With most delegates in L.A. standing well to the left of the party platform, the Gore team trotted out a succession of liberal icons and interest groups to fire up the troops. Abortion lobbyist Kate Michelman, gay-rights activist Elizabeth Birch, Jesse Jackson, Bill Bradley, Russ Feingold, Tom Daschle, and others touted themes like redistributing income, ending the death penalty, protecting American industry from foreign competition, and so forth. It was a throwback to Democratic conventions of the 1960s ... right down to the protests raging outside.
Throughout most of the afternoon's presentation of the party platform, no one was really listening to the goings-on. Speaker after speaker took the podium to address a half-empty house that was only half paying attention. The exception occurred when Kristina Kiehl rose to speak. The founder of Voters for Choice launched into a bitter attack against pro-lifers, electrifying the audience for the first time all day. To this hard-core pro-abortion crowd, the mere mention of the word "choice" was enough to rouse them from a post-lunch coma.
The gold star for attendance goes to the California delegation. Throughout the afternoon on Tuesday, almost every seat in California's sprawling area was filled. The only close competitor was Puerto Rico, but that delegation apparently showed up only because their governor was speaking. When Gov. Pedro Rossello ended his speech and returned to his seat, his fellow Puerto Ricans continued cheering and chanting right through the following speaker -- then left the hall. The award for worst attendance goes to the Alabama delegation, where one lonely woman in an orange suit sat amidst a sea of empty purple chairs.
The Right Coast and the Left Coast -- Comparing the Republicans in Philadelphia to the Democrats in Los Angeles
After the tedious presentation of the platform came the rousing red-meat speeches, and the Democrats showed themselves much better listeners than their Republican counterparts. In Philly, the floor was usually a scene of utter pandemomium. In L.A., by contrast, most delegates sat in their chairs and actually listened to the speeches-no small accomplishment, since nothing here is running on time.
Also unlike the George W. Bush Republicans, the Al Gore Democrats seem comfortable with the party's elected officials. On Tuesday alone, 15 Democratic members of the House of Representatives got speaking slots. By contrast, House members were almost invisible in Philadelphia, except for Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, who seemed to be onstage whenever the cameras were on.
Logged Off -- Dot-com presence at the convention is not much to e-mail home about
Internet Alley is pretty much living up to its name. Even during down times in the main convention hall, this showcase of dot-com technology was as empty as a back alley at midnight. The women of Women.com talked to the woman next door at anteye.com because they had no one else to talk to. eyada, econtributor, and something called 360hiphop.com were completely empty, right down to the people who were supposed to be manning them. Wired.com took down its banner. Belo Interactive, the online division of the giant newspaper publishing group, left its banner up, but its booth was otherwise bare. Even the booth of algore.com looked like a ghost town, despite the fact that the website's name is plastered literally hundreds of times on the walls of the convention center.
The only crowd to be found anywhere was at ABCNews.com. About 50 people gathered to watch Sam Donaldson conduct a live webcast. In this brave new internet world, celebrity still seems to matter more than ideas -- and celebrity is created in the old media, not the new.
Speaking of the old media, in the sprawling media work area, long rows of white bins displayed complimentary copies of news publications. Among magazines, Time is the clear winner; its bin was picked clean. The left-leaning New Republic was next, with only 30 or so copies remaining to be picked up by Tuesday evening. The special, daily issue of the neoconservative Weekly Standard wasn't faring so well, however. Perhaps 300 copies remained piled in stacks two feet high, just begging to be taken.