Volta Insider: Art and Activism at the RNC and DNC


Rachel Greenberg at the DNC, Photo Courtesy of Volta Insider

As the political forces of the Democratic Party descended on Philadelphia for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, activists, protesters, artists, and performers, converged on the streets of downtown Philly to entertain, provoke, and raise awareness for their issues. Rachel Greenberg, host of the Volta Insider podcast, went to the DNC to find out why those from outside the world of politics come to the national conventions.

Greenberg caught up with artist Andrew Purchin to discuss the DNC, his hopes for the election, and the intersection of art and politics.


Rachel Greenberg with Andrew Purchin, Photo Courtesy of Volta Insider

Andrew Purchin brought his interactive project “The Curious End to the War Against Ourselves” to both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this year. The piece, a 144-foot linen scroll, is designed for passerbys who stop by to contribute. Purchin describes the project as “a guided art-making meditation”. His goal with the work is to connect with people across the political spectrum and get them to collaborate in the same space with people who share dissimilar views, be it social or political. This apolitical work is an attempt at reconciling what Purchin calls “the infighting both within our heads and with each other”.

To watch Greenberg’s interview with Andrew Purchin click here. You can find more Volta Insider episodes here.

To find out more about Andrew Purchin’s art and his project visit his website here.

Sally Susman Hosts International Rescue Committee Reception for David Miliband at DNC

International Rescue Committee Party- DNC 2016

On the last night of the Democratic National Convention it was standing room only at a reception honoring David Miliband and supporting the work of the International Rescue Committee, an NGO that provides relief for refugees of war-torn countries such as Syria and other humanitarian crises. The event was co-hosted by Democratic heavyweights Sally Susman, Mona Sutphen, Tom Nides and Maureen White at Parc in Rittenhouse Square.

Attending the event where Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Gene Sperling, Jill Abramson, Don Baer, Hilary Rosen, Bob Barnett, Jonathan Capehart, Nick Schmitt, Steve Rattner, Erin Burnett, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Anita Dunn, Lois Romano, Eve O’Toole, Laura Zelenko and Megan Murphy.

Sally Susman is Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Pfizer and to learn more about the International Rescue Committee click here.

Volta Insider: Barack Obama’s Democratic Convention Swan Song


Barack Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention, Photo Courtesy Volta Insider

Barack Obama is an incredibly impressive orator. He speaks with grace and power, his words suffused with purpose. He has mastered a voice that exerts both authority and emotion without pontificating. There is an honesty in his cadence that slightly resembles that of Bill Clinton, a speech delivered in a style that isn’t really a speech, but more of a conversation. That night, President Obama and the American people had a conversation about something our President knows quite a bit about, the audacity of hope. And trust me, there wasn’t a dry eye in the entire arena.

I was enamored by his remarks, but it wasn’t until the crowd resurrected the famous slogan “YES WE CAN” that I was deeply affected. It was within those seconds I was, as Fitzgerald writes, “…within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

I was transported eight years back, to television clips of people shouting “YES WE CAN” in massive crowds. Struck with the absoluteness of the change he has brought about and the love the American people share with him because of it.

“Time and again, you’ve picked me up. And I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too. And tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me. Because you’re who I was talking about 12 years ago when I talked about hope. It’s been you who fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds were great; even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope.”

I knew then why Barack Obama had won back in 2008. Fear is subjective, but hope is indefinite. I looked down towards the stage, at the side of his face and the corner of the podium. Compelled by the sadness in his stance that lifted a little bit in each word he spoke and the arena got smaller and smaller. As if there were not millions of people behind those big black cameras scattered among skyboxes. That speech was a love letter to this country. If Shakespeare wrote speeches for the King of England, it would probably sound something like what we heard that night. 46 stunning minutes when all I could think was: that’s my president.

Zignal Labs Charts Response to Hillary’s DNC Speech, Tammy Haddad Interviews Zingal’s Michael Venet

Haddad Media CEO Tammy Haddad caught up with Zignal Labs’ Michael Venet on Facebook Live, who demonstrated their famous smartboard, which charts social media mentions graphically. You can check out their conversation below.

Zignal Labs tracked millions of mentions on Twitter during this year’s RNC and DNC. According to Zignal’s Anthony York, Zignal “tracked about 6.4 million media mentions of the RNC, compared to more than 9.7 million mentions of the Democratic Convention,” making the DNC the drew much more interest online than the RNC.

Zignal created a chart that shows the most mentioned moments of the DNC:


They also calculated which DNC-related Tweets were the most popular:

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DNC Day 2: Zignal Labs Measures Impact of Democratic Stars’ Speeches

The second night of the Democratic National Convention saw some of the Democratic Party’s heaviest hitters take the podium. Bill Clinton, Eric Holder, Madeleine Albright, Howard Dean, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, and Tom Harkin, were among the top billed speakers of the evening.

Zignal Labs’ Anthony York says that, “Zignal Labs tracked more than 1.9 million mentions of the Democratic gathering — more than any night of the Republican convention. Whether that translates into votes or momentum in the polls remains to be seen. If last night belonged to the current first lady, Tuesday was the night for the potential future first husband. Former President Bill Clinton was the most mentioned of Tuesday’s speakers.”

Zignal created an emoji chart to calculate the most used emoji in reference to Clinton’s speech:

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You can learn more about Zignal Labs and read their work with The Washington Post’s Daily 202 newsletter here.

Volta Insider: Rachel Greenberg Reflects on DNC Day One

Bill Clinton speaking at the DNC, Photo courtesy of Haddad Media

Bill Clinton speaking at the DNC, Photo courtesy of Haddad Media

Monday, July 25th was an exceptionally trying day for Democrats. After the media storm that followed the news that emails from top staffers in the DNC had been leaked, and the resignation of Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, things were off to a tumultuous start.

In the one-step-forward-two-steps-back relationship the Clinton campaign has with Bernie Sanders supporters, it is not surprising that some Americans don’t believe that the Democratic party is not deeply polarized. It is underestimated just how much Bernie Sanders has influenced not only the Democratic party platform, but also on the success of Hillary’s campaign. Throughout the primary season he pushed her to craft a more progressive agenda and in doing so changed the narrative of this election.


Delegates on the floor of the convention hall, Photo courtesy Haddad Media

But in the larger picture, in the words of Donald Trump, the Republicans have a movement and in the words of Bernie Sanders, the Democrats have a revolution. The distinction between the words is telling, and speaks to the longevity of their respective party platforms. Movements come and go, but a revolution is something people seldom forget.  Regardless of who wins come November, either or both of these attempts to change establishment politics will challenge the current course of Washington.

You can check out more of my convention coverage here.

Zignal Labs Breaks Down DNC Day One Speeches On Twitter

Zignal Labs, the data analytics firm that charts the social media response to political events and news, has come up with some fascinating ways to calculate the online reaction to the Democratic National Convention’s speeches.

According to Zignal’s Anthony York, “The opening of the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia attracted more interest on social media than last week’s GOP convention. Zignal Labs tracked 2.4 million DNC mentions on Monday, compared to about 1.6 million mentions during the opening night of the GOP gathering in Cleveland.”

Zignal’s emoji-cloud charts captured which emjois were used most during First Lady Michelle Obama’s rousing primetime speech, which many called the highlight of Day One:


Zignal also analyses the reach of particular twitter users and is capable of charting the reach of individual tweets. They found that Bernie Sanders’ convention tweet got 5 times more Twitter mentions than Hillary Clinton’s top tweet:

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You can learn more about Zignal Labs and read their work with The Washington Post’s Daily 202 newsletter here.

Masters in Politics: Reince Priebus Slams Debbie Wasserman Schultz for Email Flub

The hosts of Bloomberg Politics’ Masters in Politics podcast Tammy Haddad and Betsy Fischer Martin caught up with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who is in Southern Philadelphia this week to crash the Democrat’s big show with a converted boxing studio replete with “rigged” arcade games, to talk about the departure of Debbie Wasserman Schultz from her position as Democratic Party Chair.

Priebus admits that he worked well with Wasserman Schultz but doesn’t hesitate to condemn what many viewed as an intrusion into the outcome of the Democratic primary. “I think it was a fraud that they committed upon their own base. It’s a fraud that they committed to the Democratic voters and actually a fraud upon the American people.”

The RNC chair still believes an investigation is necessary for the Democrats to come out from under this scandal.  “It’s not what national parties are supposed to be doing. It should be an investigation as to who or what entity hacked into their emails”.

Priebus was quick to note that nothing similar happened under the RNC’s watch, essentially calling the ousted chairwoman’s emails a rookie mistake. “Number one, I don’t think that’s happened to us, number two, we weren’t doing things like that. I know our staff well, and number three, if someone had those views they wouldn’t be dumb enough to put it in an email. I’m kinda like a second Chief of Staff, the way I operate in the building, so I know those things didn’t happen.”

You can check out the full interview here.


Volta Insider: Paul Manafort and Reince Priebus Storm the DNC


The Republicans have set up camp in enemy territory at a boxing arena in South Philadelphia where they will host a series of press conferences during the week of the DNC. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC, and Sean Spicer, Chief Communications Director of the RNC spoke on the record and organized a brief Q&A for the audience. Responding to questions about the DNC WikiLeaks, claiming that the Trump campaign and the RNC will not have the same problem, and do not have any involvement. The theme of their setup was “Enough” complete with dice, cornhole, and other games all “rigged” for Hillary to win as well as a poster with a “setlist” of her scandals dating back to the 1980s.

You can check out more of my convention coverage here.

DNC Forced To Change Plans But Keeps Spirits Alive

Although it’s no hurricane Isaac, the Democratic National Convention was forced to deny 50,000 eager supporters the chance to see President Barack Obama deliver his keynote address in person, due to the chance of severe weather today in Charlotte, North Carolina. The President addressed credential holders, many of whom were community organizers across the country, via a conference call earlier today and said “I regret that we’re not all gathering together in one place to deliver my acceptance speech tonight.” Instead, credential holders will attempt to gather at smaller community events to watch the speech on TV.

Commenting on the convention so far, President Obama said “we’ve had an unbelievable convention. Michelle — what can I say? I’m a little biased, but she was unbelievable. And yesterday President Clinton, who I think broke down the issues as effectively as anybody could; to hear from ordinary Americans who tell the story of their lives from veterans to businesspeople to workers; and to hear some of our great governors and members of Congress — I could not be prouder of the work that everybody has done. Mayor Castro from San Antonio is obviously just an incredible talent.”

MSNBC won convention ratings for the first time ever with it’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention – check out their recap of past Obama big speeches, just hours away from his address this evening:

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