Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama Baracks St Paul

On the drive along 94 to St Paul last night to go to the Obama speech at the Xcel Center, we passed under a pedestrian bridge where someone had hung a giant sign that read, "Nobody for President." We both agreed that it was a sentence. Sort of. At least it would probably be an improvement over our current situation.

We had the brilliant idea of going to the rally because we decided that we'd be happy we went later on because it was "history in the making." Turns out, more than 20,000 other people think in similar platitudes. The line wound through one and a half miles of downtown St Paul city blocks and the wait to get inside and then for the man himself was long.

It was sort of interesting, and yet not too surprising, to watch the crew get set-up for the evening. There was one guy in a blue buttoned down shirt whose job seemed to make sure that most of the people in the crowd who would be on camera had some sort of sign or an American flag to wave around. Those handmade signs that say things like "Women 4 Obama" and "MN [hearts] Obama" and "Barack the Vote?" They're made by volunteers and other behind-the-scenesters and then handed out to the crowd. No signs and banners of your own allowed.

While we were waiting, they played some of McCain's speech on the jumbotron and then the camera panned back and forth across the crowd. Attendees cheered when they saw themselves and stood up and waved their hands and signs. People like to be on a TV screen, even if it's just closed circuit. Eric compared it to looking in a giant mirror.

They didn't play any of Clinton's speech, although we could see when she was on in the little TVs in the luxury boxes. I would have liked to have known what she said and to see how that matched up with Obama's speech. Eric conjectured that they couldn't play Clinton on the jumbotron because they didn't want people to boo her. That would divide the party.

The speech, as everyone has read or heard by now, was amazing. No number of cliches can capture what a great speaker Obama is so I won't even try. I was grateful that his speech was on the jumbotron with closed captioning. Otherwise the cheers in the crowd were drowning him out.

It's true, though, what a lot of the talking heads are saying. I think Obama is great and I think that his ability to inspire people is just what this country needs right now, but at some point he's going to have to talk actual policy otherwise it's just a lot of people cheering every time he says, "universal health care." (And, believe me, I was one of those people cheering.) Fingers crossed that it doesn't turn into that Family Guy episode where Lois runs for mayor and everyone loves her because she says the words "9/11" over and over in one of the debates. I'm all for inspiration, but I'm going to need to know what I'm being inspired to do, even if it is just to pay more taxes to support more government programs. For this moment, though, it was exciting and invigorating to have been there, even if, sitting behind and to the left of the podium, this is mostly what we saw: