Thursday, October 09, 2008


Yesterday, Barack Obama came to town for a rally at the State Fairgrounds. This event was historic for a number of reasons. First, of course, is because he's the first black man to run for president, and the fact that he's here at all is amazing considering that as recently as 45 years ago people got murdered for trying to get black folks registered to vote. Secondly, it's amazing that a Democratic candidate for president is treating Indiana like it matters. Indiana has always had a strong democratic base--we've had democratic governors, senators, reps and city mayors on a regular basis in my lifetime. Yet in presidential elections we're always treated as a throwaway state--no one spends money here. The republicans assume we're in the bag, and the democrats have bigger fish to fry than our piddly 11 electoral votes. But not this year... This year, Obama's campaign put us on the hit list, along with the Carolinas and Missouri, as a state he could flip; and damned if he might not just do it. Polls here show him ahead by a couple % points, and allowing for margin of error it looks like he's at least in a dead heat with McCain--who by the way has not spent a DIME on advertising in this state until just this last week.

So this was the first chance in my life I've had to go to hear a presidential candidate speak in person--and it's someone who I support and feel good about voting for. Therefore, when the suggestion was made that a few of us hook off work and go, well... didn't have to ask me twice! The rally was at 12:15, doors at 10, so five of us piled into a car at 10 and headed over there, not completely sure we'd get seats.

The line. The line was unbefuckinglievable. A huge column of people, all moving briskly along thanks to some smooth organization on the part of volunteers, which snaked at least a half mile through the fairgrounds when we got there at 10:20 or so. We trotted along, trying to find the back of the line, behind an elderly woman who kept shouting out "OBAMA FOR MAMA! YEAH! I'M MAMA FOR OBAMA!" Finally, at a large gap in the line somewhere near the Home and Family Arts building, we jumped in, turned around and started walking back toward the front. (We lost the Obama Mama at this point.) We had white tickets for seats in the grandstand, which was fine--grandstand holds about 15,000 people so we figured we were probably OK. Then, when we were still a good ways from the gates, a volunteer walking down the line asked me, "Are you in a group?" I said, yeah, we're all together. She said, "Well, how many are you? Five? OK--" and she handed me 5 bright yellow tickets. "Do you guys want to be on the stage behind Obama? Just take these tickets, go right up to that tent there and they'll let you in."


Twenty mintues later, we were seated in the bleachers on the stage behind the podium, looking at a sea of Obama supporters. The official tally was apparently 21,000 people--I didnt' think the grandstand held that many, and one of the wings wasn't totally full. But still--15,000 or 21,000, either way that's the biggest event I've ever been at, possibly barring an Eric Clapton concert in the early 1990's. It was incredible, even before the speeches started. Since we were toward the back of the bleachers, we got a good view of the snipers setting up position, the arrival of the motorcade, and Obama's eventual entrance--got a nice little film of him walking right past not 10 feet from me before coming on stage, shaking some hands and starting his speech. Which was a great speech--it was both sobering and inspiring. At last, an intellectual running for president! Who'd have thought it. God, I hope he wins. I want him to win Indiana; but even if he doesn't, lord, let him win the shootin' match.