In 2002, I attended the Florida Democratic Convention in Orlando. It was the first such event of its kind that I'd ever attended. The event seemed full of energy, full of life. Remember, at this point in time we had several candidates for governor, including Janet Reno, and the place felt alive with energy.
I was there on behalf of my candidate, who at that point was leading a five-way primary, and would ultimately win the nomination for the congressional seat in the 13th Congressional District -- what would ultimately become Katherine Harris' seat.
For the life of me, I'll never know why the loyal fighting Democrats of Sarasota never got more support than they did. They sure deserved it. Much of it had to do with the ill-advised Terry McAuliffe-led DNC program of "targeting" districts, and that district at the time was nearly two-to-one Republicans over Democrats. Still, it was the principle of the thing. If George W. Bush stole the election in 2000, then Katherine Harris drove the getaway car. Or worse -- I've never really come up with a good crime analogy for what she perpetrated on the people of Florida and America. It seems that what she did was so awful on its own. Kind of a new kind of crime, a category all its own.
But if what Kitty did was a crime -- and it was -- then the Democrats abandoning the district was as bad. Jan Schneider -- the candidate I worked for -- attended Yale law school with the Clintons. Where were they? Where was Al Gore? Hell, where was anyone?
You've got to remember, it was just after 9/11, and Katherine Harris was yapping the party line about this new War on Terror and Democrats were literally running scared.
I couldn't understand it. I still can't understand it.
It helps to have a bit of perspective on where I was in my life. After the new regime took office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I lost my job and couldn't seem to find one for the life of me -- despite eight loyal and accolade-accumulating years to the Clinton Administration. I'd separated from my wife of more than five years and had no idea how to start again. My being in Florida represented a new start, a new phase in my life, a new chance to do things right.
I'd gone to Orlando for that Conference with some signs for Jan and a plan to talk to as many activists across the state as I could find. I wanted people to know about our struggle.
Remember, this is pretty much pre-blog phenomenon. Or before blogs were really big, anyway. I thought we'd get the word out word-of-mouth. It obviously didn't work so well.
That Convention is still a favorite memory of my time in Sarasota. I married one of the wonderful New College volunteers who got started out on that campaign. She's leaps and bounds beyond me, now, in terms of political acumen, political savvy, but that never surprised me. I moved on to another campaign that year, a year that turned out to be pretty tough for Democrats nationwide. I was in DC again for a short time, and then we came back to Florida, and I've been happy most every day for the year and a half we've been here. I still think about that Convention every now and again, and it's always a good memory.
Needless to say, I was looking forward to the Convention we just had this past weekend. I wasn't bothered by the fact that the candidates weren't there. In fact, odd as it is to say, I'm not so sure that the Convention wasn't helped, to some degree, by not having the distraction of the candidates and their entourages there. I expected to learn a few things. Instead, I learned a lot of things, and that's good news.
I watched the Netroots workshops on Saturday, and I've filled my little notebook with page after page of notes. I'm going to look into Drupal for the local candidate I'll be volunteering for (thank you, Ray).
Kenny Quinnell is a rock star as far as I'm concerned. I introduced myself to him about halfway through, thinking it was just good manners. Being the cynic that I am, I don't much get sheepish anymore, meeting new people. I mercifully got over that at some point. But I have to tell you, after experiencing that level of learning -- look at all that I don't know! -- and finally seeing the likes of the people you only know online -- Susan S, meowmissy -- I found myself a touch on the nervous side. I warmed myself up by talking to Gatordem for a bit first (just kidding, Gene -- always good to see you). To put that much together -- albeit with wildly capable help, no doubt -- takes a special kind of person.
All of this is for a guy on the outside to say thanks, Ken and company. And I hope you get some rest. Like 2002, I'm optimistic after our foray into Orlando -- but nobody has promised the road would be easy. Like Matt said, let's pick our fights... and then take them to the other side.
cross posted at the florida progressive coalition.