PHILADELPHIA — On Thursday night, we joined thousands and thousands of people in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena to watch Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic party’s nomination.
Here’s what that was like.
Joanna: The DNC was held in two separate venues across Philadelphia—the Convention Center in Center City, where the caucuses and press briefings and smaller events took place, and Wells Fargo Arena in South Philly. While the Convention Center maintained a kind of steady, manageable crowd for the week, Wells Fargo was a fucking zoo. I spent my morning Thursday at the Convention Center, where delegates were pleasantly aflutter (one said to me, unprompted, “We’re gonna make herstory!”) and made my way to the second location around 2:30. To get there from the subway, you had to follow a gated path (that was redirected every day), to a tent of metal detectors (which was also relocated and reorganized every day), then walk for about 10 more minutes, through a narrow gated path to the arena.
Jezebel received credentials from the DNCC Special Press Gallery, which meant (as I had spent about half an hour trying to figure out on Monday), we were only allowed to sit in section 221/222, a balcony section that gave a great view of the arena and projection screens, and a fine view of all the speakers’ butts. Because on Wednesday I was forced to sit so high up in the nosebleeds that I felt physically ill, I arrived at 3:30 p.m., a casual seven hours before Hillary Clinton would take the stage. Taped to my seat I found a card wrapped in plastic for an upcoming “card stunt,” along with the instructions not to open the package until the time of the stunt. I love card stunts.
Ellie: After I’d finished working in the Convention Center, I traveled down to the arena on the subway around 5 p.m., the same time many of the delegates were arriving for the night. “It’s finally happening!” one woman squealed excitedly as we were herded aboveground.
Every time I went to the arena, I got lost in a new and different way. Entering Wells Fargo this time, I didn’t actually get lost, but was made to believe that I had by a very friendly Secret Service agent who informed me that the press entrance was actually “way, way, way over that way,” and that “who knows” if I could get through the normal entrance. I tried it anyway, and it worked, maybe because I was holding an American flag umbrella and looked like I was about to cry.
When I got inside, I went to the food trucks by the press tents and ate an arepa by myself in the rain. Then I marched around the press tents looking for coffee with non-dairy milk options. In this scenario, there would never, in a million years, be non-dairy milk options. I got a Monster energy drink instead. I was ready for Hillary.
Joanna: The seating issue was stressful—on Wednesday security had started barring people from leaving their seats even to use the restroom (or else they wouldn’t be able to come back in), and by 5 p.m. lines were already starting to form outside doors. That, coupled with me trying to finish a blog, do an interview, make sure we all had the right credentials, and being pumped with an adrenaline-exhaustion-weird recognition of historic meaning emotional cocktail meant that I was essentially sprinting frantic laps around the arena. This in itself was hard to do because it was super crowded and also scattered with political and media celebrities that I would give an invisible hat tip to as I ran by, including Andrea Mitchell, who was small and wearing glittery sneakers with her cable news dress. And also because I was trying to eat a hot dog.
While pushing my way down an escalator, everyone started waving their hands and going, “Wooooo!” I thought, Wha? And then realized I had unwittingly walked into a Daily Show segment.
Ellie: I was sitting in the arena’s press stand, sharing a seat with Gawker’s Alex Pareene, which was a less stressful situation than Joanna’s because seats were assigned and you were allowed to pee. The guy sitting next to me was named “Jasper,” according to his computer, and downing several tall boys. At one point, I spilled my Monster energy drink all over our shared desk, which I then tried to mop up with print-outs of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s remarks. Jasper hated me, I think.
Unlike Tuesday night, when the DNC temporarily granted Jezebel access to the floor (the best seats right in front of the stage) and I saw Gayle King and tripped over Jake Tapper, I didn’t see many luminaries up-close, although I did look over across the arena at the CNN balcony and see an individual who appeared to be Anderson Cooper standing dramatically by the edge. It could have also been a different man with white hair.
Joanna: So, there we were, sitting where we were sitting, finally, after a week of unrelenting damp heat, dense, confused crowds, and very little sleep. Neither of our wifi connections were very good, I was starting to get a headache, and I had a mounting feud with one of the volunteers working my door. But then, Hillary Clinton came onstage and I started crying and couldn’t stop.
Ellie: I was obviously so excited to be in the arena for this speech, but I wasn’t really anticipating being moved on an emotional level—Clinton has never been a wildly inspirational speaker, and I was so tired from the week that I could barely even register what was happening. I was also sitting with the ostensibly unbiased press, who were bleary-eyed and silent; this made it hard to pick up on the actual vibe of the surrounding arena.
But when she walked out and sort of peered happily around, walking from one side of the stage to the next, really drinking in the moment—a moment that American women had worked towards for fucking centuries—I let out a loud, unintentional “Wooooo!”
Joanna: I had been told by someone in the credentialing office (sorry that credentials are all I can think about) that press weren’t supposed to clap or hold up signs (what would I do about the card stunt?), so my sudden, uncontrollable emotional outburst also made me a little nervous, reputation-wise. But then I remembered that we work for Jezebel, not the Wall Street Journal, and that I’m allowed to feel moved by our first woman nominee. I also thought about how I would remember the moment for the rest of my life, and how lucky I was to be here.
For me, the part that really tipped me over the edge was seeing Chelsea’s introduction and their hug. Think of being on that stage and introducing the party’s nominee and possible next president, and then your mom walks out! How could you keep it together?! Many people managed cynicism, even in our own liveblog, but I couldn’t and I didn’t want to. One of the things about this kind of work is that you’re always supposed to be bringing up the caveats, pointing out why things aren’t as they seem or as good as they’re made out to be, and as one million commenters will soon remind me, that’s not hard to do with the Clintons. But for 30 minutes on Thursday night I chose to ignore all the, “I don’t usually like Hillary but—” arguments (a formulation that people love to use with Jezebel). I just don’t know how many moments you get like this.
Ellie: It’s hard not to be corny about this, but it felt like the whole room was lifting her up. It didn’t really matter that the speech didn’t quite hit the rhetorical high notes that we’ve been spoiled with by the Obamas over the years, or that she quoted a very long line from Hamilton, or that “Fight Song” is, in my opinion, a musical nightmare. The scattered hecklers were shushed and cheered over, the crowd went wild during her jokes; around me, a lot of reporters eventually stopped typing and watched or took videos on their iPhones.
Joanna: I will say that I usually hate “Fight Song” and Clinton’s adoption of it, but in the arena it suddenly worked. Things become corny when the importance with which they’re treated outweighs how important they actually are, but that wasn’t the case here! All of that earnest, striving stuff for once made me feel pumped up. Not gonna get a snarky critique of last night from me, guys. Sorry!!!
I was very excited for the card stunt and balloon drop, because those things are dope and because I had been eyeing the balloons tied up in nets on the ceiling for four days straight. Together, they would be a great kind of democratic orgasm. At the end of her speech, I saw people on the floor holding up red sheets of paper, and I had a momentary anxiety attack wondering if there was some kind of socialist protest unfolding on the arena floor. But no, it wasn’t a protest. It was the card stunt that I had somehow not been made aware was happening (the end result was an American flag, FYI). That sucked, but the balloons ruled.
Ellie: I, too, only saw the red papers and I, too, assumed socialism!! Wow!! The balloons did rule, and I agree, it was a VERY erotic release. Conversely, when the fireworks went off I literally ducked, because in my extremely fragile state I assumed it was a bomb. It wasn’t, though!
As I waited in a herd of exhausted nerds for Joanna to get downstairs—I believe she was in line for the escalator for about 20 minutes—I heard people making plans for the night. This, to me, was crazy. Our night was over, and I was at peace with that.