Democratic rallies or Republican rallies — it doesn’t matter. They all have protesters. How the crowd reacts to the protesters, though, seems to vary significantly. After watching a video of people waiting in line for McCain’s rally on Friday, I wanted to know if Obama’s crowd would react any differently. From what I saw and what I heard from Republican protesters downtown on Sunday, they certainly did.
First, a video from the liberal group ProgressNow Action, shot as people walked past a line of protesters while heading into the McCain event in Denver on Friday, including a young girl aping a monkey:
Of Obama, other members of the crowd said things like, “He’s got a rag on his head,” “President Hussein,” and “He’s Osama.” At least the “socialist” and “communist” comments they uttered attack Obama’s policies, not his race or his completely fabricated ties to Islam.
At the Obama rally on Saturday I found five conservative protesters manning a line with tens of thousands of Obama supporters waiting to get in. The first man I spoke with, Bob, would not give me his last name for fear of reprisal. Bob had a sign reading, “Obama’s new-tax [sic] plan is welfare”. He said he made the trip out that day because, “They came to our rally so I figured I’d do them the same honor.” Fair enough.
When I asked Bob if anyone in line had said something to him, he replied, “Yes, but I get louder than they do.” Most of the comments, according to Bob, were along the lines of, “Do you make more than $250,000 a year?” referring to Obama’s tax plan in which only those earning more than that would see an increase in what they pay. Bob also said that occasionally an Obama volunteer would offer him a sticker or a sign — “They do it to make fun of me.”
After hearing about some of Bob’s more interesting theories (did you know the economy was just as bad under Clinton as under Bush?), I talked with a very nice group of young men who created the Web site BadChange.com. I have to admit, it’s very a catchy name for an anti-Obama site. The group fights “for the protection of the sanctity of all human life, especially those who have no voice … we believe in upholding the sanctity of human life in all circumstances.”
Scott Fisher, one of the creators of the site and their “main media guy,” told me some Obama supporters had accused him that day of being “racist, which I don’t understand. I’d vote for a black president if he stood for what I stood for.”
A heated debate
Modern democracy developed in large part to substitute for civil war — read about the “dams and dykes” of Thomas Hobbs’ The Leviathan for reference. It comes as no surprise, then, that tempers become heated and cooler heads often do not prevail at political rallies.
When I talked with Bobby Clark of ProgressNow Action about their video, he said the McCain campaign had people going up and down the line telling folks not to respond to the protesters. The Obama campaign, as far as I could tell, focused their energy elsewhere.
At least no fist fights broke out, though that one McCain guy in the video did punch a cardboard cutout of Obama.
Incidentally, in the roughly 30 minutes I spent interviewing protesters at the Obama rally, the most offensive thing I heard was from a woman shouting at me, not them: “What is it like talking to an empty head?”
Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governors races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small-business issues.