The things I do for my readers …
My goal today was to leave the 8-5 at 4, giving me what I thought would be plenty of time to get to Cricket Arena well before the 5:30 rally start time. It ended up that I didn’t get to leave until almost 4:30, but the time it took me to get from where I was to where I was headed (74 aka Independence Blvd) only took about 30 minutes. You’ll see via the Flickr photo set I just uploaded (you can see the slide show here – it may take a while to load as Flickr is notoriously slow sometimes) that traffic was backed up for about 2 miles to get into Cricket Arena. I didn’t know until I was in the middle of all that traffic that they had actually allowed people to park starting at 1:30.
I did some fancy footwork and managed to merge over three lanes from 277 to the right lane on 74, which most people use when they are going to Cricket Arena because there is an exit right off 74 to Briar Creek Rd which takes you right there. Well, the exit was blocked off, as was another entrance to the arena, which told me the parking at Cricket was sold out. It ended up that I had to park two mammoth parking lots over from the arena and walk quite the distance just to get a glimpse of the O-man. Oh, before I forget: Mega-thanks to the parking attendant who let me get away with paying only $2 for parking. The last time I went to a political rally was when GWB was in town a couple of years ago. I got there too late to be able to get in, but I didn’t have to pay to park either. This time around, you did have to pay. Parking was $6, and since I was running behind I didn’t stop at the bank before I got there like I had intended to, and only had $2 bucks and a debit card in hand. Ah well …
Local NBC affiliate WCNC had this video of what things looked like at Cricket Arena earlier in the day, and interviewed some of the attendees:
I walked into the arena at 6, and the only seating they had available was the upper level – I think the lower level was reserved for a certain type of BO supporter, maybe a big online group or something.
Anyway, it turned out I was going to be facing BO’s back, which was disappointing at first but after a few minutes of playing with the camera from the seat I had, I determined I had a pretty good unobstructed view so I stayed there and waited for him to come out and took some crowd pix beforehand. The songs they played in advance of BO’s arrival were songs like Michael Jackson’s “Change” and anything that had to do with that theme. The LEDs all around the arena flashed Obama’s signature slogans all evening. Chants of “Change” and “Obama” peppered the arena pre-Obama arrival. Yours truly felt like a fish out of water amongst all those liberals.
Reuters reported that the crowd total was around 9,000 – pretty impressive, and nearly a full house as Cricket Arena seats 10,000. I would guesstimate that the crowd was 65% black, and it looked like more women than men were there, more young than old. It was a friendly crowd of people – but I suspect had anyone caught on that I was not a BO supporter, some may not have been so friendly.
Make no mistake about it – his supporters are keyed up. His campaign staff and volunteers are aggressive and out there. Everytime you turned around there was a volunteer encouraging people to vote Tuesday or trying to make sure you had signed up to help get the word out about voting. They are all young and energetic folks, people you know will gladly volunteer for Obama’s next presidential run if this one doesn’t work out in his favor. The crowd routinely chanted “Obama” but surprisingly I didn’t hear “Yes We Can” or maybe by that point I was ready for a “change” of my own – a change in clothes to get into something more comfortable (I was tired, and ready to go home).
Obama was introced at 6:05 by a Charlottean whose name I didn’t catch. He gave a story prior to Obama’s speech about how he had been laid off from a job he’d been at for decades, had to live off his pension and 401k, lost 80% of his 401K after the Global Crossing takeover, his pension had been slashed in 2002, he still had not found a job after being laid off 2-3 yeas ago… basically, he set it up so Obama could bounce off of it later in his speech when he talked about his economic plan. The man who intro’d BO mentioned Bush at one point, and a chorus of loud boos unsurprisingly followed. He, like Obama, played the class warfare card quite a bit. He said BO isn’t the type of politician who tells you what you want to hear (riiiight), and is the man who will end this “disastrous war.” The crowd erupted in cheers.
At 6:25 BO began his speech, and thanked Rep Mel Watt (my worthless rep.) and former Charlotte mayor and candidate for Senate Harvey Gantt (he cited Gantt’s early 1990s Senate run as an “inspiration”), as well as former mayor pro-tem Ella Scarborough. He also noted that his personal assistant, named Reggie (didn’t catch the last name) was from Charlotte, and played for the Duke Blue Devils (?). He called Reggie out and got the crowd chanting “Reggie.”
The speech was pretty much run of the mill stuff we’ve all heard before. He invoked Martin Luther King’s “fierce urgency of now” quote to explain why he was running for prez. He said we were in two wars, one we need to win, and the other one we shouldn’t have ever started.
He called Wachovia bank “Watchovia” which made a few people in the crowd chuckle.
10 minutes into the speech he started sounding like a reverend. Said people are tired of Washington politics and wanted straight talk. Told the crowd that the Dem party would be united come November because GWB and “my cousin” Dick Cheney would not be on the ballot.
He mentioned the lie about McCain’s comments on the economy, and repeated the lie about McCain’s 100 years war comment, except this time he just said “McCain wants to continue the war in Iraq.” Then added McCain would be ok with troop presence, assuming a low level of violence, in Iraq for 100 years. He also lied about his ties to special interests, essentially playing the same ol’ Washington games he decries in others. A lot of people were booing in agreement with him while he was talking about all this, and I was expressing my disgust also with what he was saying, for a completely different set of reasons.
He criticized Hillary and McCain for their support of the Gas Tax Holiday. He wants a tax stimulus pkg for those suffering through the recession (?), wants to penalize the oil companies for high profits, and eliminate that tax on Social Security for seniors, as well as impliment a middle class tax cut. He said all this as he talked about all the mega-bucks programs he wanted to create to “help” people.
At 6:55, someone fainted.
Interestingly enough, when he said he believed in free trade and believed this country should be united, you couldn’t hear any applause, proving my belief all along that many of the Obama supporters who say they want a united America are talking about an America that doesn’t include the opinions of conservatives.
He discussed wanting to make college affordable with a $4k tax credit every year, for every student who enters national service (like the peace corps, volunteering at homeless shelters, etc). This went over well with the crowd – I suspect there were more than a few college students in attendance.
He then talked about ending the war in Iraq, restoring diplomacy, and negotiating with our enemies, invoking a quote from JFK about never negotiate out of fear but never fear to negotiate, yada yada. Said he’s run a positive campaign in spite of the negativity around him he’s faced in recent weeks, complained about ‘side issues’ like his pastor and controversy over the flag pin, and said if people want to focus on BO the man, focus on what he’s done the last 20 years working with the poor in Chicago, etc. Said he is patriotic and owes everything he has to this country.
He didn’t stay on the stage long after his speech was over, maybe a couple minutes tops.
All in all, it was worth the headache to get there. Even though I’m not a BO supporter and can’t stand his hypocrisy and double talk, he is no doubt energizing a lot of people and it was interesting to be around all that energy this evening and to see in person just how well he brings it out in people. He talks a good talk, no doubt, but as we all know, a lot of it is … just words.
After being exposed to all that liberalism for roughly an hour, I was so glad to get home this evening. In a few hours, it’ll be starting all over again when I attend the Gastonia Hillary Clinton rally. Wish me luck