There aren’t many Dearborn residents who can say they’ve been to a national political convention. Over Labor Day weekend, Fred Hoffman headed to Charlotte, NC, for his 11th Democratic National Convention–this time as a delegate, representing his hometown as a supporter of the party, and of President Barack Obama.
Hoffman’s background has much to do with his support of Obama. A lifelong southeast Michigander, he has worked as a Dearborn city official, editor of the Dearborn Press and Guide, and economic development executive under Govs. Granholm and Blanchard.
But Hoffman–now mostly retired–also worked for Chrysler for 21 years in government affairs. That’s why his No. 1 reason for supporting Obama, he explained, has to do with the president’s support for metro Detroit’s founding industry.
“I saw what (the Democrats) did in order to make a difference,” Hoffman said of the federal support for the auto industry bailout. “A lot of those votes are still not popular. The fact is, we saved a million jobs.”
“As a result of that, I said, ‘I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this guy gets celebrated and reelected.’”
Hence his decision to submit his name as a delegate–a position carrying great responsibility, but with little tangible reward. Delegates pay their own way to the conventions, and start their days at 7 a.m. for a whirlwind of speakers, discussions and panels.
And it’s not like it used to be, said Hoffman, who is attending his 11th convention this week.
He describes the scene decades ago as a series of political decisions being made in “cigar-filled back rooms.”
Not so anymore.
“The primaries have rendered conventions less relevant on their original purpose,” Hoffman admitted. “Now it’s a great media show – it becomes kind of a made-for-TV movie. You’ll see lots of videos and graphics; lots of tear-jerking moments.”
Still, he added, the conventions do serve a purpose: providing a visible moment for the presidential candidates, and to “electrify your base and get them excited about the campaign.”
For Hoffman, much of the excitement of the DNC comes from the people he interacts with–including other impassioned Dearborn Democrats, as well as Obama supporters from around the country of all backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities.
“The Democratic convention is a huge tent with all kinds of people–every color under the rainbow, every nationality … we’re all this big melting pot with all these different backgrounds,” he said.
He’s proud to speak on behalf of Dearborn’s biggest issues, including social security, Medicare and foreign policy.
And Hoffman said he’s fired up to continue his work on behalf of the Obama campaign after he returns home from Charlotte, too.
“I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do to help the campaign,” he pledged, giving his praises to the Dearborn-based Obama for America office. “What wins this election is not what’s on the airwaves; it’s what’s at the doorsteps.
“It’s not about Obama or even the Democrats,” he added. “It’s about what our interests are.”
Follow Fred Hoffman’s blog from the Democratic National Convention on Dearborn Patch, Diary of a Democratic Delegate.