This year’s Democratic National Convention is at the Wells Fargo Center –the same building that hosted the RNC in 2000, but with another corporate name. It’s one of several sports venues on Philly’s southern fringe, far removed from any actual street life. You can see for miles down there, but all you can see are parking lots, ballparks and arenas.
Hardcore Bernie loyalists, Jill Stein supporters and other protesters are permitted to march down Broad Street and gather in FDR Park, to the west of Wells Fargo Center, in the unrelenting July heat, but fences prevent them from getting anywhere near the center itself.
In fact, they can do little more than march past one another chanting slogans — preaching to the choir, as it were — with the knowledge they could be herded into police vans and face federal charges if they do anything cops deem disruptive.
There are many fewer arrests this year. Police have the mastered the trick of keeping protesters at a distance from big events without generating bad publicity for themselves and the city.
Philly is my hometown. I’ve biked to the convention scene several times to join the protesters, but the setting raises an age-old question: If thousands of protesters chant in a place where no one else can hear them, do they really make a sound?
Inside the convention center rich celebrities, one after another, have taken the stage to tell us commoners why we should vote for Hillary, who in the past has taken exactly the wrong stand on many issues important to progressives.
Paul Simon sang and so did Alicia Keys. Meryl Streep’s speech was a testimonial for Hillary. And so on. The message of the event is that Democrats must unite in order to make sure Donald Trump is defeated. A good message, but why all the celebrity kitsch?
On Monday, former Bernie supporter Sarah Silverman went so far as to admonish nay-sayers in the building. She said, “To the Bernie-or-bust people, you’re being ridiculous.”
To which I would have replied, “To me, Sarah, the fact that you can scold Bernie die-hards on national TV, just because you’re a celebrity, is ridiculous. Your presumption that you can influence my vote, just because you’re a celebrity, is insulting. Vote for whomever you prefer. Meanwhile, please shut the fuck up.”