Being Re-Energized by the President
Voters reach a point of election fatigue where they dread answering the phone, opening the door and flipping through their mail. Candidates for all offices try and reach out in several ways, trying to get their name and message across.
For those of us in the trenches, working to get people elected, we also reach a point of fatigue. The reasons behind this are numerous and can vary from worker to worker so we’re all looking forward to November 2 so the election cycle comes to an end (although in Fairfield, I suspect the next cycle, for local elections in 2011, will begin by 10 p.m. that night.
It was therefore a welcome couple of days as campaigning brought some refreshed energy in these final days. Every Halloween, businesses along the Post Road, participate in Safety Street so from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., kids in costume, up to the fifth grade, can come and yell, “trick or treat” and walk away with some candy. Parents often walk into stores they might otherwise have occasion to enter, being reminded of all the town’s merchants has to offer.
Various organizations stake out space in front of the Gazebo so there are the firefighters, the Democrats, and the Republicans. We set up our tables, staking out turf by 11, and had everything decorated and stocked, ready to go well before 2. We brought something close to $400 of candy in addition to giveaways from our candidates: Tom Drew was handing out reflective bracelets for the kids to wear as a safety measure while Kim Fawcett offered parents tick clippers since its getting to be that time of season.
The hoards came, and came, and came, never letting up. What surprised me the most was how many parents were also dressed in costume. The most impressive was a husband and wife and daughter coming as if they had just completed filming an episode of The Tudors. Spider-Man and Iron Man were the two most common boys’ costumes, while the Disney Princesses and Supergirl were popular among the girls. There were only a handful of homemade outfits, the best being a girl dressed as a life-size red Lego block.
Behind us, in the Gazebo, was a band from the local School of Rock, performing an appropriately themed set including “Werewolves of London”, “Psycho Killer”, “Frankenstein” and a terrific cover of “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”.
We had all the local candidates on hand in addition to Senatorial hopeful Dick Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes, and Gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy. Each of them were there for over an hour and posed for countless pictures with costumed children. They seemed to be having a good time as were those of us behind the table. By the time we broke down, we were down to the last bowl of lollipops, and everyone was tired, but in a good way.
Today, in addition to greeting people at Stop & Shop, or canvassing neighborhoods, Democrats also had a rare chance for a presidential rally. Barack Obama included Bridgeport in a four-state hop, coming to the area to support the state and federal ticket. It was an open admission event although the local Arena could hold about 10,000 people. Our neighbor got on line at 7:30 this morning to ensure she got in and a good spot. By 10, we heard on the radio some 350 people were on line but by the time we arrived just after 11, that number had nearly grown ten-fold. We took our place in line and waited in the cool, autumn breeze.
Thankfully, they began letting us in for the security check much earlier than the announced 1 p.m. opening. Just after 2, Russell Simmons came out to a raucous roar and played host for the rally. A local World War II vet led us in the Pledge of Allegiance while one of Deb’s fellow choir members sang the National Anthem. The place was packed and filling steadily even after things had started. The President was apparently behind schedule so Simmons shuffled the order of speakers but we heard from Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy, Blumenthal and finally Himes, who needs the president’s support to ensure a solid turn out so he can win re-election.
Himes introduced the President, who got a tremendous ovation. He was dressed in presidential casual and seemed relaxed. He name-checked the candidates and then launched into his prepared remarks. Several minutes in, chanters on both sides of the audience stood and waved banners, looking for 450 billion for Global AIDS. The President tried to talk over them then broke from the script and addressed them head on. He pointed out that they’ve been following him to several other rallies and rather than heckle him, they should consider which party was more likely to actually maintain funding for Global AIDS efforts. The audience then chanted “Obama” and drowned the protestors out and finally the President restored calm and the protestors filled out to applause.
It was a good, old-fashioned rally with a rousing speech from the president. It wasn’t his most original or even his best material, but he made certain to keep dropping Bridgeport and Connecticut into his remarks to make it feel fresh. He spoke for probably close to thirty minutes and then did a photo op with Blumenthal and Himes. Finally, the president left the podium and worked the front rows, shaking hands.
The voters in attendance were energized and those of us who have been working on the campaigns for months, were given a fresh jolt of adrenaline; hopefully enough to get us through Tuesday.