“I have a couple of Proud Democrats because I am one, of course. I got the Aliens for Obama just because I appreciate the hidden, deeper, darker meaning of that, and I got the Hipsters for Obama because my son, who is 30, thinks he is a hipster,” and here the 55-year-old mother of three adds a slight eye roll to her smile.
These are not the buttons of the guy with a board standing on the street corner. This is official DNC merchandise, made in America, literally and figuratively — badges of a tribe with a culture and sensibility that is distinctive to Democrats. Pearl Divers, Bus Drivers, Postal Workers, Zumba Lovers, Beach Bums, Kayakers, Sisters (as siblings), Sisters (with wimples), Bartenders, Printers — all for Obama.
Two-and-half bucks a piece, and people are lining up to unapologetically flaunt their identity politics.
Gambill’s description of her people: “We are every color, shape and size,” she says, waving her hand at the throngs inside the Charlotte Convention Center. “ You pan that crowd last week,” at the Republican convention in Tampa, “and what you see is a bunch of white, middle-aged people, row after row after row.”
The Democratic Party is nothing if not diverse, yes; but with that diversity comes division — fierce and passionate even if not often visible. And not everyone who has traveled to Charlotte — and is likely to vote for Obama — is cheering the incumbent president. Just days before the proceedings began, about 1,500 people rallied in Charlotte, agitating for labor and immigrant rights, for LGBT equality and same-sex marriage, against nukes and fracking and drone strikes. In their eyes, the administration had not gone far enough in achieving these goals.
Leticia Ramirez was one of them. “We want Obama to decide on what side is he” on, she told “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman, whose progressive radio show has been broadcasting from the political conventions. “A lot of families have been separated because of the deportation that he’s been doing. So we want him to decide if he wants to be with the Dem community or he wants to be deporting more people every day.”
A now-disgraced North Carolina native son once excited Democrats with talk of two Americas, by which John Edwards meant rich and poor. The back-to-back conventions do represent two different worlds, but not on that stark fault line. Delegates here are plenty comfortable, and most are middle-aged and older, just as in Tampa. The financiers step out of black sedans and their peletons of brisk aides glide them to donor-maintenance events, just as in Tampa.
Dem World is a more vibrant place, a noisy and ebullient carnival where there is always something to see. Democrats are still thronging Charlotte’s streets at 3 a.m. At parties, they fist-pump to hip-hop and swivel to reggaeton, and the black folks and Latinos tolerate the awkward dance moves of the white folks, just lean out of the way, because being a Democrat means everybody is used to the majority wanting to get cool by hanging with the minority.