DNC: Worth it, in person or not 

John Morris plans to watch the Democratic National Convention from a great seat in front of a TV set.

State Rep. Mike Merrifield might make the drive for one night, but perhaps not even that.

State Sen. John Morse, on the other hand, doesn't care how much the gas costs or how bad the traffic might be. He doesn't want to miss a minute of what he fully expects to be the experience of a lifetime.

Throughout the buildup that finally isn't endless anymore, Colorado Springs' most visible Democrats have wondered what it would be like, having the party's national convention just an hour away.

Now that it's here, the emotions are mixed. Morris, as the party's El Paso County chairman, easily could have maneuvered into a decent role helping in some way. Merrifield and Morse, who won't be delegates but will have credentials along with Colorado's other Democratic state legislators, can go to any session they want, start to finish.

All knew long ago that the DNC is much bigger than most people realize. Denver might be the host city, but in truth that's more about providing the venue, hotel availability, transportation and volunteers than staging the actual show. Gov. Bill Ritter and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, the state's two most prominent Democrats, probably won't make it onto the stage except for brief appearances.

Down the food chain, Morris knows many from the Colorado Springs area who applied to be volunteers, even if it would mean working in a hotel lobby or an information booth.

"But a lot have been asking me about it, because nobody is calling them back," Morris says. "There are many more who haven't been called than those who have been. ... I don't feel we've been left out, either. Most of us understood what would happen from the get-go but at least the Invesco Field thing has certainly opened it up."

Just a week or so ago, Morris enjoyed one benefit of his position. He received 50 tickets to the Thursday night finale, to be capped by Sen. Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech. Morris distributed them to local party regulars and loyalists, saying, "Those are nice calls to be able to make."

Like Morse, Merrifield has noticed volunteers from here aren't needed.

"I don't know anybody really involved that way," Merrifield says. "If they're still that interested, at least now there are all kinds of events that folks can go to in Denver, even if they don't go to the convention itself. ... But to be honest, I'm not sure if I want to immerse myself in it."

It's hard to argue with Morris or Merrifield about avoiding the crowds. But it's easy to understand why Morse wants to see all four days: "Because of the history. I obviously won't be on the stage, but I'll be able to see the stage."

Morse will be glad he did.

I know, having attended the 1968 Republican National Convention at Miami Beach as a wide-eyed teenager. My mother was a delegate; in those days, if you were a progressive in Arkansas, you were a Rockefeller Republican. (We had helped elect Winthrop Rockefeller, Nelson's brother, as Arkansas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction.) Actually, all of Arkansas' state and local conservatives were old-style Southern Democrats.

Then I learned first-hand from the Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew crowd that national Republicans were much different, and we didn't agree on anything. Yet it was a phenomenal experience, still the source of many vivid memories.

Morse knows about uncertain loyalties. He was an unaffiliated voter until a year before he ran for office. He's never been to a convention and says, "I'm not a party guy, "party' meaning in terms of drinking and "horse-doovers' [hors d'oeuvres]. But it's still so exciting.

"I just hope people realize that because it's so big, there will be snafus. We will know about them, because we're here, but the outside world really won't. People just have to be patient, especially that last night, with security and many parking lots being closed. It won't be like going to a Bronco game nothing like that."

Perhaps not, but for those lucky enough to see the Democratic National Convention in person, it will be worth the trouble.



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