At DNC, woman has artistic crush on Democrats

September 6, 2012

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Over the years, Chicago has become infamous for producing politicians who can be bought and sold.

That’s what drew me to Elizabeth McClancy, who was camped out the other day in the lobby of the Illinois delegation’s hotel in Charlotte, N.C.

“Rahm Emanuel is for sale,” McClancy said quietly.

For how much?

“Well, maybe twenty,” she said.

That’s $20,000. But let’s be clear: McClancy is talking about a painting.

She actually has an entire series of them, all of prominent Democrats like Emanuel, including President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Massachusetts U.S. Sen. John Kerry, and others. Each portrait is displayed alongside a public speech from each politician.


McClancy lives in eastern North Carolina, so she was pretty excited when the convention came to Charlotte, just a few hours away. She’s been doing these Democratic portraits since 2006, and there are 23 in all, including one she’d just as soon forget.

“The 23rd one is John Edwards,” she laughs.

As she started to explain how the paintings capture Democratic leaders who embody the party’s core ideals on certain issues, but then she’s interrupted as a former Democratic star walks into the hotel lobby.

“There’s Governor Dukakis! Hello, Governor Dukakis!” she shouts.

Even though she now sounds like a DNC groupie, McClancy says she used to be a die-hard Reagan Republican.

But the other morning, she proudly held the portrait of Emanuel in her lap.

The portrait makes Emanuel bigger than he is in real life, with his chin resting on one hand, and little flecks of royal blue in his eyes.

“[He’s] thinking, considering, but thinking with - and I think his eyes show this - thinking with a very well-informed perspective,” McClancy said.

She said the point of the portraits and the accompanying speeches is to highlight what she says are the best parts of the Democratic Party – not GOP-bashing, but positive affirmations of Democrats' core principles.

Earlier, she actually buttonholed the mayor before a press conference, portrait in hand, to get his verdict.

“And he said, ‘Wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow!’ And he said that about five times.”

It might not be $20,000, but for McClancy, that just may have been worth the trip to Charlotte.