Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Undecided

There was a four-person wide line snaking around the venue, across a bridge spanning a four-lane highway, and down a few more city blocks. People were standing in that line for two hours or more on a 27 degree early February day. Were they giving away front loading washers? Free tickets for the Superbowl? Naked ladies?

The crowd was racially diverse and varied in age. They were all waiting for the same thing, outside of the arena that normally houses our losing professional basketball team as well as national musical acts. They were waiting for Senator Barack Obama.

My friend Christine and I went downtown for the purpose of attending what I thought would be a rally. We arrived at the door time, which was 1:30, the line was already blocks long, as I described above, and it was not moving.

I was already in a bad mood about it. My candidate had dropped out of the race, leaving me with no idea of what to do in the caucus. You needed tickets for this event, you could not bring a bag, and you could not bring your own signs.

I was thinking that these were all security and organizational issues, being that both of the democratic candidates are probably in significant danger because of who they are, and what America is, but once I arrived at the venue, I could see that it was definitely not organizational because there was a pungent lack of organization or thought put into the matter.

It was exciting; I understood that from a rational place in my head. It is rare to see 20,000 people moved to attend political event in the nominating portion of a presidential campaign. Normally, I would have been elated. Practically weepy with delight.

I wasn’t.

I was appalled at the fact that this event was so poorly organized as to leave people standing outside for two hours in the cold. Granted, 27 degrees is warm compared to what we have been enduring, but it's not the best conditions for, say, the old or the very young or the disabled. The choice of venue bothered me, too. I guess I am just used to my union hall or campus rallies, and I should get with the 21st century. But something about using a venue like the Target Center and then not using the security and organization that is, I am sure, easily available for such an event is either a gross oversight or was done on purpose to get into the papers.

I think it was the latter. It makes good film to have 20,000 people snaking through the streets of a major metropolitan area to cheer on your candidate.

Christine and I started to walk to the back of the line, but we did not make it over the bridge before we decided that we did not care enough to be out there for hours to hear a stump speech that I could hear on the radio or online later. After all, I was just browsing, not buying, and it’s my weekend.

Granted, I am bitter that candidates like Dennis Kucinich do not stand a chance in America and that John Edwards dropped out just six days before my caucus. I understand that Dennis Kucinich is fringe, like candidates on the right who would not stand a chance with their radical conservatism. I resent that a candidate like John Edwards did not stand a chance because of media and money.

I am also disappointed in both the candidates who are left. I have been tired of their sniping for months. I wanted to hear policy ideas and plans for how they would be achieved, not a rhetorical cage match between two people who are supposed to be on the same side. I know that verbal sparring make for good press, so that is what the media chooses to report, but were there an absence of that, perhaps they would have to report on matters of substance.

Back in 2004 when Senator Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention, I was impressed with his poise, intelligence, and eloquence. I believed that I was watching our first president of African American descent; I still believe that. I was hoping that he would wait until 2012, but he had electability. I bought his book "The Audacity of Hope," in hardcover, even, and I thought that it was impressive in that it elucidated policy ideas, showed an understanding of American political history, as well as gave the reader some insight int the man writing the book. I got bogged down, however, in the "Faith" chapter, and I did not finish it.

His campaign, however, has devolved into a personality competition with a polished marketing edge, replete with buzz words. It turns out that they did have signs at the event, but they must have handed them out to people inside--they were all the same, emblazoned with the "change" message. All this talk about working together and creating change. Practically no one on the right has ever tried to legitimately work with the left or make concessions to us, and furthermore, I don’t see that change actually comes from conciliation. They seem to me to be anathema. It’s all lip service in any case. This country is partisan and has been since the federalists and democratic republicans were going at each other in the 18th century and early 19th century. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson may have died as warm and friendly correspondents, but they did not begin as such.

I heard afterwards that the was energizing and amazing; like a rock concert. The photos showed the homogeneous signs and a packed house with a tiny Senator Obama on the stage at the end of the arena. I don’t regret our decision to go home instead of waiting in line. I guess that at 37, I am a political dinosaur, and I am incapable of the change that Senator Obama is calling for.

I don't want to caucus tonight for someone I don't feel good about and, honestly, I feel better about Senator Clinton than I do Senator Obama, mainly because of her health care plan, which has been deemed the most comprehensive and workable by many analysts. But this is America, and Ms. Clinton cannot beat Mr. McCain. Mr. Obama may be able to accomplish that feat, though he is polling the same as Ms. Clinton against Mr. McCain at this point. But this country elects a black man before it elects a woman, no matter who the candidates are. Which puts me back in the same place I always seem to be: caucusing or voting for the person I think can win, not the person I wish would.

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