If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. -- William Jennings Bryan
Barack Obama was the main attraction up the street at Saint Peter's College today. I planned on attending but it conflicted with pre-arranged activities for the kids and, frankly, I'd rather assent to my daughters' wishes and potential hissy fits than listen to a stump speech. Oh, I am sure that Obama can deliver a humdinger, but I'd really rather not. So, I decided to take another approach in getting a feel for the crowd and what was going on. This AM I had a series of meetings on some research work I am doing and a meeting with my co-teacher (I'm a "mentor" grad instructor now) in Manhattan. I came back at 130PM on the PATH train to Journal Square with the throng headed from the City to Not-The-City to hear him speak. Here's what I found out/discovered about the folks who want to hear what Obama has to say or are, in some cases, hard on the side of the man from Illinois.
I got off at the appropriate stop (Journal Square) and the pack cars emptied out with hundreds of mystified New Yorks blinking at the clean, modern train station lacking dripping pipes and gargantuan rats that give their MTA platforms such credibility and charm. Up the escalator and out on the plaza, the throng stopped all together as if to ask, "Umm, where now?" Journal Square isn't exactly a tony spot, but we are getting a new twin tower development that will probably see the end of the panhandlers and junk sellers that are part of the tapestry that is my end of town.
I started walking quickly to get on the way down John F. Kennedy Blvd to Saint Peter's and this seemed to tip off that I knew where I was going and several people fell in with me. A black woman with a NYU sweatshirt asked me if I knew where the Obama event was and I said I was headed that way. "Great. Are you going?" I told her I couldn't because of the end of the school day. She was astonished that I lived in Jersey City. I told her about my love of underdog places and she laughed. This trip for a lot of these Manhattanites was like going to the moon. I asked her if I could blog about the experience of walking with the crowd and my talk with her and she assented.
What's got you jazzed about Obama? She immediately pointed to his ability to make people hopeful and his "record." I asked her if hope was important right now. She said that the last 7 years was like being held captive by aliens. I had to laugh as this is a typical way of thinking among NYers when it comes to political power outside the city. They can suffer Giuliani as mayor, but when it comes to the same guy acting the ass from Washington, they'll have none of it, thank you. Again: But you are hopeful when you hear Obama and his rather limited platform? Yes. I know he hasn't articulated a lot, she said, but I know he's got a great base for his ideas and speaks really well. So, I asked, do you think that a great campaigner makes a great president? No, she answered, that was self-evident with Bush.
A young couple joined us as we crossed over into the McGinley Square neighborhood and they were headed to the Obama rally as well. One woman offered without prompting that she was suffering this trip as she would feel stupid to have not heard Obama in person even though she is voting for Clinton. Now that would normally sound noble to me, but I wanted to know what she thought about Clinton's dubious record on the war, the economy and her insistence on keeping the health insurers in on health care reform. Well, she voted on the knowledge she had been given on the war. OK. But that's specious as her job as a Senator is oversight of the executive branch. Do you think she did that well? There was a rush to war, but everyone was afraid of another attack. Oh. Boy. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, right? Oh, yeah. I know that. I just meant the general mood of the country was that. OK. What about the economy? What does she have to offer? What would she do differently? Anything is better than what is happening now. It is just like Bush is fiddling while Rome burns. She'd act somehow. Not sure how, but she would. Just like she did on health care in the early 90s? That sucked. The GOP just screamed like babies about socialism and whatever. It wasn't. No. It wasn't even close. And to think that a person who has enormous corporate backing could be a socialist... She scowled. Well, whatever money it is, it is better than oil money. So if Obama were to impress you, would you switch your vote? No. Though it might make her mad [pointing at her partner].
So you are for Obama? Yeah. I am sick of the Clinton/Bush axis. There's no difference. At least this guy is attempting to have a different message. But what is that message? Peace? Hope?
We walked up to the college and I bid them goodbye as I had to cross the street to go to my girls' school on the other side of Saint Peter's campus. I asked the couple if I could blog about our talk and the Clinton supporter said, "I sure am." She smiled and we parted. It's one of those Northeast moments. You spend a little time away with a person then you never see them again. My thoughts as I walked across the Boulevard went back to the "Peace and Hope" theme. Is Obama some sort of secular messianic figure for voters fed up with cynicism? Does he need any other message?
I joked yesterday that I will be pulling the lever for Obama if only to propel him to the candidacy in order to expose the media for what it is (incompetent and shiftless) and to expose the GOP for what they are: exclusivists and anti-democrats. I don't like the blindness to Clinton's chameleon-like prowess and I don't like the Obama brimstone preacher masquerade that offers few answers, but plenty of searing sermons. He doesn't evoke JFK, whose eponymous street I walked down today so much as he channels Bryan to his own ends.
I am not so sure now.
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