A Local Voice: A Recap of the Second Night of the Democratic National Convention

The morning came early after a late night of convention-going, but it was worth the effort to attend. Along with bacon and eggs, some great progressive ideas were shared at breakfast by a number of talented leaders. In addition to Wisconsin’s own Senator Tammy Baldwin, we heard from President of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard, Hillary for America’s Jennifer Palmieri, Senator and Chair of the DSCC, Jon Tester, former Senator Tom Harkin, and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Of particular note were Harkin’s words about an ancestor of his, Dan Harkin, who participated in Wisconsin’s 1847 constitutional convention, during which he argued for immigrant rights as a then-recent Irish immigrant. Obviously, that fight continues.

Harkin went on to talk with sincerity about his friendship with Senator Sanders, and about what the movement associated with Sanders’ campaign can mean for the future of our party and our country. He referenced a famous meeting between President Franklin Roosevelt and the great civil rights and labor leader, A. Philip Randolph, which concluded with Roosevelt supposedly telling Randolph to “make me do it.” That is, make me advance civil rights and the rights of working people.

Harkin said this obligation, to make our elected officials represent the interests of working people, remains as important as ever. And he concluded by placing part of that onus on the movement associated with Sen. Sanders’ candidacy.

Our final speaker of the morning, Bernie Sanders more than echoed Harkin’s call. He encouraged us all to continue the theme of his campaign: think big, not small. He called on us to defeat Donald Trump, elect Hillary Clinton, and continue the fight for progressive change beyond the confines of this election cycle. He then announced his intention to establish an enduring non-profit organization, the mission of which will be to elect progressive candidates at the local level across the country.

I followed up breakfast with a progressive brunch of sorts, sponsored by a number of national organizations that are focused on making advances at the local level, as Sen. Sanders had just called on us to do. Congressman Keith Ellison addressed the gathered local officials and activists and emphasized the continuity that exists between local and national issues, pledging to work to strengthen the bonds among local and federal officials and the activist communities that are working everyday to advance the causes of equality and justice.

In between these convention-related activities, I was able to enjoy some of Philly’s historic sites, like Rittenhouse Square, the majestic city hall, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

And that was all before the convention proceedings were gaveled in.

Where to begin? Probably with John Lewis.

An icon of the civil rights movement, a social justice champion, a congressman of impeccable integrity, John Lewis seconded the nomination of Secretary Hillary Clinton. When he speaks, we all should listen. Lewis, in describing his involvement in the civil rights movement and when calling for the passage of health care reform, has talked about “the spirit of history” and its continuing forward march. That spirit was with us yesterday as Lewis spoke and as Senator Sanders suspended the roll call and asked for Secretary Clinton’s nomination by acclimation of the convention. Cheers and tears erupted as the gathered delegates celebrated this history-making moment, nominating Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, and our first woman president.

The convention reached another crescendo when President Bill Clinton took the stage to make his case for Hillary, to tell their story as a family, and to paint a full picture of who Hillary Clinton has been and what she has worked for throughout her life. He began with the personal and concluded with the political, urging the American people to embrace the real Hillary, a champion of women and children and families and working people, someone who has been relentless in her advocacy for progressive change for the entirety of her adult life. It was maybe the most important speech of his life, and he didn’t fall short.

As a first-time delegate to a national convention, I could not be enjoying myself any more. Exchanging ideas and sharing memories with my fellow delegates and attendees has been an incredible experience. And as someone who appreciates the arc of our history as a country, I couldn’t be prouder to play a very small part in taking us to new heights as a people and nation. Today, even more than most days, I’m proud to be a Democrat.

Eric Genrich is a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and represents the 90th district.