So, I Met My Candidate Yesterday…

This was totally unplanned. I had to go to Clemson anyway, to get my hair dyed before I go job-hunting in earnest, because someone with an inch and a half of brown roots grown out in their hair just doesn’t look like someone you’d want to hire. It looks like they’ve given up on life and are ready for the poorhouse, which is how I feel sometimes, but not necessarily how I want to look.

So I’m munching some cereal for breakfast with “The Today Show” on in the background, and the local update comes on and gives us the political visit news of the day. Mike Huckabee’s in Greenville, big fat hairy deal, and John Edwards is in Clemson…

Huh?

Yep, in Clemson. A scant two hours before my hair appointment. Which triggers my brain to say, If you’re going there anyway, get a move on, fool. You haven’t been to a political rally since 1992, when you and your friends got beaten up by a bunch of Republican assholes. Yes, this is how my brain really talks to me.

So I shower and put on makeup and show up in Clemson half an hour before the rally. There were about 30 people already gathered, including a group of senior citizens seated in the chairs in front of the stage, which I thought was a nice touch — college students can sit on the steps, but no one over 60 should be expected to do it. I stood beside the brick ramp leading up to the little staging area, thinking There should be a better crowd than this — the guy grew up 10 minutes from here, for God’s sake. Little did I know.

Whoever put together Edwards’s music did a good job picking the songs. I’m always very conscious of this, because badly selected music really puts me off. (Some dolt at my college’s football games likes to play AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” during the pregame warmups, and at every game I wonder how hard it would be to break into his booth, knock him out, and put on one of my homemade CDs much more suited to a game. But I digress.) This person got it right, though: not only did he have “Fortunate Son” and a few other CCR anthems, and not only did he feature that ubiquitous Mellencamp song “This is Our Country,” but he had Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” Robert Randolph’s “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With That,” a Dr. John song I’ve heard before but couldn’t identify… Someone in the Edwards campaign needs to be congratulated. I couldn’t have put together a better playlist myself. OK, I probably could, but this person would still be a close second.

Within half an hour, the crowd of 30 had swelled to about 150, and was crawling with TV and print reporters, photographers, campaign personnel, College Democrats who made me all nostalgic, and a few people I recognized from working with the local Democratic Party all those years ago. Everyone was cheerful and, well, even brotherly, offering seats to older attendees, carrying John and Elizabeth Edwards’s books in case there was a chance for autographs, smiling at total strangers. Hell, even I smiled at total strangers, which is pretty much against everything I believe in. So sue me. The sun was out and it was in the 70s in January. Yesterday it didn’t quite suck so much to be in SC.

By the time the event was supposed to have started, about 300 people had gathered and were still streaming up the steps and across the field. The front of the crowd was encouraged to step forward, so I found myself in the front row, holding an Edwards sign, wishing I’d thought to look for my “John Edwards 2004” button before I left the house. The front row was now less than 10 feet from the platform. I noticed a Secret Service-looking man in the crowd who looked so much like Barack Obama he could be his Mini-Me; only their height differed. There was also a large guy, associated with either the campaign or one of the local Democratic parties, in (God help me, still stuck in the south) overalls with an Edwards t-shirt on under it. This is the guy the news cameras will stick to, I thought. Especially the ones from Fox.

The former Senator arrived about half an hour late — not bad for a politician, not bad at all — and by then there were 500 or more gathered around an area that could comfortably hold about a hundred. Immediately the professional photographers shoved through to stand in front of those of us in the front row, which prompted me and a few others to crowd them uncomfortably: sure, it’s their job, but it’s MY candidate, so at least excuse yourselves, people. Edwards didn’t look at all like someone who’d been up late the night before, sweating about the returns in the land of the rich and the white, up north. And when I heard him speak, I remembered why I’d wanted to vote for him four years ago, and wanted to again, now.

He talked about growing up in a family that worked in the mills nearby, which, if you’re not from the south, is comparable only to working in the mines. Mill work was grueling and it was one of the jobs most concentrated upon by union busters, beloved by the extremely rich mill owners, both groups that make me sick with good old-fashioned class anger. He talked about having no health insurance and being unable to afford medicine or treatment. He talked about the salaries of insurance company CEOs, of oil barons, in comparison with what the rest of us could expect to make. He talked about America being better than this, which nearly choked me up, because I remember once thinking we were better than this, before the entire nation was sold out to the corrupt cronies of a failed and corrupt president.

I don’t know how John Edwards is going to do nationwide — and I still like all three Democratic frontrunners — but for about half an hour yesterday, I remembered what it had been like in 1992 to have a candidate running who wanted the same things I wanted, mainly for our country to be a better place for everyone, not just the sickeningly rich. I don’t know if I can get that kind of optimism back on a full-time basis, but it was nice to feel it again even for a few minutes yesterday, a nostalgia helped out by my presence on my old college campus. Who knows? — If I’d looked down, maybe I would’ve seen my old size 2 self for a few seconds, but that’s neither here nor there.

When it was over I joined the crush of people in line to shake Edwards’s hand, which left me thinking That’s two candidates I’ve shaken hands with now — possibly one of them will be President by the end of the year. All I have to do is meet Barack Obama and I’ll just about have the trifecta.

Then I walked downtown and got my hair dyed.

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12 Responses to “So, I Met My Candidate Yesterday…”

  1. […] post by Tigereye Lives Here and software by Elliott Back This entry is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any […]

  2. ‘Scuse me? What the hell?

  3. Some idiot?

  4. Don’t know. It might be something really cool that I’m unfamiliar with. I’ll let one of the older kids tell me…

  5. I’m glad you got to meet him, and it’s very cool you had your optimism back for a few. Maybe it will help in your job hunt.

  6. Hello? It’s a pingback? Someone liked your post and linked to it. Do I have to explain everything to you guys? Gawd.

    Anyway, LOVED this post! And I’m kinda partial to Edwards myself these days.

    What do you mean you haven’t been to a rally since 1992? What the hell were you doing in 04?

  7. TheOtherIvy Says:

    I may be able to get enthusiatic about the candidates after all, reading your posts.

  8. I liked your post, but I can’t get excited about anyone, yet. We have almost a whole year left.

    I’ll just read everything you write to keep me informed about what’s going on.

  9. What is he going to do about health care in America? That is my top issue.

    I would also like to see an end to this stupid damned war. I could go on and on but I don’t have time right now to list all the things that matter to me.

    I won’t be voting Democratic in the primaries anyway. I’ll go and ask for a Rethug ballot and vote for their absolute worst candidate, the one with the least chance of winning. Then I’ll vote for whatever Dem is on the ballot come November. Maybe that’s a waste of time. Maybe not. I know several politically active people that do it.

  10. Hee hee hee — Andrea, I’ve thought about doing that a time or two myself.
    Ivy and Ina, I’ll do my best.
    Wanda, I’ve kept up with ’em, I just haven’t gotten all worked up over anybody since Bill, and Bill didn’t come ’round these Democrat-hating parts in ’96. Neither did Al. I voted for Kerry/Edwards, but that was all on the strength of Edwards. This is more fun — I like them all, he just happens to be the one I like best.

    Hey, politics may replace football for me! And I got pinged? I still don’t know what pings are, but now I’m all tingly and happy, and I haven’t even had a drink yet.

  11. thirdculturemom Says:

    I just hope they don’t destroy each other (especially those other two) and let another elephant get into the china shop.

  12. Dear God, no kidding. When I’m chairman of the Democratic National Committee one day, I plan to put a stop to infighting. Right after I win my National Book Award and star in a movie.

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