Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 12:47 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 12:47 | SYDNEY

The collected Denver tribes


Michael Fullilove


1 September 2008 15:05

Ed. note: You might have missed the postscripts to Michael Fullilove's posts from the Democratic Convention, in which he described the various 'tribes' he came across. It's a lovely bit of Americana, which I've collated below.

Activists: Usually of the left, but not necessarily of the party. In one ten-metre stretch of the 16th Street mall today, I saw a jaunty chap sporting a devil costume and a George W Bush mask, and the American Alzheimers Association and others advocating the legalisation of marijuana. Shortly after those sightings, a noisy anti-war protest made its way up the mall. Alongside the many sincere participants were the usual assortment of cack-handed poseurs, including young men wearing balaclavas around the faces in the Beirut style. The Denver sheriffs looked amused. The protest also had the normal kinds of protest signs: 'Impeach Bush' (bit late there, tiger), 'Running prisons for profit is a crime’, and so on. But I did spot one sign that showed some wit: ‘War is mean’.

True Believers: Grass-roots Democratic Party regulars – delegates from Independence, Missouri, union officials from Texas, representatives of 'GLBT for Obama' and the like. They are everywhere here, with a gleam in their eyes. From what I saw today, there are a lot of Hillary diehards in their ranks, bearing T-shirts like this one: ‘Hillary supports Barack and I do too.’

Eccentrics: There are people in Denver dressed as spacemen and kung fu masters. I saw one guy with his face painted so as to resemble a gunshot victim. There are preachers shouting from street corners, and being robustly booed for their efforts. A man in fatigues spent the whole day walking around town with a hand-drawn sign saying 'Real Americans love Fox News' on one side and 'Fox News really IS fair and balanced' on the other. I spoke to a nice chap in full colonial get-up (including brass buckles tied to his Topsiders) telling people about Revolutionary history. Naturally, his name was George.

Hawkers: Everyone is getting in on the act. A Mexican restaurant is advocating 'Burritos for Obama'. There are hundreds of unlicensed dealers with little stalls selling unofficial merchandise. Ladies from Denver's strip joints are prowling the mall in search of stray delegates. Every busker in North America is in town. One can buy 'Obama-in-a-box' and 'Hillary-in-a-box'. And for those whose throats are hoarse from chanting 'Yes we can', there are three kinds of soothing Bush-themed mints for sale: Impeachmints, Indictmints and National Embarrassmints.

Peacocks: Politicians on the make, perhaps serving as county dog-catcher just now but on the path to the White House, in their minds at least. There are also a disturbing number of Peachicks around the place, besuited way before their time. Some of these folk look twelve, yet credentials entwine their neckties and BlackBerries buzz on their belts.

Hacks: Correspondents from the big networks and cable channels perch in little gilded cages scattered around the convention floor — buffed, tanned and dyed. They sit facing away from the podium in order to provide the optimal backdrop for the TV. Last night, one very blonde anchorwoman sat perfectly composed in one of these booths, lit from above, in a sparkling white dress — looking for all the world like the little wax angel we used to put on top of our Christmas tree. If you ever doubt that American talking heads believe they are an integral part of the story they are covering, check out the mock-up campaign posters adorning the background of the CNN set — featuring CNN correspondents as the candidates.

Celebs: Thankfully been more elusive this week than I had feared. Perhaps the Celebs were cowed by my recent op-ed in The Sydney Morning Herald railing against 'celebrities without borders'. No, probably not. More likely, the Democratic team has insisted on Celeb restraint in light of McCain's very effective ads likening Barack to Britney. It may also be that Celebs and I hang out in different establishments. Still, Celebs can be found without too much trouble. NBC aired a particularly unctuous interview yesterday between anchorman Brian Williams and Haitian-American muso Wyclef Jean, who is in town to lend a hand. Each man was extremely pleased and honoured to be in the other's presence. Williams has Jean's tunes on his iPod, and Jean may just have to sample Williams' broadcasts in his next album. And so on. Ah, for the old days, when rock stars neglected weighty political issues in favour of their natural game: trashing hotel rooms.

Agents: Many of the senior politicians in Denver arrived with their own security details, but only the true bigwigs were protected by the Praetorian Guard of the Agents, the Secret Service. You may have noticed that television shots of Joe Biden are now taken from a longer distance, and alert individuals with earpieces keep cutting in front of the camera. Barack Obama and John McCain have been living in this kind of bubble for some months now. It’s an integral part of presidential chic. On Thursday night, uniformed Agents searched every bag and tested every digital camera. Men and women in suits patrolled the stairwells. Sharpshooters perched on top of the electronic scoreboard. Anyone who enjoyed the classic Clint Eastwood film, In the Line of Fire, would have loved it.

Photos (top to bottom) by Flickr users cq.swat, BreezeDebris, Mr. Beattie and zenobia joy, all used under a Creative Commons license.