Convention inspires Idaho Dems
Carter, Clinton and Gore open national
convention in Boston
By DANIEL A. BUSH
For the Mountain Express
BOSTON—Early Monday morning
a Fleet Center employee banged a guardrail in place with his hammer, the hallow
metallic sounds echoing through the almost empty Democratic National Convention
Hall. Clusters of red, white and blue balloons hung high up in the rafters,
strung like grapes growing bunched on a vine, waiting to rain down upon a
jubilant Thursday night crowd celebrating Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s
official anointment as leader of the Democratic Party.
Nestled part way up the arena’s first tier
sits the Idaho delegation section, which as the day moved on filled up with
excited Idahoans eager to represent their state.
"I’m really excited by this election,"
said Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, of Ketchum, who’s proved to be an
infectious enthusiast and the delegation’s unifying catalyst throughout the
night. "I think we have a chance, I know we can win this".
In an effort to define Idaho’s issues most
important to its citizenry, Grant Burgoyne, a Boise attorney, highlighted
foreign policy, specifically the recent call up of large numbers of Idaho
National Guardsmen, and the sluggish economy. Other concerns most often
mentioned by delegates were the struggling health care and education systems.
However, the prospect of U.S administrative change and renewed opportunity
inspired hopeful tones.
Still billed as a straight ticket, dead
red state, an important shift in political ideology in Idaho in recent years is
growing daily, according to some delegates. Their hope is that this election
will mark a new era in which Western states traditionally designated as
conservative Republican can no longer be counted as safe states by the GOP.
Several Fleet Center employees, volunteers as well as delegates from other
states wondered aloud, "Idaho has Democrats?" as they stumbled into the remote
Idaho section tucked away off to the right of the stage.
"I don’t think the convention itself is
going to create the kind of surge that we need to change Idaho from a red state
to a blue state," speculated another delegate, Mark EchoHawk, son of former
Idaho State Attorney General Larry EchoHawk. "I think that what we need for some
of the citizens in Idaho is for them to open their ears and pay attention to the
Former President Jimmy Carter and Vice
President Al Gore, among others, fervently advocated the Kerry-Edwards ticket
and the audience listened steadfast. Jaquet waved her sign high in the air
through a shifting sea of blue and white spotlights, and the Idaho delegates
followed suit, chiming in with thousands of others in roaring their approval.
As the week unfolds toward its climatic
balloon shower finish, what will the 2004 Democratic National Convention’s
greater impact be? "Something from the convention that I’m really looking
forward to is, purely, unity," said Idaho native and college student Gariety
Pruitt. "People looking for a change and making it, saying in one voice this is
what we want and this is our nominee."
Many at the convention said America’s
newly fashioned Democratic Party is slowly taking shape here this week in
Bill Clinton, the first night’s keynote
speaker, strolled on stage, introduced by his wife and New York Sen. Hillary
Clinton. He then went on to truly dazzle an expecting audience with his
confidence, intellect and honesty. It proved to be a rousing end to the first
night’s show. Goose bumps seemingly rippled in waves down the spines of thickets
of admiring delegates who chanted and cheered.
"I feel that I’ve been empowered to up my
energy level," Jaquet said, smiling. "We want to take the country forward, and
we want to take the whole country forward, not just a select few."
She added that hopefully in the coming
weeks and months, some of this energy and confidence will somehow slide its way
along the country’s interstates all the way back to Idaho.