Scenes From a City Under Political Siege

While the Democratic National Convention was in town, the entire city was transformed.

While the Democratic National Convention was in town, the entire city was transformed.
Even the historic area around Independence Hall looked more patriotic, with American flag bunting on street barriers, the federal building and around the two gigantic screens — across from the Independence Visitor Center — projecting MSNBC.
And the convention also produced its share of memorable characters. Here are the stories of a few of them.
The libertarian
The site of the nation’s founding also was where supporters of alternate parties could be found, like Christine Guerrero, from Houston, who came to town in support of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
Dressed in a red Johnson T-shirt and carrying a “Gary Johnson for President” sign, Guerrero, an engineer and MBA who worked for years in Texas’ oil and gas industry, came to Philly after advocating for Johnson at the RNC in Cleveland.
“It went very well there,” she said. “We were very well received. It’s a different vibe here.”
Aside from the “brutal” heat, Philadelphia was proving tougher for Guerrero because of the Bernie supporters.
“A lot of people are really mad,” she said. “The Bernie people feel like he sold them out. People were a lot more receptive in Cleveland than here.”
But Guerrero has a message for those Sanders supporters who are disaffected: You can vote a third-party option.
“All that talk of ‘your vote is wasted’ if you vote for a third-party candidate — that’s crap,” she said. “Gary Johnson is fiscally conservative, which speaks to GOP traditionals, but he’s socially liberal, which speaks to those Democrats who are disenfranchised by their party.”
Best of all, she said of Johnson: “The one thing he’s been that these other two schmucks haven’t is consistent.”
The Tax Wall Street Party guy
Not far from where Guerrero stood in the slim bars of shade next to the Visitor Center were two signs, both of which compared Trump to a Nazi. These signs were held by members of the Tax Wall Street Party, which formed two and a half years ago and has run candidates both in New York state and in California.
Washington, D.C.-based historian and author Webster Tarpley, wearing a shirt and tie, explained that the inflammatory nature of the signs was necessary to promote his party’s goals — and goal No. 1 is to stop Donald Trump.
“The basic idea is if you’re going to fight Trump, you have to tell the truth about him,” Tarpley said — including about his potential psychiatric problems. “Trump says he suffers from a mild form of Obsessive- compulsive disorder. That would imply he’s seen a psychiatrist. We need to see his medical records, as well as his tax returns.”
Tarpley mentioned Trump’s onetime biographer, Tony Schwartz, who has lately been speaking out about Trump’s personality issues, as well as Justin Frank, author of Bush on the Couch.
“It’s an ethical dilemma because we don’t like to psychoanalyze someone from a distance. But this is the politics of life and death and needs to be confronted.”
Tarpley has taken his dim view of Trump to Jewish groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), some of whose members questioned Tarpley’s analogizing Trump with Nazism.
“At AIPAC, people said the Holocaust is sui generis. Fine, but you have to get the lessons from the death and suffering. Of course you don’t want to throw ‘Nazi’ around, but this is an emergency.”
The naturalist
Springfield, Ill., resident Marc Daniels doesn’t have his own political party, but he is the head of a social justice initiative called Weed Out Hate, which is what brought him to the DNC. It’s a little bit of a homecoming for Daniels.
“My grandfather invented the Ross Root Feeder for deep watering and feeding trees,” he said. “From 1976 to 1990, before we sold the company, I have fond memories of calling on the garden centers in southern New Jersey and the Philly area.”
The author of Der Himmelsgarten, a book linking kabbalah to gardening, Daniels travels to political events and sells yarmulkes printed with candidates’ names in Hebrew and English.
“What I told Hillary at the Jewish Federation rallies in Waukee, Clinton and Urbandale, Iowa,” said Daniels, “[is that] every time Trump says something hateful or hurtful, assemble kids of mixed ethnicities and root out weeds of hatred. Under the theory, hatred like matter cannot be destroyed. At best, it can be composted with the right kavanah.”
Daniels, who was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week as a DNC “swag-seller,” has presented yarmulkes to Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio — “relating hidden political grassroots wisdom,” he said. He also hit McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Center City during last week’s DNC filming of Morning Joe.
“I gave a Hillary yarmulke to Michael Barnicle,” Daniels said.
The rabbi
Back inside the Wells Fargo Center, the delegates and attendees on the convention floor were a bit more, well, conventional.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum stood on the floor in a rainbow kippah, listening to all the speakers. A graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Kleinbaum is now the senior rabbi at New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the largest LGBT synagogue in the world.
Honored as one of the 50 most influential rabbis by Newsweek, as well as one of the country’s top 50 Jewish leaders by The Forward, Kleinbaum said, “It is an imperative to support Hillary. I’ve long admired her and considered her a progressive. Nobody’s perfect, and we shouldn’t have the expectation that someone will be a perfect reflection of ourselves. Hillary has always advocated for economic justice, racial justice, LGBT rights.”
Kleinbaum added that as a senator, Clinton made a huge difference in the life of her congregation by changing New York legislation pertaining to asylum status for members of the international LGBT community.
“It was a profound contribution to the safety of LGBT people,” Kleinbaum said. “I’m thrilled she’s the nominee.”
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