Except for a couple hours each night, the
real action at the Democratic National Convention in Boston was
outside the Fleet Center. While the Convention itself convened at
four in the afternoon each day and ran well past 11 at night, no
network outside C-SPAN covered more than the last two hours of that
block per day. Essentially, even though the prime-time speakers and
features were worthwhile, the vast majority of the Convention was
completely irrelevant— not even the delegates were in
attendance for all of it. Thus, until evening, conventioneers and
activists amused themselves by attending brunches, symposia and
marches. These external events, not sanctioned by the Democratic
National Convention Committee, were often the most interesting
parts of the Boston 2004 experience.

Something of great interest and spectacle was the “Free
Speech Zone” established directly outside the Fleet Center
perimeter. This high-security enclave, colloquially known as
“the Cage,” was essentially a demilitarized zone set up
to control protestors and unruly demonstrators. Located underneath
an abandoned railway bridge running by the Fleet Center, it was
monitored by cameras and set off by concrete highway barriers and
eight-foot fences covered in opaque screens. Of course, because of
the oppressive security, most activists relocated to the open
spaces of the Boston Common, leaving the Cage to a few radicals and
a handful of journalists. Except for a cameo appearance by the
Lyndon LaRouche youth movement and some quasi-organized
self-proclaimed anarchists, the zone was remarkably inactive. The
spectacle became not the protests, but the shocking, police-state
Cage itself. The experience is best summed up by a sign placed
outside: “You are now leaving the American zone / Vous sortez
le secteur américain .”

With so many important Democrats in one city, liberal
organizations outdid themselves and put together a series of panels
and speakers throughout the week. On Tuesday, two preeminent
liberal icons, Howard Dean and Michael Moore, teamed up in
Cambridge at an event sponsored by the Campaign for America’s
Future. The feisty former Presidential candidate whipped the crowd
into a frenzy as he railed about the Bush Administration, while
film director Michael Moore drew great applause for berating the
national media machine. Speaking directly to the large press
contingent in the crowd, Moore stressed that it was the
media’s responsibility to question the government and uncover
the truth. The event was so popular that the overflow line
stretched for half a mile.

Another curious event which attracted journalists, tourists and
conventioneers alike was the “Billionaires for Bush”
march and rally through downtown Boston. Starting on the
waterfront, a large crowd of “billionaires,” including
Meg A. Bucks and Max Profit, demonstrated in support of George W.
Bush. The satirical event was designed to raise awareness about
George W. Bush’s economic policies and the harm they cause to
the average citizen. Intentionally hyperbolic, the billionaires
chanted mantras such as “Tax work, not wealth!” and
“Free the Enron Seven!” Many called Bush their best
investment to date, and the vast majority sang praises about his
tax cuts.

Throughout the week, various political interest groups feted
their favorite politicians and elected officials with exclusive
celebrations. Every morning, the Michigan delegation enjoyed a full
breakfast while listening to various speakers including Gov.
Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D – Mich.). At a
luncheon held by the National Jewish Democratic Committee, Sen.
Joseph Lieberman (D – Conn.) addressed attendees dining on
salmon steaks and berry cobbler. Another party, thrown by the
National Education Association for the three major congressional
colored causes, featured the governor of Washington, a handful of
U. S. Representatives and the dashing young Barack Obama. At that
event, as guests mingled and socialized, they dined on roast beef,
baked ham and shrimp cocktail while sipping drinks mixed at one of
two open bars.

Thus, while Democrats convened in Boston for the Convention, the
Convention itself was only a minor part of the Boston experience.
In ages past, conventions were themselves forums for debate and
discussion; attendance was actually important. However, with the
evolution of tightly-scripted, predictable conventions, attendance
has become an unnecessary formality. In this age, the peripheral
events designed to supplement the actual Convention have supplanted
it.

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