Sunday, February 03, 2008

Barack Obama Rocks Wilmington

I've seen all sorts of events in Rodney Square including jazz festivals, rock concerts and political rallies. But I have never seen a crowd like the one that gathered today to see Barack Obama.
I noticed people trickling in this morning around 9 when I was leaving the early service at my downtown church.
By 11, I was back and found myself in the line for media credentials with locals like Celia Cohen and national journalists like E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post, who drove up for the event. (Dionne has just published a new book, Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right, about which I will have more to say when I've gotten my hands on a copy.)
Obama's campaign hit town like no other campaign in memory. They've been saying that they are competing in all 22 contests on Tuesday. But it may be that Wilmington's proximity to our media centers also figured into the decision to bring Obama to a rally here in little old Delaware. For instance, Richard Wolffe of Newsweek and Joe Klein of Time were on hand, perhaps prompted by the prospect of seeing a stump speech and being back home in time for dinner and the Super Bowl kickoff.
Obama was introduced by Jack Markell and John Carney, who were suitably pumped up for the occasion. (Who said the Democratic Party's divided?) Even if Carney and Markell last another decade or two in the public arena, this could be the biggest political crowd they ever address.
Even with all of the hype and anticipation, Barack Obama did not disappoint. He delivered the latest version of the stump speech he has been presenting to overflow crowds for months. He spoke of hope, not as blind optimism, but as the fundamental force that has shaped our destiny from the founding of the United States in defiance of the British Empire, as exemplified by Ceasar Rodney. He spoke of Lincoln holding the union together and of Martin Luther King giving voice to "the fierce urgency of now."
The Washington Post reports a crowd of 20,000. A somewhat more reliable estimate from a city official is 15,000. People jammed the square and filled the surrounding sidewalks, streets and intersections.
It could be that this is the high water mark for reform in mainstream politics, at least for now. It could be that the Clinton operation will win the day on Tuesday and go on to win the nomination and the presidency. If so, Obama will remain in the Senate and wait his turn, as so many party elders have advised him to do.
But there is a significant chance that Obama will come out of Tuesday's primaries tied or even ahead in the campaign for the nomination, and the conventional wisdom will have been turned on its head. Either way, the electric atmosphere of today's rally will not soon be forgotten.
After the rally, I did a few minutes live with Allan Loudell of WDEL before coming home to try to convey the immensity of the event I had just attended. For more on the event, check out Allan's blog at WDEL, Mat's live blogging at DWA, donviti's posting at DelawareLiberal and DelawareDem's write up at DailyKos.

Photo: Lore Ritscher for TommyWonk

2 Comments:

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10:16 PM, February 08, 2008  
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10:18 PM, February 08, 2008  

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