When Barack Obama steps up to the podium amid all the noise and glitz inside Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte this week, we expect to see the tougher President Obama — the one who famously said back in May, "Let's go get 'em. It's game time." We expect to see the Obama responsible for harder-hitting TV ads that have taken his wealthy opponent to task for a plan that would raise tax rates on middle-class Americans while protecting the rich. We expect to see the new and improved President Obama, the one who has stood up for women and gays, and who will take the spine he's developed over the past few months back to the White House for another four years.
No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. No more letting far-right conservatives call the shots, disseminate misinformation, use religion to divert attention from real issues, obstruct government — in short, drive this nation back to the dark ages of the Bush era. (Remember the Bush era? That's when being an American was, for the first time in recent history, an embarrassment.) It's time, Mr. President, to take off the gloves and fight for the issues that we know you really care about — health care for every citizen, equal access to education, ending the wealth gap, protecting the environment, fair treatment of immigrants, gays and other minorities.
These are the things Creative Loafing would say if we were given a private audience with the president. We won't get that chance, of course, but we're glad President Obama will be taking off the gloves in Charlotte, one of the few islands of progressive blue in an ocean of conservative red.
Charlotte has always been a battleground city: It's the site of a key civil rights case (Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education) that helped end racial segregation in public schools in the early 1970s, eventually leading to ... well, the election of President Barack Obama. It's a quintessential New South city that's transformed over the past three decades from a faded black-and-white vintage photograph to a real-time state-of-the-art video in living, multi-cultural color. Since the early '90s, Charlotte has seen a huge population explosion of Latinos and other ethnic groups, not to mention blacks who have re-migrated to the South.
Does Charlotte have its share of problems? Of course it does. Is it a world-class city, as the downtown boosters like to say? Well, we're not sure exactly what it means to be a "world-class city," but we suspect Charlotte falls somewhat short of New York, London, Paris or Tokyo — maybe even Portland. But one thing we are sure of: Charlotte is among the nation's foremost works in progress. And we at Creative Loafing love our town. We care deeply about it. And we welcome all visitors who are in town this week for the Democratic National Convention. We hope everyone has a blast. Most of all, we hope everyone enjoys this special edition of Creative Loafing. It's a fun, entertaining and informative read.
Some readers may recall that, over the past year, CL has joined forces with The Huffington Post for a number of stories and perspectives on the DNC that you haven't seen from the local mainstream media outlets. Together, CL and HuffPost's reporters have filed joint pieces on topics ranging from how this slick bank town sold itself to the convention committee, to how the city's shadow economy — hookers, drug dealers, liquor houses — prepared for the onslaught of political junkies (and junkie politicos) flocking to Charlotte this week.
For the CL/HuffPost section in this issue, we've combined forces again to bring you a slew of informative pieces. HuffPost reporter Jason Cherkis revisits the Occupy Charlotte movement; our own Joanne Spataro partners with HuffPost workplace reporter Dave Jamieson for a look at unionization — or, the lack thereof — in North Carolina; CL state politics reporter Mike Cooper profiles Sam Spencer, a delegate and the president of the Young Democrats of North Carolina; and so much more.
The past year has been a whirlwind for Charlotte, and CL has looked at every DNC-related event from every conceivable angle, covering the official P.R. sessions as well as spending nights with local protesters during the Occupy Wall Street uprisings that spread from lower Manhattan to Charlotte's Old City Hall grounds. We've offered our opinions, reports and analyses in blog posts, photos, videos, audio — the works.
All of that was dress rehearsal; this week is opening night, in which our reporters will be covering the Democratic convention alongside the 15,000 or so other journalists in town for the week. But we like to think our team has the home court advantage, so I encourage you to also visit CL's DNC page (www.clclt.com/dnc2012), as well as The Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com), where you'll find the most up-to-date news on DNC activity throughout the week — with a little of CL's trademark snark and attitude mixed with the HuffPost's sympathy and taste, as the Rolling Stones might say.
Oh, and let me tell you about this issue's cover: Earlier in the year, we held a contest in which the winner would get the opportunity to have his or her illustration used on the cover of this week's special DNC issue. We received lots of excellent illustrations by artists from across the state, but one stood out — the one that graces this week's cover, from Curtis Gaston. We'd like to thank Curtis and all of those who put so much time and passion into the project. We expect to see more of Curtis' work — as well as some of the others — in future issues.
Hey, and enjoy the convention, whether or not you're able to get inside the security perimeter. This is a pretty special week for Charlotte.
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