The USA is a country frequently portrayed by outsiders as hosting extravagant, voluble and boisterous events. As a young Brit in town, this is certainly what I had expected to experience see at the DNC in Denver. After three days in the mile high city, have my expectations been met?
In Downtown Denver, along 16th Street Mall and at the Pepsi Center, there is a perpetual buzz of excitement, activity and frenzy involving a ceaseless spectacle of events. Delegates mingle and animatedly discuss politics with Democratic Party supporters as they stroll from one meeting to the next, whilst journalists frantically scribble notes on their small notepads and photographers flash their cameras in every direction.
The activists are the most fascinating category of visitors to Denver. Most hold signs of praise in support of Barack Obama, some for Hillary Clinton and a few are even rooting for John McCain! Their sartorial taste is interesting too. Some are dressed in pink, others in vivid greens and blues. Each activist has a slogan to chant and enthusiastically thrusts literature into the hands of those passing by and attempting to talk to anyone who appears semi-interested.
Major speeches and performances are given at the 'Pepsi Center' - but what is this place? Prior to my arrival in Denver, I had assumed there must be a financial connection between the Obama campaign and Pepsi Cola but I could not have been more wrong. The Pepsi Center is a permanent, modern sports arena, home to the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets. But when I entered the Center, it barely resembles a sports stadium.
From the inside, the size and scale hits you but, not in the way one might expect. The magnitude apparent on screen is not reflected in the reality of the experience. The lights and giant screens mirroring the stage, falsely magnifying the scale of the arena. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is febrile and energetic.
Have my expectations been fulfilled? So far, yes. On any view, the DNC is an immense and fantastically orchestrated show. However, I am also a little disappointed. The real challenges are not being discussed. Whereas in European politics there is a greater emphasis on the challenging of political ideas, particularly, socialism versus libertarianism. To a large extent US politics seems to involve a considerable amount of badmouthing and faulting the opposition, accompanied by cheesy media advertisements and the presentation of a glittering and glamorous show for the world to behold.
The theme of the DNC is 'we can't afford more of the same' and the slogan is enthusiastically chanted by the faithful supporters. For example, the man selling Obama watches paces the pavement outside the Convention center shouting, 'What's the time? It's time for change.' It is not for me to quibble with this message, and I certainly acknowledge the success of the DNC in spreading a basic idea that everyone can relate to and even children will tell their parents that their favorite pop band -the Black Eyed Peas - supports Obama and preaches, 'yes we can'. However, I question what is the substance of the DNC challenge against Bush and Republican policies? Or as one US politician famously put it, 'where is the beef?'
The general theme of the opening night of the DNC was 'family', in an attempt to allow viewers to feel they 'know' Obama as they watch him engage with his daughters via a live video link. Whilst Barack Hussein Obama is, I am sure, a great Dad to two cute little girls, it remains to be seen whether the American people will elect him as a father figure for the entire nation.
I am yearning for the DNC this week, and the RNC next week, to start talking about the real issues. How does Barack Obama propose to respond to major world threats like Iran's desire to own nuclear weapons so that it can annihilate Israel; the Russian invasion and now annexation of Georgian territory; or, the dismal Chinese record on human rights. Beyond world issues, political debates are supposed to discuss pressing domestic issues such as how each party proposes to reduce the US deficit, restore the value of the dollar, stabilize the housing market and get more American blue collar workers back into employment. But alas, these issues are barely mentioned and certainly not thrashed out.
For more Huffington Post coverage of the Democratic National Convention, visit our Politics @ the DNC page, our Democratic Convention Big News Page, and our HuffPost bloggers' Twitter feed, live from Denver.