors such as Deval Patrick (Massachusetts), Janet Napolitano (Arizona), Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas) and Montana's Brian Schweitzer, and so many more.
You could say Denver has inspired all of them throughout this week at the Democratic National Convention. You could suggest that the mountains, red rocks and fresh air have lifted the country's Democrats higher than any other city could have.
You could come away thinking the host city actually does play a vital role in creating that instant history. Or, more realistically, you could draw the conclusion that this DNC probably would have been no different in New York, Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia. Denver simply was lucky enough to be the setting for this one.
Yes, the Democrats came to Colorado specifically because this is a swing state in a crucial, pivotal region, capable of determining the outcome of the 2008 presidential race. But as the week and the convention unfolded, it quickly became clear that very little in the speeches, messages and even the protests outside Pepsi Center was aimed specifically at Colorado and its people.
Something else worth noting: Until the Thursday night climax at Invesco Field, this convention did not have a chance to engulf the Front Range, or even all of Denver. It had seemed possible, with 4,400 delegates, at least that many more insiders, and no fewer than 15,000 media (many from other nations), that the convention's atmosphere and pulse would spread, even an hour south to Colorado Springs.
That didn't happen. In truth, on a typical night, the DNC crowd jammed into Larimer Square, LoDo and the 16th Street Mall but no further. East of the state Capitol, or south of Colfax Avenue, the scene was no different from any other quiet weeknight in Denver.
The reality is that conventions today Democrats this week, followed by the Republicans in St. Paul, Minn., next week are as shrewdly pre-planned and scripted as possible. (We'll see how the GOP thinks on its feet if Hurricane Gustav hits Louisiana as that convention begins.) You don't see it on TV, and many don't know even inside the arena, but every speaker is looking at a well-placed TelePrompTer, along with a digital clock that counts down the estimated time remaining in each presentation, whether the speaker is the Chicago city clerk or an Obama, Clinton or Kennedy.
When you see it in person, you realize much more clearly what a convention is, and isn't. It's a classic made-for-TV event, with almost every moment intended to serve a purpose. This week, the Democrats' singular goal was unity, pulling together the party that was so sharply divided during the primary season. Even the lulls between speeches were intentional, giving time for the major networks and cable TV's pundits to inject their responses and reactions.
Being part of that script, but having the chance to help sculpt that instant history, explains why Kennedy would walk out of a hospital to convey his portion of the over-arching message. It explains why Hillary Clinton would be inspired to new heights "Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for ..." in pleading for unity, even if she has an ulterior motive. (Supreme Court, perhaps?)
It also explains why Kucinich could ignite the delegates in the late afternoon, before TV cameras went on, with a resounding theme: "Wake up, America!" And it explains why others perhaps destined for higher stature down the line such as Warner, Patrick or Sebelius provide glimmers of fresh hope.
It'll be the same next week for the Republicans, with a different script and a different message. But they'll be inspired for the same reason.
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