Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 3, Tuesday, Democratic National Convention

We started the morning with our delegation meeting, where we received our credentials for the day; after breakfast, the Montana legislative women's caucus met with Senator Max Baucus.

For about half an hour, we each expressed what Montanans in our districts and statewide are saying, and what state and federal elected officials should be working to change. Health care, health care insurance coverage, unavailability of health care providers in rural areas, a lack of mental health services (no psychologist east of Billings!) were top priorities for many of us. Baucus said that the effectiveness of Montana health care is superior to that of other states, and we get twice the result of care for the cost that other states do. I made the point that the most effective care is done when a situation becomes so bad that someone must seek care, and that care probably does make a dramatic difference, but usually treats one main injury or illness. In other states, perhaps preventive care and ongoing care flattens the curve a bit with statistical success. For the care we provide, there are still vast numbers of Montanans that cannot afford to get sick. Another problem is the distinction to be made between "health care" and "health coverage": health care, to me, means that if you're sick or injured, you'll be treated. Health coverage is insurance, and companies can deny coverage, terminate policies, ignore pre-existing conditions, etc. Next, I asked the senator about tax relief, but Baucus said that the Congress is down to 17 or 18 more working days this year, and the bills that will be passed from now on will not be the large idea, big change bills but rather housekeeping and appropriation bills. Others in the women's caucus expressed the dire situation of families filing bankruptcy due to monstrous medical bills, and I asked about payday lending for medical bills. The Montana legislative women's caucus has priorities for next legislative session, and we continually work hard at policy and legislation that will improve health care and health coverage for all.

Next, we took the bus downtown to the convention center. The Montana delegation lunched at Rioja together, then we attended convention events. Michele Reinhart and I visited the Google tent and listened to Eli Pariser, founder of MoveOn.org, and Arianna Huffington, who talked about press doing more investigative journalism. The topics at the convention, and those invited to speak on them, are the hot topics of all of us: economy, jobs, health care, home ownership, etc.

After attending a number of events downtown, we walked over to the Pepsi Center. The Montana floor delegation had wonderful seats to hear our governor's speech! Governor Schweitzer spoke primarily on the resources that America and Montana offer, and that we can use alternative energy sources much better. Montana has wonderful opportunities to develop alternative energy from wind, solar, and clean technologies for coal production. After a full afternoon and evening of speeches, Governor Schweitzer put a spark in the crowd and engaged the whole convention hall when he spoke.

Hillary Clinton took the stage as the last speaker of the night, and she hit the mark beautifully in her remarks. Many devoted Hillary Clinton supporters would rather have Hillary giving the acceptance speech on Thursday night; tonight, Hillary's speech was a unifying message. I've said for a long time that all the reasons for which people were excited about the primary still apply. The work that has been done for a candidate can translate to another who will promote the same ideas. Hillary asked the crowd if people were in the campaign because of her, or because we believe in good jobs and a strong economy? Hillary gave her resounding support to Barack Obama for president, and was respectful, strong, and motivational. She will of course continue her service as US Senator, so a champion for health care, pay equity, and many social justice and economic, health, and job-related issues is still working. It was an amazing night.

I was interviewed by Montana Public Radio on the convention floor, and by a European paper for a reaction after Hillary's speech, and I said that electing a president is like throwing a stone in a pond: the center is the presidential candidates, who always make a big splash, but the ripples from that selection--the policy and focus of an administration--reach far and wide. We elect a president, but there are also Supreme Court Justice appointments, foreign policy decisions, cabinet positions, etc. appointed by that president. The election in November is very important.

After the convention, we walked over to Big Sky Night, a party of Montana expatriates. Drive By Truckers were the main band; they should play the convention!

Watch for a new photo album later today!

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