Witness to History: BlueWaveNJ Reports from the DNC

The following is Marcia Marley's experiences during days 3 and 4 of the Democratic National Convention, held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

Last week, The Montclair Times published Marley's observations when the DNC began. Here is the link to the article.

A member of the New Jersey delegation at the Democratic National Convention, Marcia Marley of Montclair beams as she participates in the presidential nomination.

For anyone who was off the grid or underground last week, what made the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia unique were the historical moments we all experienced inside the Wells Fargo Arena. There were a few.

The biggest moment happened on Tuesday night, Day 2, during the nomination roll call. I was sitting with the other New Jersey delegates when John Currie, chairman of the NJ Democratic State Committee, announced, "I stand before you with our congressional delegation and others - a state as diverse as they come in America. For the next president of the United States of America, the first female - and history will be made - 90 votes for Hillary Rodham Clinton."

A few minutes later, when South Dakota cast its votes, it became official and the arena erupted in cheers, and for some, tears of joy. For me, it was a sweet moment that was long past due. It meant that "Yes We Can" finally includes women.

I was among a diverse group of other Montclairites at the DNC, including Brendan Gill, Essex County freeholder and senior advisor to the delegation; Milly Silva, at-large delegate and vice president of SEIU 1199 and former lieutenant governor candidate; and David Pascrell, a member of the Rules Committee. Other folks came down to participate for a day or two, such as Montclair Township Councilman Sean Spiller, and Lori Price-Abrams, vice chair of Emerge NJ, an organization that trains women to run for office.

Late to bed, early to rise

Political conventions are great theater, designed to unite and energize the party base behind the nominee, remind us of our shared values and help shape the public narrative about the candidates. Conventions also are places to network with elected officials, delegates, activists and leaders of organizations and businesses at various panels, group caucuses and nonstop receptions.

As a NJ delegate, my role was to cast a vote for our presidential nominee and also to accept by voice vote the vice-presidential nominee and the platform and rules committees' reports. As a DNC member, I am one of those infamous "superdelegates," or what is more properly labeled an unpledged delegate. Superdelegates represent just 20 percent nationally and only come into play if there is an extremely close primary election. New Jersey has just 16 unpledged delegates out of a total of 135. These include our eight-member Democratic congressional delegation (House and Senate members), our state chair and vice-chair, as well as six DNC members appointed by the state chairman.

Delegates started each day with an 8 a.m. breakfast held in a ballroom at our hotel near the airport, and in spite of the very late nights, mostly everyone made it. For the first three days, the eggs and waffles were sponsored and paid for by gubernatorial hopefuls Phil Murphy, former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney, respectively. All three are hoping to replace Gov. Chris Christie in 2017 (to date, only Murphy has officially announced he is running).

In addition to the delegate breakfast, Celebrate NJ Now Inc., a nonprofit social welfare group which promotes NJ commerce and the electoral process, organized around-the-clock activities, including mid-morning, pre- and post-gavel receptions, bus trips to local attractions such as the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial and the National Constitution Center, and, of course, late-night parties in the city.

Outside the ballroom, BlueWaveNJ set up a table where we passed out information, campaign buttons and cards explaining how people can volunteer for BWNJ's election activities and help elect Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to office.

After breakfast, we picked up our credentials for that day and decided which one or two activities we could fit in before heading in early to the arena. Even if you were a delegate you had to arrive early - ideally by 5 p.m. - if you wanted a seat.

Like me, most of the delegates sat for at least five or six hours every night and felt privileged to get the chance. Each night's program was an amazing lineup of speakers and entertainment. I didn't think it could get better than Monday with Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, but it did. Performers turned out each night, among them: Paul Simon, Meryl Streep, Lee Daniels, Lena Dunham and America Ferrera, Alicia Keys, Carole King and Katy Perry. In the afternoon of the final day, Lady Gaga and Lenny Kravitz put on a special concert in Camden.

Day 3 - The Long Goodbye

Our daughter went to college in Philly and I have come to love the city and its great restaurants museums and historical significance - both past and present. So, it seemed fitting that on Wednesday as I was meeting friends coming out of Independence Hall, a motorcade drove past with former President Bill Clinton smiling and waving out the window in the 90-plus degree heat.

My husband Peter Rappoport joined me in the arena to see and hear President Barack Obama for the last time before his second term ends. Others that night included Sen. Tim Kaine, vice-presidential nominee; and Vice President Joe Biden, a crowd favorite. His passion and commitment rocked the arena. Where Biden gets you on an emotional level, Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor and billionaire businessman, was all logic and reason: "I'm a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one. Let's elect a sane, competent person."

It was a great speech, but we were all waiting for President Obama - another historical moment that I will never forget. As he began speaking, "Yes We Can" and "Thank You" placards were distributed. I started to tear up realizing how proud I am to have him as president. I first heard Obama speak in 2004 at the DNC in Boston. The feeling in the arena 12 years later was a wave of love. And for some of us, it was the start of a long goodbye.

Unlike any other speaker, calmly and elegantly Obama defined Americans: "Our power doesn't come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way. We don't look to be ruled. Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that We the People, can form a more perfect union."

Day 4 - I'm With Her

On Thursday, the last day of the convention, the delegate breakfast featured speeches by our two U.S. senators, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as actors playing Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Abigail Adams, talking about the historical significance of Philadelphia and the nomination of a woman for president.

However, we didn't need Abigail Adams to tell us the importance of what we were about to witness that evening. The buzz, excitement and crowds in the arena reminded me of 2008 when Obama was first elected.

From her daughter Chelsea, I learned a lot about Hillary I didn't know. Small, personal stuff like how we both worried about our children when we were away from home. Hillary has gone through what other parents go through and her values are our values - ensuring a better future for all our children. Leaving the arena for the after-parties, I felt very proud to be a Democrat who celebrates and cherishes our diverse nation. To echo a popular campaign button, "I'm With Her" because she is working for all of us, particularly children and families without a voice.

Back in Montclair, the work begins. We all need to phone bank, get on the bus to Pennsylvania and vote because "bad politicians are elected by good people who don't vote."

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Also be sure to check out Marcia's interview with TAPinto from the DNC: