What I saw at the HRC rally

There’s a little mental calculus that comes into play when you’re thinking about attending a political event. First off there are the known disincentives: There’ll be long lines and lots of waiting. Decibel levels will be high. Spirits will also be high, and that can be a good or bad thing. Then there are the things that could happen–the entire spectrum of crazy that’s liable to come out and play. At best it’s a crapshoot.

Outweighing all that, for me at least, was the fact that on Monday, October 3rd, Hillary Clinton spoke not just in my city, not just in my neighborhood, but literally down the road from my house. Odds of craziness notwithstanding, how could I not go?

The entire experience cost me about 3 hours, give or take, from the time I walked out my front door until I walked back in. Most of that time was indeed spent standing, queuing, waiting. A few hundred of us (rough estimate) stood in two long lines stretching out from the main doors of the venue, down the street and around the corner. There were a handful of protesters of the “Hillary for Prison” variety; I heard a few rancorous exchanges but for the most part the folks standing in line refrained from engaging. There was one gentleman, picketing back and forth on the other side of the street, holding forth with great gusto on (I assume) all he hated and feared about HRC. There were two lanes of rush-hour traffic separating us, though. I overheard someone else in the line say, “That guy is about to give himself a stroke, and I can’t hear a word he’s saying. Win-win.”

Eventually we filed in, and made our way to stadium seating an an upper tier, or for yet more standing on the event-hall floor. I chose the latter and ended up not more than 20 feet from the podium. More waiting ensued, predictably, then finally the warm-up speakers: local party people, then the mayor, a couple members of Congress, then finally the speaker herself.

If you’ve followed even a modest amount of politics, you probably have a decent idea of how events like this unfold. I saw and heard nothing particularly unexpected in that respect. I’d heard that Clinton’s speech would be one on economic policy, and although that and a lot of other ground (national security, education, not much alas on the environment) was covered, she spent at least half her time attacking her opponent. That’s a predictable political reality, I suppose, but I found it nevertheless disappointing. And on a pragmatic level, I wonder if it was even necessary—Trump seems to be doing fine crashing his own campaign with his own words and deeds. Me and Ali prescribe a rope-a-dope strategy.

But in any case, it wasn’t a bad speech. The delivery was better than I expected—she spoke with notes, no Teleprompter, and she was much more engaged (and engaging) than I’ve seen in all too many of her appearances. She also looked pretty damned good for someone weathering a bout of pneumonia just three weeks ago.

All that time, though, I was less interested in the speaker in front of me than in the people all around me. The turnout, in size and demography, was surprising and encouraging. The crowd looked like my city. All ages, all races; a larger number than I would have expected, frankly, of guys a lot like me: white and over forty. Even better, all of these people were just plain nice. In tight quarters, where toes were inevitably stepped on and all the unavoidable jostling occurred, I heard not a single angry word. All around me, people were simply being kind to each other, striking up conversations and, I’m sure, striking up more than a few new friendships.

Above all else, though, what I found most encouraging as I looked around, was the number of millennials in attendance. This much-maligned generation—probably the most unfairly heaped-upon generation in history—was out in force, and that prompted me to reevaluate them in depth. The many accusations against these young people includes the one about being politically (even civilly) disconnected. Twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings made up not just a plurality of the crowd, as far as I could see, but also a majority of the campaign staff. So if there’s a disconnection somewhere, it isn’t with them.

Millennials are also accused of being self-centered, of being coddled, of coming up with the sense of entitlement that comes with being in that ‘everyone gets an award’ generation. Well, I wasn’t likely to confirm or deny any of that based on a three-hour political rally, but then again I didn’t see any need to try. Because even a moment’s worth of thinking on it reveals how ball-bustingly unfair those accusations are. Millennial attitudes and mind-sets, for good or ill, are the products of the people who raised them. Millennials didn’t invent the concept of passing out awards for showing up—the previous generation did, and the millennials just happened to be the guinea pigs on whom the idea was tried out.

They’ve grown up in a world where they’ve been able to take for granted the ubiquity of advanced technology, yet they’ve been showered with constant blaring assertions that this, right now, is the worst things have ever been. When they were small we told them they must go to college if they ever hoped to make something of their life, then we handed them an economy and a job market where their degrees were more like extremely expensive jokes.

They’ve also come of age at a time when perpetual war and looming environmental crises come with the territory. The costs of both of these are to be paid, disproportionately, by the millennial generation and the generations that come after.

I realized, then, with the unlikely backdrop and impetus of a Hillary Clinton rally, that against all odds and contrary to the lousy hand they’ve been dealt, the millennial generation are doing their best to, well, make America great again.

When I left I was hardly thinking about Hillary Clinton or this chancre-sore of an election. I left feeling very, very optimistic.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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One Response to What I saw at the HRC rally

  1. Rosemary Reymann says:

    Patrick, I still give you an A+ for your writing!
    I was there at the rally for Hillary with you. Perhaps you heard my response to the heckler. When he said, “Hillary for prison!”, I said, “Reform!”
    I ,too, was on the floor surrounded by the most interesting people. In front of me was a Sociology Professor from UA. Beside him was a young, graduate from Case Western Reserve in Computer Engineering, from Shanghai, who drove all the way from his new job in California to see Hillary in Akron, Ohio!!! Wow! Beside him was a nurse from Summa, who lost her job 3 years ago when they were weeding out the old ones, and was there to see another old broad gearing up to become the next president of the United States. To my right was a woman, who had never been to a political rally before. Her husband currently teaches translating at Kent State, and prior to that they lived in the Mideast for years. She told me that her family is Muslim and that her daughters wore veils. The young man to my left is a Political Science major at UA, and an African-American enthusiastically embracing Hillary Clinton.
    I had a United Nations surrounding me, diverse, smart, engaged. I was proud to be a Hillary supporter.
    I can’t remember what political activities we had the year you were in my class. Do you? Through the years I have taken classes to Washington, had councilmen and judges visit the class, and had incredible field trips to see the mayor, county executive,council, courts, jail…everything! In 1996, I took 4 kids to meet Hillary when she was campaigning for her husband. We talked to her for about 5 minutes and had a photo op.
    Patrick, tell me what you remember from 4th grade.
    Love you,
    Ms. Reymann

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