A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
First Hand Account of This Weekend's Florida Democratic Convention
April 15, 2002
Have you ever stood in line for 25 minutes to check into a hotel and been happy to do it? Welcome to the Wyndam Hotel in Orlando, Florida this past Friday. It was so great to talk openly with other Democrats about getting rid of Jeb, that the long line was a pleasure to wait in.
A record number (over 2,600) of Democrats gathered in Orlando last weekend and the collective energy was compared to the mood at the '92 Democratic Convention, where excitement was mounting that the Clinton/Gore ticket could unseat a different Bush.
However, coming from Palm Beach County, I was led to believe by the media that everyone else had "moved on." Not so, my fellow Democrats. Lake County Democrats were fired up! St. Lucie County Democrats were fired up! Orange County Democrats were fired up! I could go on and on. And don't get me wrong...this wasn't going to be a weekend moaning about the past, it was quite clear that we all still had a fire in our bellies that we could harness to get rid of one Bush and, as Gore said, then we'd only have one to go!
The doors opened at 8:50 AM on Saturday morning and people ran to find a seat designated for each county. The room was so packed that they had to set up another room next door with a big screen TV for delegates that weren't able to get a seat.
The Florida Democratic Party Chairman, Bob Poe, kicked off the convention at about 9:15 AM with a great "Beat Jeb" speech. And people went nuts over Terry McAuliffe's remarks about our dear governor. He showed a hilarious video that documented all of Jeb Bush's lies to the state of Florida, ending with footage of Jeb walking away to the song, "Hit the road, Jack."
Even mild-mannered Florida Senators Graham and Nelson took off the kid gloves. Senator John Edwards from North Carolina impressed everyone with his star power and inspiring words as well.
But then came Al Gore. The room darkened. The song, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," starting blaring and, unlike the other Senators, (President) Gore and his wife, Tipper, came in from the back so that they could shake everyone's hand.
That morning's Orlando Sentinel's headline was something like, "Gore Needs More Than Polite Applause from Party." The greeting Gore got was hardly polite applause.
People were going NUTS -- screaming and waiving signs that had a picture of Florida and the words "This is still Gore Country." It took him about 15 minutes to get to the stage and the pandemonium never died down.
Well, it was one thing to actually have the opportunity to shake the hand of the man that I had worked so hard to elect to the Presidency, but what would he actually say? The elephant had not only been sitting in the living room for the past 15 months, he had made himself quite comfy with his feet up on the stool, a beer in one hand, and the clicker in the other.
Al gave the best speech of his life. He was funny, inspiring, and said it like it was. He came from behind the podium and spent about twenty minutes talking about both Bushes. He said it was time for all of us to stand up and speak out, to take back the Governor's mansion this year and the White House in 2004.
Sidebar: Some have asked, why didn't he do this sooner? My thought is that Bush needed to be given enough rope to hang himself and Gore deserved a break after 24 years of public service. It's been a long 15 months, but the break has served Gore well -- he's as smart as ever, but more relaxed.
Gore was the last speaker before the lunch break, and the curious press lurking by the exit doors wanted to know, "Who was better, Edwards or Gore?" I rolled my eyes and proceeded to the dining hall to have my $65 lunch with Gore.
He didn't speak about politics at the lunch. The story that stands out in my mind was how he and Tipper had stopped to eat at a Shoney's in rural Tennessee and they overheard the waitress remarking to her coworker that things had surely changed for the former Vice President. A few weeks later he was at a conference in Africa, and relayed this funny story to his colleagues.
By the next day, the press was reporting that he and Tipper had BOUGHT a Shoney's! Bill Clinton wrote a funny note congratulating Gore on his new career. Gore said maybe he should put the Clinton letter on Ebay and donate the proceeds to the Florida Party.
After lunch, the focus turned to our task at hand -- ousting Jeb. We heard from all of the candidates, and what was remarkable was that there was so much respect paid to each candidate. Lois Frankel drew standing ovations. Daryl Jones knocked everyone's socks off. Bill McBride rocked. And Janet Reno moved everyone as she spoke from her heart.
Yes, it seems clearly a race between McBride and Reno, but one thing was well understood -- we were all UNITED against Jeb Bush. I read one report in a paper that we were a divided party in disarray. Rubbish. The energy against Jeb Bush was so palpable on Saturday, that I actually turned to the guy next to me and sarcastically asked, "Do you think Jeb is feeling the love?" A black cloud had to be hanging over Tallahassee.
Dinner with Alec Baldwin was great. He noted that Jeb Bush doesn't think he's a good actor, but he thinks Jeb Bush is an excellent actor! He even had a Jebby award for him. Alec can also be credited for coining the name "Jebron."
We closed on Sunday with a speech from the great Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry, and our Vice President-in-exile, Joe Lieberman. Today my voice is strained, my legs are tired from jumping up and down (I know, I'm out of shape), and my hands are sore and red from so much clapping. The same is true for my friends in Polk County, my friends in Lee County and my friends in Broward County. You see we all had the time of our lives and, most importantly, we all want to send Jeb packing in November.
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Contributed by BuzzFlash Reader, Lisa Ramsay
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