UPDATE: A wonderful Doug grow piece at MinnPost
I got in to the Obama event in St. Paul the hard way. Stood outside in intermittent rain for more than four hours before being allowed to enter the building. Close to door-opening time, we saw helicopters circling around the Xcel Center, presumably part of security for Obama. Rumors were flying, too. Jimmy Carter was coming to endorse Obama. Hillary was going to graciously withdraw her candidacy. As is the way with rumors sometimes, these were false.
Once inside Xcel, we went through an airport-type security check, laying our dangerous Obama pins and lipsticks on the conveyer belt and then being motioned through the security scanner, waved forward like an endless string of 757s lumbering toward the gate. Actually, it heartened me to see some security in place.
My friend Louise and I scored fourth row seats—a perfect vantage point for an up-close if not personal viewing of the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.
Louise and I had hooked up in line with an African American group of youngish folks. They’d all taken time off work to be part of this historic event. A good thing, because only half of the 35,000 or so folks who showed up made it inside.
A 26-year-old woman who was part of that group was lamenting her failure to remember to bring tissues. She suspected she was going to weep profusely when Obama spoke. I gave her some of mine. She said she’d never dreamed she’d really see a black man in the Oval Office. But her comments ran more than skin deep.
She spoke knowledgeably about Obama’s positions on major issues. She didn’t portray him as a saint—simply as an immensely talented and capable leader. And one who has cast off the stale old techniques and blah-blah rhetoric that have resulted in two presidential defeats for Democrats. Read on.
The energy inside Xcel was palpable. What a thrummin’, lively mini-world. People streaming in, clogging the narrow aisles, trying to beat the system in order to stand on the arena floor, close (and then farther and farther away as the crowd grew) to the stage. Turns out we had to wait for three more hours. But by then, we’d had access to bathrooms (whew!), and nutrition. Okay, fine. Diet Cokes and popcorn.
If you think Minnesota is strictly Swede-white-land, think again. Such beautiful diversity! Blacks, browns, goldens in large numbers, and yes, a bunch o’whites. Among us was a simply amazing number of older white women (raises hand) supporting Obama whole-heartedly, running totally counter to what pollsters have been telling us about ourselves. We are the demographic that refuses to be pigeon-holed, dammit!
As with most major sport facilities, Xcel features a four-sided giant screen, suspended over the center of the arena. They were streaming MSNBC, and in spite of the constant roar of the crowd, we could read text to see what Matthews and Russert were pontificating about. That’s how we learned that the Minnesota governor who purportedly will bring our state home for McBush and who does not have name recognition problems nationally was shown on the big screen as Governor Tim Polenti. I’m still laughin’ over that one.
When McBush’s carefully timed speech was streamed, there was a huge surge of boos from the crowd. Frankly didn’t pay much attention to him after that. Probably just as well. And Hillary’s carefully timed speech was not streamed. Also just as well, as it would have reignited the flames Obama followers have been exhorted to extinguish in the effort to be peaceable creatures, the one with the other. But the couple next to us were sharing the headset of one radio, and their facial expressions told the whole story about the content of her speech.
When Barack and Michelle took to the stage, the Standing Ovation was rafter shaking. Such an outpouring of solidarity with that young, vital couple that has been catapulted onto center stage, literally and metaphorically. Barack looks lean and a tad weary. Small wonder. I cannot imagine the rigors of a presidential campaign. Actually, that realization is part of what caused me to take a break from Clinton critiquing. That and the fact that the sins of the handlers are visited upon their candidates. Eventually, though…well, you know.
There is so much more to say about all of this, including Obama’s respectful references to his opponents, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. But I imagine Susan will weigh in, too. So let me just say this. You’ve no doubt heard the empty phrase, “empty suit.” Well, let me tell you something.
At last night’s victory celebration, Barack Obama’s suit walked onto the stage and guess what! It was occupied by a bright, young visionary whose world view is not weighted down by the albatross of old, stale campaign rhetoric and strategies that have lost Democrats the last two presidential elections. The man in Obama’s suit is presidential. He is young, strong, smart, extremely competent. He inspires his listeners. He dares us to hope for change and then to participate with him in making that happen. The tectonic plates are shifting, and the tall black man in the suit is leading us toward reclaiming our country.
And just so you know? Louise and I capped off our wonderful odyssey by grabbing a late meal at Mickey’s Diner. Reminds me of the old Zen saying: “After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”