Two young local Democratic Party activists — Sarah Zambon and Parker Sloan — are delegates to the party's convention in Charlotte, and plan to take the energy and message they see there back home.
Zambon, a land-use attorney in the Asheville area, first got involved in politics by volunteering for former President Bill Clinton's re-election campaign in 1996 and was later a White House intern. She took a hiatus from politics during most of college, a time she describes as one of cynicism, before President Barack Obama's campaign drew her back in.
"He's done more than I thought he could," Zambon told Xpress as she readied to enter the Time Warner stadium on the convention's final day, Sept. 6. "I know a lot of people are giving him a hard time because the economy hasn't turned around, but it's the biggest downturn since the Great Depression; it takes more than four years to fix that." She adds that health-care legislation and Obama's stances on women's rights are among the other reasons for her support.
By contrast, Sloan got involved in politics during college when Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx spoke at Appalachian State University.
"She came to a required session I had for a class, and she started her presentation by saying that she knew the students didn't like her, so she didn't expect any good questions," Sloan said. "At that moment half the room had no idea who she was. It rubbed me the wrong way; I went to the campaign office the next day." He's remained invested in the Democrats because he believes in "an economic floor, rules to the game" and "because we're trying to make it easier for people to vote."
Both are now active in the Buncombe County Young Democrats, Sloan as its president and Zambon as treasurer.
"My passion is trying to get more people our age to vote," said 27-year-old Sloan. "There's going to be 32 people on that ballot, and at least one of them affects your life."
He added, "There's the sentiment that government doesn't matter, or our structure doesn't matter, and we can debate the two-party system all day long." Sloan also talked about protests at the DNC, some of which have criticized Obama from a leftist perspective. "But it doesn't get better when people don't participate, or throw their hands up in the air, or wave their anarchy flags."
While Obama's nomination was a foregone conclusion, both delegates stay the convention still offers a valuable opportunity to rally the party faithful and strengthen its organization.
"You have a role at the convention, but after we hear all those speeches and facts, we need to take that back and mobilize our communities," Zambon says. "That's really the more important job of being a delegate: taking this back to Asheville and getting people fired up."
So far, Zambon is enthusiastic about the convention, describing it as "one of the most amazing experiences of my life" (she's writing an account of her time at the convention for Xpress) though one that's kept her quite busy.
"I'm honored to serve as a delegate. This is history in the making," Sloan said. "We're hosts to the nation and the world, I've been welcoming folks from Minnesota and North Dakota, that's been one of the best parts of this."
"There is an important roles for political parties," Zambon said. "This election has especially shown the very drastic differences in how the two parties view the world. The word 'Democrat' means something, it means standing up for civil rights, public education, Medicaid and Medicare. That's the point of the Democratic Party."