Nothing like a rainbow sign to kick off the rally for President Obama.
The roar of the loudspeakers, the smell of the crowd. Preaching to the choir. Talking with myself.
It’s been a while since I attended a political rally, so, when the opportunity to see President Bill Clinton, Bubba, and Bruce Springsteen, the Boss—on the same stage— popped up, it was too much to resist. (Full disclosure: It was at Susan’s urging I attend, in spite of my issues with large crowds. Of course she was right. And, while I’m at it, she suggested I carry my little pocket camera, which saved the day. In spite of the fact that the ticket clearly stated cameras were permitted, the security people still confiscated my regular camera gear. But that’s another story.)
The last political (make that, presidential) rally I attended was, hmmmm, 1956. Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver versus Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. I don’t remember a lot about that election, only that I really wanted one of those raccoon skin caps that Kefauver, senator from Tennessee, wore. My brother, Cliff, and I had been recruited by our grandparents, activists in the Democratic party in Cleveland, to be part of a youth rally for Stevenson. Hey, I was 14, it meant a day out of school, and there were probably girls there.
Some things change in 56 years, some don’t. Then, all I had to do was show up. Now, I had to go get a ticket, which I scored easily enough yesterday, by filling out reams of forms. Then, I remember wearing a snappy blue and white hounds-tooth check suit with pegged pants, white shirt and tie. Now, it’s wear what ya dare. And then there’s the electronics …
"We can't go back. We can only move forward." President Clinton
Signs of hope: While unloading from the car (about a mile from the venue’s door) two hours before the gates were to open, a rainbow formed over the building at Cuyahoga Community College where the event was to be. It had been slated, so I was told and thus, oversold, for the soccer field. Cleveland’s changeable weather, however, changed for the worse. Another sign of hope was, what I saw as several flocks of Peace doves landing on the campus lawn, some folks thought were just pigeons.
I’m not much good at crowd estimates, nor judging distance. A fellow on line next to me, who seemed to be an expert on virtually every topic from artificial insemination to xenophobia, said the crowd had reached at least 10,000 and the line to get into the basketball gym was more than a mile long. Okay.
As luck would have it, after a couple hours of standing around resisting the vendors’ T-shirts, I got into the building, through security (except for the camera hassle) and into the gym. Standing room only. In fact, there were no seats for anyone. No movable furniture allowed. No one really cared, this was a party. It was one of those moments when I wished I had been born tall instead of good looking.
Okay, the best shot I got of the Boss and Bubba
After the obligatory speeches by local politicians, President Clinton stormed the stage. The man should run for president, he’s that good. It was a solid, fact-filled lecture by Professor Clinton. Each time he leaned on the lectern, took off his glasses, pointed his finger and said, “Now listen, this is important …” everyone in the room reached for their pens and notepads.
President Clinton made numerous references to the opponents’ promises, however, I think the former president’s most important message, referring to Romney’s one-point economic plan, was that we can’t go back. “We can’t even go back to an economy that we had when I was president. You have to move forward.”
Jettisoning his suit coat, President Clinton introduced the Boss—Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen’s opening comment brought down the house. “Having President Clinton as your opening act is like trying to follow Elvis.”
A nation is measured by its compassion for its weakest citizens.
For about an hour, Springsteen, in his workingman’s blue shirt, acoustic guitar and harmonica, translated the lecture of President Clinton. He distilled the Democratic message; that a nation can only be measured by its compassion for its weakest citizens. His tools were words and songs we could all understand and sing along with, among which was “This Land is Your Land,” a tribute to Woody Guthrie on Woody’s 100th birthday.
We cannot, Springsteen said, do as the Romney campaign is asking of us in the middle class, to just melt away like scenery in some other man’s play.
No, this is America where we take care of our own.
I’m Clyde Witt and I approve OF this message.