DENVER — Chris Owens has adjusted to the altitude in Denver with lightening speed. The Brooklyn Democratic activist and New York State delegate arrived here late Sunday night after missing his flight out of New York. But Owens appeared fully charged on Monday morning for what promises to be a wild week here in the Rocky Mountain West.
The last time Owens attended a party convention was in 1992, when he endorsed Paul Tsongas, who wound up finishing third in the nominating race. Owens can count on his record improving to .500 when Senator Barack Obama accepts the Democratic Party’s nomination this Thursday night.
“As soon as it was clear Obama was announcing [his candidacy for president] I knew I was going to be involved,” said Owens, in a broad-ranging interview that touched on an Obama’s potential impact on Brooklyn, his chances in the general election and the role Billary (that’s Bill and Hillary) will play in this week’s political circus.
Owens, the president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, said his interest in Obama grew after the Senator’s now-historic 2004 DNC speech. Owens said he realized then that Obama had a legitimate shot at the presidency. After Obama announced his candidacy in February of 2007 Owens joined Brooklyn for Barack, and has worked ever since to mobilize the African-American and Latino vote in the borough.
If Obama wins this fall, said Owens, Brooklyn’s Yvette Clarke (D– Park Slope), Ed Towns (D– Fort Greene) and Nydia Velazquez (D– Gowanus) will be sure to hold him accountable. Brooklyn’s democratic Congressman “will all be expecting a significant shift in attitudes towards their communities,” said Owens, and increased funding to promote local job growth, health care and housing improvements, among other things.
For example, said Owens,“public housing has been abandoned. You can bet all the Democrats will be demanding that HUD [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] put more money into public housing. That will impact all of Brooklyn.”
First, however, Obama has to win the election. And to do so, said Owens, he needs to sharpen his message on race, culture and class. “This whole ‘post-racial’ discussion is bull----,” Owens said. “It’s a construct by the media and white people to feel more comfortable politically.”
“What Obama really brings to the table is the idea that what is good for black people and latinos and people of color is good for all Americans,” said Owens. “Forget about post-racial,” he added. “Obama can be almost revolutionary” if the media reports his social vision accurately and Americans set their socioeconomic and political differences aside.
In the meantime,the Clintons and the rest of the Democratic Party should do everything they can to get behind Obama, said Owens. “Hillary and Bill Clinton are both concerned about their legacies,” Owens said. “I think it’s in their interests to have a stake in Obama’s success.”
Besides, the Clintons couldn’t steal Obama’s DNC thunder if they tried. “This is Obama’s show,” said Owens, “and its going to be Obama’s show and nobody can take it away from him.”