Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series.
Sitting in the bleachers of Keene State College, my adrenaline is pumping with excitement. My pen is ready but my mind is not. This is my first time covering an event as a political journalist and I have no idea in which direction it may turn.
This sort of naivety is bound to fade as soon as I really discover what politics are all about. I, too, will become as cynical as the old folks sitting next to me who have seen it all. I will finally get a taste of what Hunter S. Thompson was talking about for all those years. For me, President Bush has become what Nixon was to Thompson, but unlike Dr. Gonzo I still see a light at the end of the tunnel, however faint it may be.
The crowd suddenly rises as a smiling Barack Obama towers over the sea of young and old, a spotlight following his every move. He finally takes the stage after a long acclamation and the cheers come to a lull. He introduces himself and his candidacy, a grassroots movement in which he plans to “take the government back.” I listen intently as he begins his speech, ready to root for the underdog.
“Dirty, nasty politics,” he begins. “We’ve all become cynical of our government,” he continues and the audience nods its heads affirmatively.The beginning of Obama’s speech is more of a tease than anything else. He begins to speak and I’m ready to hop on board but I find myself saying, “‘Our government is corrupt?’ You don’t say, why don’t you tell us something we don’t know.”
It continues this way for some time and with each power phrase he blurts out, I grow increasingly unimpressed. It’s not that I don’t agree with his ideas and it’s not that I don’t believe him.I am simply unmoved.
“Ordinary people need to decide it’s time for a change. I want us to decide together!” Please, didn’t I hear that same speech on a Saturday Night Live skit four years ago? Couldn’t a fourth grader come up with something equally as moving? I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt because at least he’s a better alternative than our current administration. Plus, I have driven two hours for this.
At last we have come to the Q-and-A part of the lecture and Obama’s long-winded answers seem like half-empty promises that may or may not be fulfilled should he be elected into office.
“Campaign ethics? Oh no, I don’t accept bribes or gifts.” Right. “Nuclear proliferation you say? Yes, I plan to disarm the entire world of nuclear weapons.” OK, pal. “The war in Iraq? I told you so. I was against it from the start. And yes, I will begin deployment on March 31st of next year.” Sure. “Healthcare? I vow to have universal healthcare after my first year in office.” I roll my eyes at the promises that have been made in some way or another by every politician throughout history.
As he wraps it up, he steals the words of our buddy FDR and pawns them off as his own. “Blah, blah, something, fear.” I’ve already checked out mentally and am looking forward to the drive home. I am disappointed this has turned so sour, but Obama says something that quickly renews my faith. He says, even if you don’t vote for him, get involved. Support someone. It’s too important not to vote. I then wonder if this guy could actually be the real deal.
I leave the auditorium unsure if I will vote for Barack Obama in November of 2008, but I know I am going to continue my quest for the right candidate. As he said, it’s too important not to get involved.