Ben Buchwalter


Obama in West Philly
October 12, 2008, 3:09 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, General Politics | Tags: , ,

The New Republic has provided a must read article about Barack Obama’s visit to West Philadelphia this Saturday that perfectly captures my feeling of the event. When I arrived at 9:45 (3.5 hours before Obama was scheduled to show up), there were already a few thousand people lining 52nd Street adorned in Obama T-shirts, buttons and cheer. A very round man paced up and down the excited line – which spanned three blocks on both sidewalks – muttering “obama-obama-obam-o-o” into a megaphone.

I was there alone, and I quickly started a conversation with a pharmaceutical representative and a construction worker and his wife who were next to me in line. The pharmaceutical rep spoke of how Obama’s policies would hurt his business but he supports him because in the broader scope of the country’s economic woes, Obama’s plan is significantly better than McCain’s. The construction worker spoke about a good-natured spat that he has with his boss – a small business owner – about which candidate would be best for the economy. I was reminded of Obama’s refrain of asking small business owners, “How’s business these days… and who has been in charge these past eight years?”

I was surprised by how understanding people seemed to be about McCain’s political situation. One man said that it was unfortunate to see McCain – who he generally respected – transform into this partisan, neo-conservative replica in order to get elected. After all, he said, McCain has to get elected to implement his plans to improve this country. He generally felt that McCain wanted to do that.

Of course, there were some partisan Democratic sentiments. “Palin is an idiot.” “We can’t risk Palin if McCain dies” “McCain just doesn’t understand black people.” “McCain just doesn’t understand anything.” “McCain is freaking old.” But everyone’s excitement to see Obama drowned out most of these partisan standards.

The event was a “whos who” of Philadelphia Politics. Congressman Chaka Fattah, Mayor Michael Nutter, Governor Ed Rendell, and US Senator Bob Casey. None of the speakers said anything new or interesting, but Michael Nutter saved the day by noticing that half the crowd could not hear due to a bad speaker connection. He ran off stage, and two minutes later reappeared right in time to be introduced, the speakers fixed. He has my vote for life.

Mostly, people were happy that Obama was finally visiting his base. In this case, that is the democratic base, but also the black base. Another man I spoke to thought that Obama could have won Pennsylvania if he has paid any attention to places like West and North Philadelphia, areas where he has nearly 100% support. (I doubt that he could have won, considering that he lost by 10 percentage points to Hillary Clinton, but it could not have hurt). Instead, Obama focused on the affluent suburban communities surrounding Philadelphia. His base was marginalized and many did not show up to the polls.

My friend Katia was sitting outside of the event next to an old man who said that this was the best political event that he had witnessed since he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington DC in 1963. I think that the 23,000 people within hearing distance of Obama would have agreed. A local preacher echoed these sentiments when he welcomed the crowd to the intersection of 52nd street and Locust Street.

(paraphrase)

“We have seen too many suns rise and set on the American dream. It’s time for Barack Obama to pick up Dr. King’s message and deliver the American equality that is so long overdue”

Philly Inquirer article about Obama throughout Philadelphia Saturday.

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