Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Night Stand

To look at him, he was everything you could hope for: handsome, well-dressed, nice smile, open demeanor. Listening to him, he was smart, eloquent, and saying all the things I wanted to hear. I felt good. Elated, even. I was excited about the next date on Tuesday, in a way I had not been in years.

And then, it was all over.

This past Tuesday night, Pete and I went over to the Carpenters' Union in St. Paul to hear Senator John Edwards at a campaign rally. I had not been to such an event since 2004, when it was John Kerry, and before that, it was Paul Wellstone. It has been hard to get involved since that major loss. I vote, I keep myself informed, but attending events and volunteering have fallen by the wayside.

It was -14 with a -37 windchill Tuesday night, and yet about 1200 people poured into the Union hall, waiting to hear their candidate. I love Minnesotans; we really are a hearty people. I was planning on supporting Edwards at the caucus on February 5, but I had not gotten emotionally involved.

I forgot how exciting rallys such as this can be. I get very emotional and generally tear up, and then have to try to hide it by yawning because it feels ridiculous to be misty over a political event. But taking part in civic engagement and being in a room full of people who have similar dreams for this country really gets to me.

Of course, if the candidate finally arrives--they are always late--and he or she is not electrifying or the message is off, that excitement quickly dissipates. This was not the case on Tuesday night. Senator Edwards was perhaps 45 minutes late, but when he was announced, the crowd went nuts, screaming and cheering, punching the air with campaign signs. He came through the crowd to get to the stage, which added to the excitement and is a good thing for someone styling himself as a populist to do. Paul Wellstone did that.

It was a good speech. Not only did he hit on his major talking points and have plenty of pithy buzz phrases, but he actually had policy ideas and quick notes on how to get them done. It wasn't just a theme speech, based on "experience" or "change." It was "this is what we need to do, this is what I am going to do, and this is how."

He promised that we would have something other than war to be patriotic about, that America is better than having 37 million citizens living in poverty, that we deserve a president who actually believes in the Constitution and The Bill of Rights. Wouldn't that be novel? After the speech, he worked through the crowd, shaking hands, and we went home happy that we had gone, ready to put our yardsign up, and excited to caucus on Tuesday.

Then yesterday, he suspended his campaign, and I am left to choose between two candidates who can't seem to stop bickering and get to actual policy issues. I am going to an Obama event on Saturday. It's at the basketball arena, you can't bring signs, I bet we will be searched, and it's not going to be the same. If Clinton comes, I'll try to go hear her as well. I'll caucus on Tuesday, but I won't enjoy it as much as I would have.

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