Copyright © 2008 Henrietta W. Hay
The Democrats Come to Denver
August 29, 2008
The Democratic National Convention will be over by the time this column sees the light of day. We will have heard volumes of speeches, some good and some not. Many of us will be thoroughly tired of politics. But as I write, the convention has not yet begun. That is a major problem for a columnist and political junkie. If you are bored by the whole thing, you can always head for the comic page, but I hope you will stick around.
If I were twenty or thirty years younger with the energy I had then, I would be in Denver. For a consideration (quite a sizable one) I would attend a reception hosted by Emily's List. That is an organization that has raised millions of dollars for Democratic, pro-choice candidates for public office. I would meet and breathe the same air as Hillary Clinton. The other special guests will be Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama, both of whom I would very much like to meet. But I have been a Hillary fan for many years and she is still the one I want to be President some day.
The idea of the convention in Denver is very exciting. Democratic conventions tend to be exciting wherever they are, but this one is special for us. It has been exactly one hundred years since we last had one here in Colorado.
In 1908, the Chicago Cubs bested the Detroit Tigers in a rematch to take home the title. The summer Olympics were held in London. The excitement began almost immediately, when the U.S. delegation noticed that there was no American flag among the national flags decorating the stadium for the opening ceremonies. The U.S. flag bearer responded by refusing to dip the stars and stripes when he passed King Edward VII's box in the parade of athletes. "This flag dips to no earthly king," he said. And it hasn't since.
And that year the Democratic Convention came to Denver.
It was held at the Denver Arena Auditorium. The delegates nominated the "The Great Commoner" William Jennings Bryan. Famous for his spectacular "Cross of Gold" speech at the convention of 1896, Bryan's populist passion matched the spirit of Denver.
Aside from its location, there was something else very special about this convention. This was the first national political convention to accredit women. Five women were delegates or alternates. On the other hand, of course, the delegates stuck to tradition and refused to vote in favor of suffrage for women. That had to wait another twelve years.
The 1920 Democratic National Convention was a major one for women. The Democratic Party platform supported women's right to vote. This stands in contrast to the Republican convention that year, where the suffrage plank in their platform was rejected. This political action was not done in a convention, but no good feminist could resist including it. In 1920 the 19th Amendment to the constitution would be ratified in all the states, making women suffrage legal. At last my mother could vote.
The growth of political conventions is a great piece of American history.
Denver's 1908 event was the twentieth Democratic National Convention. The first was held in 1832, in Baltimore, Maryland. The tradition of creating a party platform did not begin until eight years later, in 1840.
So we will have listened to the speeches (some of them) and shared the excitement. I didn't get to meet Hillary, but I did hear her at a press conference on August 25. She was gracious and strong - oh so strong. We're down to the last stretch, and remember, anyone who doesn't vote, is voting for the opposition.