Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rally Girl

For those of you who were wondering, the rally yesterday was effing awesome. It was the third political rally I have ever attended and for me it was the best experience of the three.

The first one I ever attended was a rally for Paul Wellstone, who was running for re-election when I was a senior in high school. I was still too young to vote, but our high school let us take the day off and provided buses to the Target Center because that day President Clinton (also running for reelection) was campaigning along with Senator Wellstone. That was likewise a very memorable experience if for no other reason than I got to listen to President Clinton, who was (and still is) a person whose presence was palpable, a remarkably charismatic man. The interesting thing about seeing Senator Wellstone was in the context of my own political experiences. I knew what I believed but I wasn't necessarily in tune with the greater political atmosphere then and comparing what he was speaking about to the direction in which we ended up heading as a nation is stunning. What Senator Wellstone spoke about seemed perfectly reasonable to me and completely aligned with my core values and beliefs. It was only in later years, after becoming more politically savvy, did I realize that people saw Senator Wellstone's views as progressive and somewhat radical. To me, they were what I expected and hoped for from my government. It wasn't until his death that I realized exactly who Minnesotans and the Senate had lost, and what it meant that Norm Coleman, the newly-minted neocon had won Wellstone's seat in the aftermath.

The second rally I went to was a John Kerry rally, which had all the desperation one might expect from a Democratic campaign in the fear-laden climate that was post-9/11 America. He didn't fill up the Sundome and I think everyone there knew he was doomed. Granted, Florida Democrats, I've noticed, generally have a much more defeated air about them than Minnesota Dems. What I enjoyed about the rally, that I didn't get around my school mates eight years earlier, was the sense that I was with among people with which I had so much in common, without ever having to open my mouth. I felt self-conscience going by myself (many of my lab mates are apolitical because they are international students and unable to vote anyway). My embarrassment was quickly alleviated when strangers started talking to me out of blue because we already knew what we could talk about, a phenomenon that rarely occurs in public outings. In social situations one learns to veer away from politics, unless a rogue bumper sticker or refrigerator magnet gives away one's leanings. Political rallies, where you can make profound assumptions about the core beliefs of the people surrounding you, are a lot like how I imagine church might be if I actually bought what organized religion was trying to sell.

That is why I felt no qualms about going to the Obama rally by myself yesterday. Since it was at noon on a Wednesday, Dean had to work and I didn't even ask many of my friends who have real jobs. Besides, as I alluded before, rallies can be quite, well, political and I didn't want to cause any later awkwardness for dragging someone along who may not be on board. As I expected, I talked with people in line around me and enjoyed seeing the plethora of creative Obama t-shirts ("Obama - he had me at common sense" was my favorite). The rally was extremely well-organized. We were let in nearly an hour before gates were supposed to open due to the lines and the approaching heat of the day. There was not really anything different in his speech from what I had been seeing snippets of on CNN. But it didn't matter. I was roughly 12 rows up and simply seeing him in person was awesome. We just exploded when he came on stage, and it was several minutes before he could speak through all the commotion. He even had to urge us to sit down so we could actually listen to what he wanted to tell us. The arena had this electric feel, like we all knew we were a part of something big happening. This connection with voters is what has fueled his campaign and that feeling was what made the event special. The feeling that I am participating in a political process where so much is at stake and where I feel like the people have a real shot at starting to take back our country.

Tampa has a very large African-American population, and if I wasn't in the minority at the event, it was close. Of course I've been listening to pundits and pollsters break down the black vote, the white vote, the female vote, the educated vote etc. etc., but it wasn't until I saw all the elderly African-Americans at the rally who had obviously lived through segregation and the civil rights movement that I was rendered speechless by the magnitude of Obama's candidacy in the African-American community. I support Obama because I feel that even though he is inexperienced, he has sound judgment, fresh ideas, fair approaches and brings a different type of politics into the race. I feel he understands the plight of the average American and can reach out to new voters, independents, and Republicans to unite our ailing country. I know that politics will change him, that I am being idealistic, that what he will actually achieve will fall short of the promises. But heck, sometimes it feels good to put your faith in someone, and I feel good about the guy I'm backing.

Barack Obama Logo


Scott said...

If you can believe it, I'm actually considering to read his book. And as of now, without knowing too much mind you, he's in my mind as the leading candidate. If McCain wins, we'll just stay with status quo, and nobody can rightly say that that is a good thing. We need to send a signal to the world that Americans don't approve of our current direction.

Tee, one of the bloggers on my sidebar, is also a huge Obama supporter. She linked a cute video from one of Obama's supporters

anne said...

I wish I had been able to go - I would have gone with you! Damn having to work.

I love going to those rallys - it really gets you motivated and supportive of the candidate. I went to the Kerry rally on the night before election in 2004 downtown. A Gore one in 2000 in New Orleans and Clinton/Gore in 1996 in Miami. They are always fun.

Though I have a feeling we will get another one here in the next few months.

Dianne said...

I got chills reading that Magnetbabe. Partly because of how much I support Obama and truly believe he is the hope we ain't got right now BUT mostly because I love how engaged and involved you are, I worry about some younger folks.

I love your ideals and I respect your opinions.

And to be 12 rows in. Wow!!

I hope I get to go to the next NY or NJ rally.

Minnesotablue said...

Magnetbabe: Being a Huge Obama supporter myself, I can understand exactly what you must have felt. And you are so right about being comfortable and happy being around same like minded people. When I attended the DFL caucas here I felt as though I was amoung friends and the enthusiasm was a sight to see. Our caucus was mainly white folks but still more minorities than I had ever see. GO OBAMA!!! P.S. Can't believe Scott may be seeing the light. You go Scott

fermicat said...

Groovy! Sounds like a blast.

I continue to like what I see from Obama. The others have been more disappointing (some much more than others).

dr sardonicus said...

Thanks for the report. But Wellstone to Kerry to Obama is a sad commentary on the state of progressive politics in America these days.

I have no qualms about voting for Obama in November, but I consider him a centrist at best - he's no liberal.

Jeni said...

Thanks for describing the rally and also, for defining your reasons to support Obama. I've been trying to find the words to explain why I like him better as the democratic candidate and just couldn't get my thoughts to come together but your words really echoed my feelings this year.

Hot4Teacha said...

I'm so with you, Nat. I was there when Clinton took his 2nd oath of office in DC in 1997 (early Jan). I will never forget that feeling, of being in on something and seeing history happening right in front of me. A-friggin-mazing.

Christopher said...

I’m glad you went and I’m thrilled Obama is energizing so many and inspiring them to vote. If there ever was a year where “anything but the status quo” was appropriate, this is it. It remains to be seen whether the tide of new – mostly young – voters can overcome the undertow of ignorance and self-imposed blindness to our country’s actions of the recent past. One more thing – neither Hilary or Obama were my first choice as a candidate. Mr. Obama has a voting record that would seem to suggest he is beholding to some lobbyists (see NYT 2/3/08 “Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate”) and his health care plan is really less than we deserve, but these examples might just be the price of admission for anyone who expects to engage in politics at this level. Hilary has a boxcar full of her own baggage, but she has every right to remain in the race and does not deserve to be trashed by the media and people who represent her own party. Besides, as soon as she makes her exit, Rove and his goons are going to begin to unload. I wish Senator Obama well, I hope he wins in November and I hope his plane doesn’t go down.

magnetbabe said...

scott -
Bravo! I really like the new side of you that has emerged since your "oil epiphany".

anne -
They said that Kerry rally is the current record holder for Tampa. Too bad Obama didn't break it, maybe closer to November he will. I don't know where we'll be in a few months, so I definitely wanted to go to this one.

dianne -
Thanks! There were a lot of people my age there. I think attracting my generation and younger is going to be key for him. I sure hope you can go see him. It really was an experience.

mb -
I get a huge kick out of hearing about some of the rallies and caucuses in the Midwest and the West where there aren't as many minorities as in the South. I imagine him being the only black guy in the room and have to laugh. It makes me proud to be from Minnesota rather than some of the states where race obviously played a role in the outcome.

I'm glad you still like him. I worry that as we push towards the general election he will get even more watered down, but it isn't unexpected either. I'm willing to compromise to get him to 1/20/09.

dr. s-
Yes, I agree everything has shifted to the right, even the most progressive senators aren't as much so as in the past. Ted Kennedy is still considered one of the most liberal and he's been around for almost 50 years! But I think the issue for this election is getting people motivated, energized and engaged, something Kerry could not do. As maddening as it is that the majority of the country is still so conservative, we can't make big changes while alienating that majority.

Its tough. Before Obama announced his candidacy, I couldn't be more excited to vote for Hillary. But as soon as I saw the potential in Obama to reach so many people, some of whom are Republicans and by definition Hillary-haters (still for no good reason as far as I can tell), I had a feeling that I needed to get behind him, and be vocal about it.

It'll be something (and I have faith it will happen) to see him for the 2009 inauguration!


but these examples might just be the price of admission for anyone who expects to engage in politics at this level

I agree with you on this. There are still things that disappoint me about Obama (I'm similarly bothered by his civil union vs marriage stance for gays and lesbians) but for someone to successfully run for national office, all sides must make some concessions.

But I have to disagree with you on Hillary. You are right that she absolutely has the right to stay in this race. And I'm very happy she has toned down her rhetoric since the Indiana/NC primaries. But I don't see the media bashing her, I see the media doing everything it can to encourage the continuation of this race for their own benefit. I don't see elected officials calling her out on her her attempts to change the established rules and her mathematically-challenged views of the popular vote. And I think if her last name wasn't Clinton, her party representatives would have abandoned her candidacy after Obama's 12 state winning-streak.

Beth said...

I really like Obama as well. I hope to get to see him!

dancingo4 said...

We know we disagree on politics but that isn't what I want to comment on. In fact, let's avoid that like the plague ;-)

What I think is cool - and another reason I am in admiration of you, my friend - is your excitement and passion. You have amazing skills to convey your thoughts and feelings on paper. Political comments can easily become ranting
and raving but I truly enjoyed reading your thoughts - because they are your feelings/thoughts/opinions and makes me remember all of our great conversations.

Ahhhh, I miss you.