Holmquest: Final thoughts on the DNC

This is the ninth in a series of posts by Anne Holmquest, a professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Holmquest is expressing her views as a private citizen and her views are her own, not the views of the Board of Regents or of Northern State University.

The value of being there

By Anne Holmquest, guest blogger

When this blog started, I predicted that the DNC would have the feel of a week-long TV ad just like the RNC and that it would feature mocking and attacking just like the RNC. I was right. This unifies parties, but it doesn’t speak to former President Clinton’s line last night that “Together we can do anything.” Instead of Republicans and Democrats talking ABOUT each other, I want us to talk TO each other. As Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Heuther said, “It is the chance of a lifetime to get to attend the DNC; It’s like going to the Superbowl.” So here’s my idea. Instead of meeting separately, let’s meet together, Republicans and Democrats, for New Orleans Superdome I in 2016. 

Since it’s the last day, I asked the South Dakota delegation: 

What is something you learned or saw in person at the convention that you could not have learned or seen by watching it on TV?

Here are their answers:

Rebekah Cradduck: “I think it is the actual electricity in the room. Plus we get to see all the floor speeches not just the prime time ones.” 

Deb Knecht: “I think the thing you can’t experience when watching the convention on tv is the excitement and the electricity you feel from being with the  delegates. It is such a privilege to live a part of history.” 

Holly Knox-Perli: “The vibe/atmosphere here…. I think pundits are wrong when they say ‘Obama needs to re-energize his base’ or something similar. The excitement is evident, it is contagious, and it is strong! If we wouldn’t be such “in the closet” Democrats and would speak facts more willingly, that energy would spread.” 

Heather Knox: “The sense of excitement and enthusiasm about the Democratic party, our platform, and our President’s reelection is decidedly tangible. Conversations are struck between strangers in every caucus and every shuttle ride, and we all have our love for the Democratic party’s ideals in common. The way we unite rather than divide amongst ourselves is wonderful and real. These things would never have come through on TV or in an Internet video.”

Guest blogger Anne Holmquest catches some of the South Dakota delegates with former Sen. Tom Daschle at the Democratic National Convention. From left, Larry Stroschein, Sharon Stroschein, Daschle and Deb Knecht.
Stroschein also had his one-second of fame at the DNC — a second of fame our guest blogger was hoping to achieve herself.
At around 1:40 of this Daily Show clip below, Stroschein is featured as an “1840s sheriff” in a montage of delegates at the DNC:


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Guest blogger Anne Holmquest catches some of the South Dakota delegates with former Sen. Tom Daschle at the Democratic National Convention. From left, Larry Stroschein, Sharon Stroschein, Daschle and Deb Knecht.

Stroschein also had his one-second of fame at the DNC — a second of fame our guest blogger was hoping to achieve herself.

At around 1:40 of this Daily Show clip below, Stroschein is featured as an “1840s sheriff” in a montage of delegates at the DNC:

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether and his wife Cindy Huether at the Democratic National Convention. Photo by guest blogger Anne Holmquest.

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether and his wife Cindy Huether at the Democratic National Convention. Photo by guest blogger Anne Holmquest.

From guest blogger Anne Holmquest, a picture of the South Dakota delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

From guest blogger Anne Holmquest, a picture of the South Dakota delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

Holmquest: Suspending the rules

This is the fifth in a series of posts by Anne Holmquest, a professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Holmquest is expressing her views as a private citizen and her views are her own, not the views of the Board of Regents or of Northern State University.

Getting away from Robert’s Rules at the DNC

By Anne Holmquest, guest blogger

It is two minutes into the start of the DNC, Wednesday Sept. 5, and something happened that I thought I would never see adults do publicly. I studied Parliamentary Procedure at Drake University, under the nationally famous parliamentarian and award-winning college professor Jon Ericson. He taught us that the motion, “Suspend the Rules,” is so risky to use that it should never be moved. At 5:02 p.m. the national delegation of Democrats received a motion from Ted Strickland of Ohio to suspend the rules. I gasped. You see, some delegates wanted to amend the platform that had just been voted on, and had passed, Sept. 3. If an amendment were needed, it could have been suggested to the group then. The delegates approved the motion to suspend the rules by Strickland by a 2/3 majority vote. The official from the party handled this part of Parliamentary Procedure well. 

Next, Strickland made his motion to add words that were important to his group to the platform. You can review this content on CNN. My point is about following procedures of debate. The official is supposed to repeat the actual content of the proposed change when he says, “All those in favor of (state the content), say ‘aye’; and repeat the actual content of the proposed change when he says “All those opposed to (state the content)….say “nay.” He didn’t repeat the wording either time, which makes things really unclear for the delegates voting. They think, “What are we voting on?”

But he made an even bigger error. You see, the proposed change requires a 2/3 vote. The official took the voice vote on the motion, but both sides to the debate sounded equally loud and he couldn’t determine a ratio. Was it 2/3? Unfortunately, he repeated his error by asking them to do it again by voice. According to Roberts’ Rules of Order, if the voice vote is too close, he/she should suggest a call for the division of the house; and one of the delegates could have requested it also. Then each delegate would have raised his/her hand to be counted to determine if the delegates for the motion had 2/3 of the votes. From the official’s nonverbal communication, he himself still looked unsure as to which side of the debate had more supporters. The motion passed. Verbally and nonverbally, delegates expressed disapproval. I bet this will be the subject of an episode of The Daily Show. 

Why is any of this important? Because it sounded like up to 40-45% of the entire delegates disagreed with the proposed course of action. That’s alot of people to be unhappy in one group. And if anyone besides me knew Parliamentary Procedure, they would know that these voters then might be upset not just with the content, but now also with procedure—the rules for playing the game. I have never seen such a large, public group make this big a mistake. And that’s why suspend the rules is so risky. I frequently see small, informal groups not following Parliamentary Procedure; they should follow the rules of the game, too, no matter what their size in members. 

The great thing about Parliamentary Procedure is that the rules were designed as they are, as Ericson taught us, because the minority deserves the right to speak and influence others. That doesn’t mean their ideas will be adopted; but the minority should have the opportunity to debate, just like the majority has. All the safeguards in Roberts’ Rules of Order are to ensure a majority decision with the minority getting a right to speak. The next time that you are in a group that doesn’t practice Parliamentary Procedure very well according to the rules, think about it’s real meaning and why it is in place in a democracy. 

I just saw former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the DNC. I wonder why she didn’t correct the group. They would listen to her. Perhaps as a dignitary, she is a guest and not an elected delegate legally elected by a U.S. state.

In my next blog tomorrow, I will be asking delegates what is the highlight of being at the convention that they believe they could not have experienced by watching the procedure on TV. 

And next week, when I go back to work after my vacation in Charlotte and give talks on this once-in-a-lifetime experience as a legally elected delegate from the state of South Dakota to a national presidential convention, in a room that is full of both Republicans and Democrats, let us all remember how incredibly lucky we are to live in a place where there are procedures for playing so that the majority allows the minority the right to debate according to the same rules it uses.

Holmquest: Booker, Castro & Michelle

This is the fourth in a series of posts by Anne Holmquest, a professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Holmquest is expressing her views as a private citizen and her views are her own, not the views of the Board of Regents or of Northern State University.

Day 3: Getting in the convention hall, and a Daily Show near miss

By Anne Holmquest, guest blogger

7 a.m. World Mayor nominee Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, N.J., spoke to the Minnesota-South Dakota delegation. His approval rating in Newark is 94 percent. I see why. Booker is by far the most amazing speaker I have heard—at the convention or IRL (in real life).

As a rhetorical critic, I notice that he constantly changes his pitch, his volume, his gestures and his motion to engage. Without any notes, he unravels a complex but clear message that is all-at-once educational, philosophical, Christian and Democratic. It is delivered in a style that shows kindness for others, especially those who think differently than he does. I might have seen a future President.

When I watched the RNC, I saw a lot of use of antithesis. Antithesis is a rhetorical trope that divides people. (Democrats use antithesis, too). Booker does not use antithesis. He uses parallelism—parallelism is the trope of unification. You can see rhetorically why he has so many supporters. His choice of words transcends division to focus on common ideals. As he spoke, I saw stylistic similarities to the stand-up comedian Richard Pryor. After breakfast, I said, “You are a great speaker, Mr. Booker. You sound like a teacher and a stand-up comedian.” He smiled and replied, “I grew up with Richard Pryor.” 

Later, Booker also was one of 40 speakers at the opening night of the convention. Speakers are not allowed to move much at the lectern because the news shows are recording. You didn’t get to see on TV the Booker that I saw that morning. So glad I am here IRL.

(After the jump, read Holmquest’s thoughts on other speakers at the DNC on Tuesday, including Julian Castro and Michelle Obama.)

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Holmquest: Monday at the DNC

This is the third in a series of posts by Anne Holmquest, a professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Anne Holmquest is expressing her views as a private citizen and her views are her own, not the views of the Board of Regents or of Northern State University.

Day Two: “Party On, Wayne”

By Anne Holmquest, guest blogger

Day Two’s story will be told in a series of pictures and cutlines.  It is Labor Day and the convention starts Tuesday.  It’s still a big party.  Party on, Wayne.

Chris Porter, Washington state delegate, dressed in patriotic attire at the Charlotte Convention Center.  Many of the delegates are African-American, Puerto Rican, Latino, Native American and Caucasian.  It is truly a multicultural party.  There are also American delegates of foreign lands here from Sweden, Italy, Ukraine, France and Afghanistan.

(After the jump, more photos from Monday at the DNC.)

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The party’s party: Guest blogger Anne Holmquest sends in these photos from Sunday night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where delegates from South Dakota, Minnesota and six other states attended a party hosted by the Democratic Party at Charlotte’s Discovery Place Science Museum.

Parties and other social events are a big part of both parties’ conventions every year. Corporate sponsors, PACs, parties and politicians host them, bringing in amenities and sometimes celebrity guests to try to create the kickin-est shindig.

Holmquest highlights the diverse nature of attendees at the party, as well as the apple-pie-cobbler ice cream that was served.

Introducing a guest blogger for the DNC

About a month ago, Democratic National Convention delegate Anne Holmquest reached out to the Argus Leader with the idea to submit dispatches from her visit to the DNC in Charlotte. That kick-started a process that ended up with Tony Venhuizen doing the same for the RNC last week. Now it’s Anne’s turn. An active Democrat and a professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen who teaches public speaking, critical thinking, rhetorical criticism and communication, Holmquest is attending her first national party convention and will be sending photos and commentary from the DNC all week. Holmquest is expressing her views as a private citizen and her views are her own, not the views of the Board of Regents or of Northern State University. Here’s her first post. -DM

On the inside with a black skirt

By Anne Holmquest, guest blogger

What will be the mystery to the Democratic National Convention? The candidate is an incumbent President. The nomination was sewn-up four years ago. The party platform was written by a subset of the party in Minneapolis in July. All that’s left is a few remarks, right? 

Abraham Lincoln was invited, belatedly, to give “a few remarks” at Gettysburg Cemetery. He saw even the half-hearted invitation as an opportunity. It was an opportunity for political maneuvering in Pennsylvania among the party regulars and with a Governor in need of re-election by his party. You know the rest—the main speaker was forgotten and Lincoln’s remarks became one of the greatest pieces of persuasion in American history. Rhetoric, you never know what might become of it.

At first glance, the format of the Democratic National Convention looks similar to the Republican National Convention. It looks like a big TV ad wrapped up in a week-long party (or is it a big party wrapped up in a week-long ad?). I am a life-long Democrat with the 22-member South Dakota delegation. But I watched the entire Republican National Convention on TV first.  Now that I am on the inside, what will look different about the conventions? 

I became a part of the SD delegation by winning an election in Pierre. Pres. Obama told the U.S. state leaders he wanted the delegate election to be inclusive of all the kinds of people in America. First, we picked a youth delegate, then an African-American delegate, then 3 delegates under 30, then one with a disability, next a veteran, then a gay or lesbian delegate. Being none of these, I was the last delegate chosen.

But what an honor and a chance to make history. According to CQ Weekly, South Dakota has not been on the side of a Democratic ticket since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. According to our state history, since 1889, only 4 times has South Dakota sided with the Democratic presidential ticket. Yet the latest Gallup Poll ranks this election as the closest one since records have been kept in 1936.

Like many delegations, the South Dakotans will attend speeches featuring Michelle Obama and President Clinton. We will attend caucuses on Small Business, Agriculture, Jewish interests, Women’s rights, ethics and even take a yacht ride with the Marine Manufacturers’ Association. Donor events will be common and so will more networking parties. I know of three parties I am missing as I write this!

Personally, I hope to get on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His crew is filming here this week. I think he is the sharpest, contemporary rhetorical critic of our time. Pardon me, but I brought a short, tight, black skirt to wear just to get noticed enough to accomplish this mission. 

As a rhetorician myself, I am interested to see how the Democrats will respond to the slogans touted at the RNC, e.g. “Go ahead, make my day;” “No more years!” “We built it;” and “We deserve better.” Expect an antithesis to one of these to stand out. I have already heard one in response to “We built it;” it is “We make it possible.” Expect George Clooney to have a response to “Dirty Harry.” Expect the Democrats, too, to mock and attack. 

Too bad there isn’t a referee to keep both parties on the plane of rational argument. Wait, there is a referee—it is us, the American people. It’s our fault. If we demanded critical thinking at these conventions we would get it. Instead, both parties are telling us that they know we prefer politics as ads and as theatre. To turn a phrase of Romney’s, we deserve better. Maybe the rational argument will come with the Presidential debates. In the meantime, look for me in the crowd at The Daily Show. I’ll be the one in the tight, black skirt.

Venhuizen: Final thoughts

This is the nineteenth and final in a series of guest posts by Tony Venhuizen, a senior advisor to Gov. Dennis Daugaard attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Note: this is being published about a day after Venhuizen originally wrote it.

Final thoughts

By Tony Venhuizen, guest blogger

I’m sitting on the tarmac in Huron, waiting for the final leg of the trip of Tampa to Minneapolis to Pierre. So it’s probably a good time to share some final thoughts.

This was the first time I attended a National Convention and I’m glad I went. As I’ve said before, the excitement of the convention hall personalizes the experience in a way that cannot be conveyed on television. 

And even though conventions no longer serve their original function, I still believe they are important. These events are an opportunity for our leaders, and our prospective leaders, to share their vision for our country.

Many people bemoan the fact that network news coverage of conventions has become more limited. I really don’t, because we have really moved beyond a media environment that is tied to network television. Certainly, there are people who are “channel flippers” and stumble upon convention coverage. And there are people who receive only the networks and have no other means of easily accessing the convention. But between cable and satellite television, live Internet streaming, and YouTube, the proceedings of the national conventions are more accessible than ever before.

I just hope people take the time to watch. Every American should exercise the right to vote – but every American should also take the time to listen to the candidates, understand the issues, and cast an informed vote.

In closing, I want to say “thank you” to bloggers. Having written several thousand words in five days, I have a new appreciation for how time-consuming this is. Blogs promote big ideas and small attacks. They spread information and misinformation. They encourage the exchange of ideas and the exchange of insults.

In short, blogs are free speech. They drive our political discourse by asking us to read and to think. 

I certainly hope I’ve done that this week. If nothing else, this process forced me to think about the convention more thoroughly than I otherwise would have. I enjoyed the opportunity and I thank David Montgomery and the Argus Leader for the invitation to contribute.

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