So this morning I went to a funeral for a woman I barely knew but whose husband I have worked with (tangentially) for years. It was so heartbreaking I can barely breathe thinking about it. But it took me to a suburb I don't often go to...and they happened to be hosting an O.bama rally this morning. After I got through the crowd to get to the funeral, I stayed in my spot and walked down to the event.
What a fascinating, fascinating thing to be at both rallies in 24 hours. To be fair, the venues had a ton to do with it. But it was absolutely the difference between a 5th period high school civics assembly and a street fair. Both days were beautiful, sunny, gorgeous spring days. Hi.llary had us cooped inside a gym. Oba.ma had us out in the air. Hill.ary was giving out stickers and posters to wave for the cameras. O.bama was giving out gorgeous keepsake copies of his March 18 speech on race. Hi.llary arrived by motorcade. Oba.ma came by train. Hi.llary's volunteers had a grim, get-it-done approach I usually associate with things like diaper changing, spring cleaning, and tax filing. O.bama volunteers had all the chirpy cheeriness of people thrilled to be where they were.
And yes, while yesterday, almost all of us in the gym were white, female, and over 30 at least, truly every single demographic our area offers was there today. Super-urban style black men in chains and baggy clothes and baseball hats on unlikely angles. The deli counter girls from the sandwich shop in the strip mall next door, still all in their uniforms. A local union in matching yellow t-shirts for the occasion. Kids on dads' shoulders. Women in Talbots outfits too warm for the day. (Guilty as charged. I was just coming from a funeral, remember. But I did see another one, literally fainting--she was ok--in front of me, which is how I know she was in Talbots gear too.) At least three couples where at least one was on a cane. Buppies. Families walking dogs. Asian hipsters in shirts tighter than I'm used to seeing around here. Moms in yoga gear with tween kids climbing the fences. African-American grandmas, dressed just one step down from church. And those bored, restless teenagers from yesterday transformed in to animated, excited volunteers, getting people to sign up to volunteer themselves, or just cheering on the crowd as they walked up the hill to the event. "Thanks for coming! It's great to see you! You're almost there! Just right in that driveway to security and you're there!"
Even the music today was more pitch-perfect; while no one except my older son really could object to most of yesterday's music--things like John Mellencamp's "This is Our Country" and Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home," when I got through Obam.a security, Joan Jett's "I Love Rock'n'Roll" was playing, and then went in to "(Ooh) Baby Baby" (from the Motown/Philly Sound era; I'll have to look it up when my computer is fixed), and then--ideal for the day--"Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (currently better known as Will Smith, of course), followed by "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen--almost all local musicians, with great music for the tone of the day.
Everything wasn't totally perfect; the sound guys for the podium were having conniptions because of the music guys, who clearly felt that their need to DJ was more important than sound checks. Someone selling sunscreen would have made a fortune as there was no shade. A regular commuter train pulled in shortly after the time the candidate's train was supposed to arrive and some very, very surprised passengers disembarked. And it was not popular to confiscate bottles of liquid on an almost 80-degree morning (and not to even have a recycling bin there--a bit of a gaffe since global warming was one of his first issued mentioned). But again, the campaign recouped quickly, running out to get pallets of water which they handed out for free throughout the very large crowd (people were saying 10,000; I say no way was it that big but I would totally buy 3000-5000), and passing over chairs for people in back to stand on to see the candidate when he spoke. The Oba.ma campaign won, hands down, for nimble thinking and sheer enthusiasm, good cheer, and tremendous diversity of volunteers. (Kids in "Barack the Vote" tshirts; tons of "Oba.ma Mama"s of one type or another; my favorite, given yesterday, was "Another Middle Aged White Woman for Oba.ma.")
When his train finally pulled up (much less late than Hi.llary, but still not on time), the crowd went wild. I have been to less enthusiastic rock concerts. This time, so there would be no confusion, the driver was blowing the whistle all the way in (I guess you can't have a "whistle stop tour" with no whistle), whipping the crowd in to a frenzy far more effectively than the Stepford volunteers did yesterday. The last car on the train was an old-time passenger car with the railed "porch" on the back, with a person in full conductor gear leaning off, with white-gloved hand cupped to ear, in an "I can't hear you" gesture that whipped up the crowd even more.
Someone I'd never heard of was the first introducer; if she was supposed to be the "common touch/converted voter," that worked. She was excited, and quick. The second I didn't catch but I think might have been Senator Casey, who was also blessedly not long. And then came the man himself. The deli girls almost passed out, screaming with excitement, bringing to mind the old-time Beatles footage and also that Washington Post essay that people got so upset about, implying women make themselves look stupid with the fawning over "Barac.k O'Boy.friend." This particular group of girls totally illustrated the columnist's point, satirical or not.
And then...the speech. He was everything the TV cameras and books tell you he will be. Gracious--lots of thanks to those who came with him (how I figured out that the male introducer was probably my senator) and those who worked so hard to set up the event. Eloquent--the man can really turn a phrase. Funny--referring to his "distant relation Dick Cheney," getting him out of Washington and "let him go hunting somewhere." Inspiring--with great stories, and full of visions of what America can do.
It's so nice to hear the positive statements about America. I am tired of being heartsick about the war, and our squandered goodwill throughout the world. I am tired of seeing only the worst parts of America--the greedy, the two-faced, the strident--reflected in our politicians. I absolutely get why people are falling over themselves for this guy. He has an amazing vision of an America I want to live in.
And yet. What I heard yesterday from Hi.llary was all policy. Lots of talk about how we have to get out of Iraq but need to stay to win the war in Afghanistan. Lots about education and ways to restructure how it's paid for. Was she inspiring? Not necessarily, but thought-provoking, and long on answers.
Today was just the opposite. The vision is there--and oh, I love love love the vision. But the roadmap was never really mentioned. Global warming was, and how he's confident that whoever wins, the Democrats will come together to win, health care, and college costs, and mortgage foreclosures and what living the American dream really means. And, of course, ending the war in Iraq. (Though nothing about Afghanistan...ah Sarabande, where are you now? Another post for another day.) But no strategies today for how these goals would be achieved.
To be fair, I had to leave before the whole speech was finished, so maybe I left before the well-reasoned plans stage.
But what I was really left with was the realization that the pundits in some ways have called this one all along. I need to choose between a proven record and tremendous promise. I need to choose between leadership--Oba.ma is uncanny in his ability to inspire--and experience--because I think it counts for a lot that H.illary already knows all the key players long-term. (Yeah, I drank the "day one" Kool-aid.)
All those little online "Who's Your Perfect Candidate?" quizzes put me squarely with Hi.llary (well, after Kucinich--more on him another day). I love the idea of voting for a woman, I thought she was awesome when I met her those zillions of years ago when she was campaigning for nothing, and she has, at the very least, done a better job of putting out her roadmap for the first priorities of her administration than has Obam.a.
But I am equally thrilled at the idea of voting for a person of color, who represents the changing face of America, whose book written before his candidacy showed someone who had experienced a variety of what this country has to offer, both through living in places as diverse as Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Illinois, and from living outside the US as well. His vision of America as a place where people can pitch in instead tuning out is a seductive one, and his devoted followers make me believe if someone can make that happen, it's him.
Which puts me back where I was 36 hours ago, before hearing either candidate. What will I choose: experience and policy, or inspiration and vision? Stage-show politics, or real, committed believers? Someone with few surprises, or someone with a shorter track record? Which is less likely to be torn apart by the Republicans? Is the country ready for a president younger than some of my sisters- and brothers-in-law? Would it behoove us to give the boomers just 16 years and tell 'em to move on?
I still don't know what I'll decide. I have more research to do. But I'm thrilled I saw 'em both. Now bring on McCa.in.