A Satisfied Delegate Heads Home, Hope Restored
Last of several articles detailing how the Republican convention looks through the eyes of a single delegate.
The speeches are over. The balloons have fallen to the floor. And Sheila Carroll is ready to go home to husband and grandchildren.
"It's been a wonderful experience," says the first-time delegate from California's Central Valley, "and very fatiguing."
Ms. Carroll's experience here lends credence to the theory that there are really two conventions - the one people see on their television sets and the one the delegates attend. The first convention is about reaching out to undecided voters; the second is about mobilizing the party faithful.
"I'm looking forward to accomplishing what we're all here for, and that is electing [Bob] Dole and [Jack] Kemp in November," says this long-time volunteer and former president of the California Federation of Republican Women. "If we can get the public to have even a quarter of the enthusiasm we have, we can sell our ticket."
A victory that seemed distant before she headed down to San Diego two weeks ago now appears within reach. "Dole will get his money, then his message will get out," Carroll explains, referring to funding purse strings that can loosen now that Dole is the official nominee. "Then we have to get beyond the Democrat convention, when they have their time to schmooze with the public. I think we'll get down to business in September."
Carroll's days were a constant pep rally, punctuated by social gatherings and parties. A stream of party leaders came to meetings of the California delegation - as they did to others - to rally the troops. On Tuesday, former Vice President Dan Quayle came to call. "He was dynamite in the delegation meeting, funny and with quick quips," she comments.
Vice presidential nominee Kemp and House Speaker Newt Gingrich showed up on other days. "Kemp's intense about what he thinks and what he feels," Carroll recounts. "He's so electrifying."
While some saw the convention as an overly scripted affair, Carroll defends the staging. "I love the rah-rah stuff," she says of appearances by war heroes and Olympic medal winners.
"We do have blacks and Hispanics and Asians," she adds. "Maybe if some of the people out in the [television] audience see that, they might feel more welcome, instead of thinking everybody is white, with Cadillacs and country clubs."
There are moments when Carroll reflects on the experience of serving on the platform committee, where she felt herself to be a target of the Christian right for supporting abortion rights.
"I think we're between a rock and a hard place with that platform sitting there," Carroll says. "I'm getting a big kick out of reading that neither Dole, Gingrich nor [party chairman] Haley Barbour has had a chance to even read the platform.... I don't buy it at all. You sit there for three days and fight it out and then [they say] the platform means very little anyway. Why do we do it in the first place? And why couldn't Dole get his feelings in?"
Still, was it all worth it? "Yes it was," comes the quick reply. "It's an honor to go to something like this."
*Previous articles in this series appeared Aug. 9 and 14.