Kristofer Eisenla Does the DNC

By Kristofer Eisenla

Originally published on Advocate.com October 08 2008 11:00 PM ET

* This is the fourth article in The Advocate's
continuing coverage of four battleground states:
Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio.
Click here
to read the previous installments.

In one of my
earliest political memories, I'm marching around my
grandparents' house with my homemade "Clinton for President"
sign while watching the 1992 Democratic National
Convention on television. As staunch Republicans, my
grandparents were certainly baffled by their grandson,
who knew little about politics at the time but who clearly
was leaning toward the opposite end of their position
on the political spectrum.

Never in my
wildest dreams did I expect to be so actively involved in
the planning of the 2008 Democratic National
Convention in Denver. In fact, over a year ago I sat
in a stuffy Capitol Hill cafeteria weighing the pros
and cons of working for congresswoman Diana DeGette as her
deputy chief of staff and communications director. She
represented Denver and would become the congressional
host of the 2008 convention. And that was the clincher
-- by signing on with Ms. DeGette, I would have the
opportunity to work on the convention. Being gay played no
role in my decision, but I would soon find out that
being gay presented me with a one-of-a-kind
opportunity representing her on the Executive Host
Committee.

We all know a lot
about the 2008 Democratic National Convention in
Denver. We know it was truly successful on every level,
particularly for the LGBT community, whose presence
this year far exceeded that of previous conventions.
We saw LGBT delegates represented at almost every
event; we saw a sea of rainbow flags; we saw Michelle Obama
attend the official LGBT luncheon; and we saw scores
of delegates and supporters attend the Human Rights
Campaign's Rock to Win concert. The LGBT community was
not only included, but visible to a degree never seen
before.

What you may not
know is that, for months leading up to that historic
week in late August in which Barack Obama became the
Democratic nominee, rank-and-file members of the LGBT
community were hard at work planning a diverse and
inclusive convention -- not just for their own
community, but for the Democratic community at large. Those
working on this year's convention included members of
the African-American, Latino, and Asian communities,
and gays and lesbians were also represented at the
highest levels of convention planning in Denver. My personal
story is no different -- it's peppered with so many
eye-opening experiences that have now made me a
stronger professional because of my unique vantage point
working on the convention.

Immediately after
moving to Denver, I was thrown into the center of the
preparations for the thousands to descend on the city. It
was all hands on deck -- whether it was designing the
logistics for delegates to maneuver around the city,
making our fund-raising targets, or talking up
convention planning with local and national reporters, I was
ready and willing to make this convention a success
like everyone else.

As I represented
Representative DeGette around that big oval table in the
center of the mayor's office for our weekly Executive
Committee meetings, I not only felt welcomed to
express my perspective but was expected to speak up.
Whether it was discussing event preparations with the mayor
of Denver or financial goals with Colorado's
soon-to-be senior senator or ticket distribution with
the Obama campaign, regardless of who I was, those
planning the Denver convention gave me a seat -- a front
seat -- at the table.

It was, however,
also important to me that LGBT Americans unable to come
to Denver felt empowered by this convention. Working with
the Human Rights Campaign, I made certain there was an
LGBT media liaison working alongside convention
media operations so that those across America
could feel like they were on top of the news that affected
our community. All in our community, whether in Denver
or Seattle or Jacksonville, had a stake in what began
in Denver.  

 Swing States: Colorado x390 03 (getty) | Advocate.com

We learned from
2004 exit polls that LGBT Americans represented 4% to 6%
of the electorate, a crucial number that could decide the
outcome of the 2008 contest in a number of
battleground states, including Colorado, New Mexico,
and even Virginia. LGBT Americans could tip the scales come
this November.

The great thing
about working on the 2008 Democratic National Convention
was whether you were a communications director for a member
of Congress like myself, or the chief technology
officer for the Democratic National Convention
Committee, or even the deputy campaign manager for our
party's nominee, as LGBT Americans we all had an
important role in making this convention a success,
not only for our community but for the entire
Democratic community.

As a gay man, the
openness and inclusiveness that I felt working on the
2008 convention in Denver is truly emblematic of the
Democratic Party I chose to root for in my
grandparents' living room. And now, as someone who
knows a great deal more about politics, I understand why.