From the delegates: A view from inside the convention


“Very busy!”

That’s how State Representative Laura Brod, an alternate delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention from New Prague described this week, full of parties and meetings with national movers and shakers.

With such a packed schedule, State Senator Dave Senjem of Olmsted County said, most delegates have yet to meet a protester or see them outside of a newspaper or television set. Senjem is the Minority Leader in the Minnesota Senate and another of what Senjem said were 43 other alternate delegates to the convention.

When they do come face-to-face with protesters, Senjem said, it is mostly with activists using confrontational tactics to disrupt delegates’ activities. In his view, he said, “some of them are, you know, a little too far…You have a right to carry your message forward but destruction of property is something else”

Both Brod and Senjem said their fellow delegates did not seem to be very receptive to protesters’ messages.

“I think the debate is good, and I don’t want to discourage it at all,” Brod said, but commented that “the violence [Monday] distracts from the message [the marchers] are trying to send, that we need to engage in a debate on these issues [such as the Iraq War or the torture of prisoners].”

Senjem said that, on Monday, when some protesters tried to block a bus full of delegates he was riding in, the whole bus burst into “a resounding round of applause” when police arrested the demonstrators.

“It’s part of America, I suppose,” Senjem said of the confrontational protesters, whom he also saw slashing another delegate bus’s tires. But, he remarked, “it’s really bothersome…. it’s their way to send a message, but I’m not sure what the message is.”

In interviews yesterday, both Brod and Senjem were obviously excited to be at the convention, just not excited about the convention itself.

Alternates and delegates have access to the same events and meetings, the only difference being what Senjem called delegates’ dubious privilege of sitting on the actual convention floor – having to sit through innumerable speeches.

Brod sounded thrilled as she described the opportunity to hear national GOP figures speak to the Minnesota delegation, “peeling away the layers and getting down to the basics…of what it means to be a Republican.”

Senjem, for his part, was much more excited about the parties and social events thrown by all manner of trade associations, important GOP figures, and corporations. He lamented that Tuesday night was “the night everyone chose to have their events. You can only get to maybe two or three.” Some fêtes seemed like decidedly social events, but others – such as a party thrown by Sally Pillsbury of the Pillsbury flour company to gather pro- and anti-choice Republicans – were stimulating gatherings of political import.

All in all, Senjem said, “it feels good [to be a Minnesotan at the Convention] because…the state poured out tremendous hospitality.” Both he and Brod commented on how many people had approached them over the last several days to express gratitude for how well the convention was being run and how warm and welcoming Minnesotans had been.

James Sanna is a freelance writer and an intern covering education issues for the Daily Planet. Email