As a fierce thunderstorm raged outside, the District of Columbia delegates gathered in the meeting room of their Dearborn hotel, discussing, among other things, their accomplishments at the Republican National Convention. There was a quick flash, then the lights went out.
It was a fitting -- if ominous -- symbolic act for a delegation that came to Detroit determined to make a flash. Back in the District, the Republicans remain a miniscule party without much of a local base, and with a presidential candidate who has about as much chance to carrying the District as the ayatollah has of winning a Nobel Peace prize.
But even though their political clout may dim at the end of this convention, the delegates themselves are hoping that what they've helped accomplish in Detroit will have some lasting effect on economic conditions back home.
The delegates here have gone to great lengths to emphasize their own importance. They called their own press conference on the third floor to chairman Arthur A. Fletcher. "We want the people back home to know -- we want the press to know -- that this was a unique team effort."
The delegation members here were irked by a story about convention manager Robert Carter and other members of the local "Rebuild" Republican Party committee, a rival faction to the defeated committee, to which some of the delegates here belong. That story reported how Carter and some of his friends from the "Rebuild" committee were in charge of the conventions mechanics -- transportation, counting the votes, etc. -- and were meeting and acting like the official D.C. delegation.
At the morning caucus, with a reporter in attendance, delegate Stephen Danzansky, a Washington lawyer who owns the Washington Diplomats soccer team, went around the room asking the delegates if any of them "felt at all stifled" by the unofficial group here. Delegate Cecil Grant, the national commiteewoman, pointed out that it was she -- who made sure the delegates got their assigned tickets and guest passes for each session.
"We have had a tremendous impact on this convention," Fletcher told the single television reporter and three print reporters who showed up at the press conference. "We came here knowing what we wanted to do. We have had an impact beyond our numbers."
Danzansky, one of the delegation's two representatives on the platform committee outlined parts of the delegation's urban policy proposals that have been incorporated into the party platform.
"The Republican Party now has an urban agenda -- a strong urban agenda," he said.
Fletcher also used the press conference to point out that the official delegation "got support from Bob Carter" in arranging speakng time for Benjamin Hooks, president of the NAACP. The official delegation and Carter's forces from the rival Rebuild Committee, Fletcher added, "became a team while we were here."
The delegates also told reporters that they were the impetus behind George Bush's unofficial campaign for vice president. The delegation members personally paid for red, white and blue Reagan-Bush" buttons, and for placards to be waved in a staged demonstration during Bush's scheduled speech tonight.