Archive for October 6th, 2008

My Obama Minute: JTA Thread

Monday, October 6th, 2008

I’ve also been posting on this Jewish Telegraphic Agency thread, where Obama’s being smeared.

My Obama Minute: Gas & Save

Monday, October 6th, 2008

I spent nearly three hours this afternoon at a Gas & Save station on the corner of Delia and Exchange, registering voters. I approached folks, clipboard in hand, as they pumped their gas or put air in their tires. Most, I have to say, were very friendly. A few wanted to talk about Obama, or find out where they could vote.

My mother-in-law and I registered six voters, and finished the afternoon only slightly high on gas fumes. This was the last day to register voters in Ohio, and, as the hours ticked down, each new person we signed up felt like a victory.

I have to say, I’ve been pretty impressed with the Obama presence here in Akron. My mother-in-law has put up maybe a half-a-dozen volunteers at her house. I’ve been called several times by our local team leader, informing me of ways I can contribute. This afternoon, we got a call telling us it was the last day to register.

The office, on the corner of Merriman and Market, is always slightly chaotic — it has the feel of a college newspaper office, with a sign up asking volunteers to bring in food — but it’s always thrumming with energy. People coming and going, hard at work, making it their business to elect Barack Obama.

I’ve heard stories of the volunteers pounding the pavement in town, hour after hour, day after day. Ignoring colds and flu to keep going. One mom came up here when they closed the field office in Georgia, leaving her kids behind, because she simply had to keep on helping.

Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place, but I’ve seen no comprable McCain outreach organization. Which is why I wasn’t at all surprised tonight to read this from ABC News:

Sen. Barack Obama is riding economic discontent to an advantage in Ohio, bolstered in part by financially stressed voters in the state’s hard-hit industrial belt — and following it up with a more extensive ground campaign in this key contest …

Thirty-seven percent of Ohio’s registered voters say they’ve been personally contacted by the Obama campaign. That beats the 27 percent who’ve heard from McCain, and also surpasses the level of contacts by both campaigns in 2004.

The article goes on to give a reason:

Among Obama’s advantages … is sheer energy: Fifty-eight percent of his Ohio supporters are “very enthusiastic” about his candidacy, compared with just 30 percent of McCain’s. And while that’s about the same for Obama as nationally, high-level enthusiasm for McCain is 8 points lower in Ohio than in the nation overall.

Let me just say, it shows.

Springsteen: ‘Now is the Time to Stand With Barack Obama’

Monday, October 6th, 2008

My brother-in-law invited me to Columbus this weekend to see Bruce Springsteen singing for Obama, and I got in the car, rolled down the windows, and let the wind roll back my hair.

Well, I got in the minivan. The windows were, up, technically, but I had the AC on. I made it to Columbus from Akron in just over two hours, only stopping twice to pee.

I don’t know, Bruce. Maybe we ain’t that young anymore.

There are days, even in a 20-month-long election campaign — moments, really — that stand apart. They’re sublime. You know even when they are happening that you’ll remember them long after the last votes are cast. Today was one of those days. A breath. A palliative. A restorative moment with nary a pundit in sight.

For a neurotic democrat from Central Jersey, a tonic.

It’s hard to describe the day. Fall, on the Ohio State campus, but cloudless — warm. Alive with hope. A line of people waiting to get onto the lawn, more than a football field long. People wearing Obama pins and shirts. Firefighters for Obama Biden. Ohio Education Association for Obama. Another Clintonville Voter for Obama.

“Are you guys all up to date with your voter registration?” a kid with a clipboard asks.

To get inside, we have to fill out our name and address on a ticket, then rip it and hand it to them — one more way for them to collect names, emails, cell phones of supporters.

An American flag, maybe 100-feet long, hangs from a crane on the Oval. Soon, the lawn is over-flowing with people, students mainly, but also workers, parents, with little kids on their shoulders.

The Columbus mayor, Michael B. Coleman, is first on stage to fire up the crowd. “They’ve moved off the issues and they’re going negative,” he said, of McCain-Palin, imploring us to show courage, to knock on doors, get on the phone, get on the Internet “Let’s let America know that we can not take four more years of George Bush and John McCain.”

Next came Sen. John Glenn, an Ohio hero, followed by a group of six local Ohioans who had knocked on 4,000 doors in two days, earning the right to stand on stage before the Boss. A short video followed. Obama came on near the end, and the whole place cheered for his image on the giant video screen.

And then Bruce walked out, hugged John Glenn, and strode to the mic. “It’s not everyday you get introduced by John Glenn,” he said.

Typical Bruce: He followed with a few lines from the classic Byrds’ song, “Hey, Mr. Spaceman.”

He started his set with Promised Land …

The dogs on Main Street howl
’cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands

… and I thought: That’s why we’re all here today. That’s what we’re doing.

He moved from there to the Ghost of Tom Joad, with its haunting images of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era dust bowl.

Shelter line stretchin’ round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin’ in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

When he finished, he said that someone backstage reminded him he was in Columbus for the first time in 1973, opening up for Sha Na Na.

“Not many people remember Sha Na Na,” he said. “Not many people remember 1973 — I’m impressed.”

“We were here four years ago,” he added, when the laughter died down — a reference to the tour he did for John Kerry in ’04. “This time, we’re winning.”

And the place roared. When the cheering subsided, he eased straight into Thunder Road.

Show a little faith, it’s magic in the night

Then, a gem, one of my all-time favorite Springsteen songs: Youngstown. A poetic retelling of the rise and fall of a great American steel town. As he sang, a long, lazy sun-lit spider web floated over the crowd.

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from World War Two
Now the yard’s just scrap and rubble
He said, “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”
These mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country’s wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we’re wondering what they were dyin’ for

“We were in Pennsylvania yesterday,” he said, before the next song. “I don’t have to tell you” how important it is for Obama to win Ohio. “Oh,” he said, “we were praying last time.”

From there, onto No Surrender.

We learned more from a three-minute record

He paused — held the line — and laughed, and thousands of students on the Oval laughed with him

then I ever learned in school.

“Maybe that just says something about me, I don’t know,” he added, interrupting the song, sunlight glinting off his guitar. “Early Alzheimer’s has long ago set in.”

No retreat, baby, no surrender …

When he finished, he looked out at the audience — a large, but much more intimate gathering than the stadiums and arenas he’s used to filling — and made his pitch. I include it here in full, because it is so eloquent, so on-target. It may come from an aging Jersey rocker who once sang “I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd … when they said ‘Come down’ I threw up”, but it’s as important an endorsement of Barack Obama as any I’ve heard.

“I’ve spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise,” Bruce began …

The Promise that was handed down to us from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

I’ve spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no health care, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I’ve continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people’s hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don’t know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising.

He launched into The Rising, his post-9/11 anthem, with its searing image of firefighters heading up the dark, smoky stairwells of the Twin Towers …

Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

… and the message of the song takes on new meaning, new urgency, as Springsteen’s words reverberate: We need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project … someone with Senator Obama’s understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again.

For an encore, he sings This Land is Your Land, opening with Obama’s mantra: Yes we can!

Only this version closes with a new verse, words that drift out over the field where sunlight streams. “I saw my people,” Bruce sings …

and some are wonderin’ … if this land’s still made, for you and me.

“Sing loud if you’re gonna take it back,” he says.

I can feel the beat in my feet, through the grass, rising up from the dirt.

“Let’s let ’em hear in Washington!”

Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

“It’s up to you now, come on!” he says, the last chords fading out. “Vote for Barack Obama for president. Let’s build that house. Yes, we can do it!”