Hey, It Was Hard Not to Cry at This Historic DNC

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Photo: Paul Morigi/WireImages

This week, New Girl creator Liz Meriwether is in Philadelphia covering the Democratic National Convention for Vulture. Last week she went to Cleveland to report on the RNC.

I cried yesterday. This is a problem, because I sit with the press. I am supposed to watch and listen with a blank, glassy-eyed, when-is-lunch expression. At the DNC, the “writing press” are kept in section 120, where the stadium seating has been replaced with long lines of desks and rows and rows of reporters sit on folding chairs behind laptops. Sports stadiums weren’t built to have desks. Sports stadiums are built to get people away from desks. The setup is awkward, the aisles are narrow, and there are never enough chairs. There is a quiet war for outlets, but camaraderie over the terrible Wi-Fi. “Are you getting the Wi-Fi?” is a great icebreaker, except, unfortunately that’s also where the conversation will end. Sitting in the press section, you have the feeling of being a judge at a figure-skating competition. (Sorry, yesterday I met Olympic figure-skating medalist Michelle Kwan, who told me that this was the arena where she won Nationals in 1998 to the song "Lyrica Angelica.") Down below, the politicians are attempting double axels, songs are being sung, people are cheering and booing and crying — especially at the DNC, which has involved considerably more public crying than the RNC. I like to think the RNC involved plenty of private crying.

I have struggled during both conventions not to laugh or clap or make angry “I can’t believe this is happening” noises. In Cleveland, I would sometimes be so frustrated that I would silently hold my head in my hands and hope that the reporters around me just thought I was hung-over. I made a lot of faces, because faces are quiet and hard to spot. Most reporters are so focused on their laptops that I could probably take my pants off, stand up, and make a slow hula-hoop motion with my hips, and only a handful of people would give me empty, sleepless stares and go back to typing — though if I ended up standing for too long during my naked Twin Peaks dream dance, someone would quietly come and take my chair.

I know I am a tourist in the press section, and I have tried very hard not to be one wearing a fanny pack with a camera around my neck standing in the middle of the street taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower yelling “I thought it would be bigger!” I have gotten good at looking bored, and I have actually been bored many times. Even as a tourist reporter, I am exhausted and rundown by the grind of the conventions. Yesterday, I was sitting on a folding chair, soaking wet from rain, trying to figure out how to charge my phone in my wet, sort-of-broken computer, stuffing a hot-dog dinner in my face, when my colleague looked at me and said, “Aren’t you glad you left Los Angeles?” Of course I’m glad. I love hot dogs. I had a hot dog for dinner and a hot dog for lunch. And, as someone who spends her days with writers and actors, it’s a relief to be around people who are not showing emotion or thinking about themselves. The reporters around me have a diligent, focused selflessness that I respect. Which is why, yesterday, I was terrified that any of them would see me cry.

It was roll call, where a chosen delegate from each state goes up to a microphone and says something appealing about their state and then tells the party secretary how many votes that state will cast for a particular candidate. It’s basically meaningless, because the secretary onstage already knows the number of votes, and everyone in the world knows the nominee, but it’s kind of adorable in the way kids wearing oversize suits and pretending to go to work are adorable. Does Rhode Island really have “the best restaurants in the country?" Look, I don’t know. Maybe it does. Sure. Everyone knows Rhode Island is the restaurant state. The Rhode Island state bird is actually a restaurant. I had been reporting all day, and I came and sat down next to one of the female reporters I am here with, a woman who is much younger than me, and I told her, in what I thought was a cool way, “Hey, when Hillary becomes the nominee, I’m probably going to cry! Hahaha!” She cocked her head, gave me a look that I would describe as quizzical pity, and said something like “Yeah.” I don’t remember what she said exactly, but it seemed like “Yeah.”

Even though Hillary had received enough votes to become the nominee, the roll call continued. Then it was time for Vermont, and in a beautifully executed reveal, the camera feed cut to Bernie Sanders, who was sitting with his state’s delegates. The crowd exploded. Bernie stood up and announced, with an enormous amount of grace, that this was the end of the roll-call vote. Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be nominated by a major party as a candidate for president. As the arena exploded again, I sat with the silent, typing press and tried to observe and feel nothing, and before I knew what was happening, I was calling my mother. I bent down low and hoped the reporters around me thought I had an important interview or my editor was really on my balls about an edit.

“Hi, Mom, it’s Liz. Can you call me back?” I left a whispered voice-mail that was probably inaudible over the sound of the crowd. I should have stopped there, but then I decided to text her a picture of the arena, and underneath I started to write “Thank you,” and all of a sudden I was crying. I was crying because the country my mother was born into would never have nominated a woman for president, and the country I live in now had just done so because of women like mother. My mother who raised me to believe I could do anything a man could do, which is technically wrong but nice to believe. My mother who told me I shouldn’t shave my legs, which turned out to be kind of problematic, but was also nice to believe. My mother who did not accept that her family would only pay for her to go to secretarial school, got a full-time job, and then finally her college degree.

I was typing the words “Thank you” and crying when I suddenly remembered where I was sitting. I pressed send, wiped my eyes, and went back to looking for an outlet.