The Green Party held its convention in Houston August 4-7, 2016 and the Pacifica Network was there to cover the event, including 4 hours of live coverage carried by all 5 network stations (KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WBAI, WBFW) and many affiliates. I hosted those hours with several people (more on that below). This post is less about the coverage and more a place to share some observations and a few pictures. You are welcome to comment and share but if you share the pictures please credit me and link back to this post.
Impressions as a member of the “Press”:
To give you some context for what follows, my only reference point for comparison is the 2012 Democratic Party Convention. Until I arrived on the UH campus, the 2012 DNC was the only US political convention I had attended in person. It will surprise no one that the Greens’ convention was much smaller: Fewer people, smaller venue, much less media attention, etc. These are not necessarily negative observations however because they made for a more friendly and unpretentious atmosphere. While the ’12 DNC was slick, loud, and highly orchestrated, the ’16 Green Convention was low key and relatively amateur. Here are the things that stood out to me as a member of the media covering both events: At the DNC the entire venue was blocked off and access was very controlled. I had to go through multiple security checkpoints, including metal detectors and sniffer dogs, just to get in the venue. Inside the venue the various areas were only accessible with the correct credentials and access was restricted in various ways, even if you had the credentials to be there. For example, I had media credentials to the convention floor but I could only walk in and out at specific times and at one point was not allowed in at all. The credentials themselves were textured plastic and incorporated several security features to deter counterfeiting (like textured surfaces and bar codes).
In very stark contrast, the Green convention was in the student center at UH. The building was open to anyone and I saw no restrictions to access any of the rooms (with the exception of the one room reserved for press conferences). The credentials consisted of a clear plastic name-tag holder with glued-on ribbon reading “Press” and a shoelace lanyard. Despite registering ahead of time, when I arrived to check in the volunteer wrote my details on a bit of card and put the card in the holder. It was something one of my kids could have done.
Attendees were, as far as I could tell, mostly older (over 30) and predominantly white. There was a subset that was a diverse mix of ages and backgrounds and many of these appeared to be migrating Bernie Sanders supporters. I spoke to a few of them, including YahNe Ndgo, and they seemed disappointed enough with the Dems to be now pinning their hope on the Greens. A decent summary of this phenomenon is offered by Christopher Hooks on Politico’s website: What If the Green Party Stopped Being Kooky and Started Getting Real? (note: I don’t know Hooks and have no affiliation with Politico or the Texas Observer).
Speeches were well attended and the crowd was enthusiastic. The best speech was Cornel West’s keynote (that is not him in the picture, obviously). As our 4 hours of live radio thundered along, we were plagued with all sorts of issues that made getting the broadcast on the air on ongoing challenge. Otis Maclay (pictured below) and Bobby Modad performed several technical contortions in a constant struggle against fluctuating audio quality from the convention floor, distracting background noise in the room, and impromptu visits and comments from passers by.
Despite the many challenges and variable sound quality, I am happy to have witnessed and covered this convention. If you want to hear what it all sounded like you can check out the archive on audioport where you will hear the many voices besides mine, including David Cobb, Ann Garrison, Greg Palast, Kat Gruene, Staci Davis, Scooter, YahNe Ndgo, Cornell West, Howie Hawkins, Bruce Dixon, Ajamu Baraka, and Jill Stein.