Nothing says "Welcome to Charlotte" better than a few hundred volunteers greeting you at the airport with signs directing delegates to their baggage claim and to their hotel transportation.
If this is a sign of the organization built by the Charlotte in 2012 committee, then it's going to be one awesome week here in the Queen City! During the short walk in between my baggage claim and the door, at least a dozen people welcomed me to Charlotte and asked if I needed directions finding the bus to my hotel. After an early flight from Allentown, I welcomed their directional assistance!
Even on the outskirts of the city, Democratic Convention welcomes are ubiquitously found. While I and my fellow Dems descend on North Carolina for one clear purpose (renominating our President), it is just as clear that for the local economy, the purpose is quite different (jobs).
My bus driver told me that he will be working every day this week, after a long slow season of working only one or two days a week. He commutes from South Carolina to drive for a private bus company, and the tourism industry has been slow this summer, at least according him.
I counted 75 hotels, booked in their entirety, by the Democratic National Committee and their associated state parties, to house delegates (not including additional hotels for media and other convention-goers), and of course, protestors (who also need a place to sleep.)
In Uptown (the heart of the convention happenings) most hotel lobbys, museums, and restaurants are booked solid for special events, and even attractions slightly outside of the downtown are booked up for private receptions.
In short, the economic impact on Charlotte this week is huge, and its impact reaches across industries (hotels, airports, restaurants, taxi cabs, trains, museums, and more.)
I am happy for working families in the Charlotte area -- the bus driver who has had a slow year, the hotel clerk whose shifts have been cut, etc. -- working class people are hard workers, and the slow economy has hurt them the most. While I am glad that literally thousands of people are being put to work this week so we can renominate President Obama, I can't help feeling a bit of annoyance that my money is supporting the tax dollars of the state of North Carolina.
North Carolina has the lowest rate of union density of any state in the nation. In fact, it is a so-called "Right-to-Work" state (also called, Right to Work for Less!) Similarly, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage just this past Spring. I can't help but look at my bus driver and hotel clerk and wonder how they voted on Amendment 1. And I certainly have my share of discomfort spending money in North Carolina.
That said, the Democratic Party can't just exist in solidly blue states. We need a strong presence because Democratic values positively affect votes in every state in the nation. If President Obama is going to win a second term, states that aren't progressive on every issue are going to need to come through.
I take comfort in the reality that of all places in the U.S., marriage equality will loudly and clearly become part of the party platform here in Charlotte. We lost the battle in North Carolina, but in the larger war of public opinion, we are clearly winning -- and we will make it well known here in Charlotte, North Carolina, that the Democratic Party believed in equality for all!