I was there. Except I got there on the late-ish side, around 8 or so. I wasn’t sure if I should go and I didn’t really know what to expect. Yet somehow it was exactly what I expected, and I’m so glad I went.
Even though I was late, there were still plenty of people there: a good-sized, diverse crowd, many of them carrying clipboards. I’m terrible at guessing attendance at stuff like that. Jay Gormley, who was prepping for an 8:30 live spot and later a 10, told me there was a huge crowd earlier, “about 400 people.” Dunno. Seemed to me there might still have been 400 people there.
The only public official I saw (meaning the only one I recognized, as I bet many showed up) was Dwaine Caraway, who looked dapper as always. He walked past and I gave him a non-committal head nod. You know, the kind where you don’t know if the elected official is going to recognize you and you don’t want to be presumptuous that he (or she) will remember meeting you that one time they met you, oh, musta been months ago and surely they’ve met hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people since then? You know that kind of head nod? That’s the one I gave Caraway. He was nice enough to say, “Nice to see you,” and pat me on the shoulder. Maybe he did remember me. Maybe he reads FrontBurner. If so, Hi, Dwaine.
But Dwaine was not the star last night, it was Barack. No, he wasn’t there. (If he was, and I was just now getting around to saying so, I think that’s what’s called “burying the lede.”) A half dozen plasma TVs showed primary results, and I learned quickly that the drama was pretty much over before I got there. Obama had a huge night, ‘case you hadn’t heard. I was there when they finally announced Virginia, to a big round of good cheer among the Gilley’s crowd. More milling about until Obama’s speech, when everyone stood rapt. I’ve said before (and I’m not unique in saying) Obama is a “goosebump good” orator. You can’t help but get caught up in his rhythm and message. When you’re at a public place, among the like-minded electorate, the goosebump effect gets kicked up about three or four notches. Applause lines have you applauding. You’re carried away with emotion and more than a few beers, such that you’re tempted to let out a “Yay” or a “Whoop.” (The next morning, you are glad that you abstained.)
It feels good, all of this positive energy. It’s a feeling that can get lost when its trigger gets catchphrased out of its power, when the word “hope” gets repeated so many times it loses its meaning. But, if I’m not mistaken and if I didn’t have too many beers and if I didn’t show up too late to the party, I’m pretty sure that’s what I left with. Hope. Is that enough? All policies and politics aside, is that enough? Can goosebumps lead to groundswells? Can Barack Obama be the one (please) who lives up to the hype and doesn’t disappoint and leads with sincerity and dignity and all that good stuff? I hope so.