Last night, I went to the last Obama rally of the 2008 campaign in Manassas, Virginia. The Old Dominion. The Commonwealth. One of the last places anyone would expect The Man Himself to be up by over five points. Obama organizers expected "nearly 40,000" people to show up. They were sorely mistaken.
Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times put attendance at over 90,000. It’s more than I would guess, but I’d believe it. See the "Vote for Change" sign in the back? I was about 20 feet to the left… and the crowd kept going behind it for another 30 yards. We couldn’t even see the candidate at the podium; people started going nuts and chanting "Obama! Obama!" around me when a Secret Service agent got up on the podium to scan the crowd. It was like being at a arena concert, when the kids in the nose-bleeds start cheering when the roadies came out. But at no concert I’ve ever attended has had such a unified crowd, such a passionate audience – no half-hearted attendees, no disinterested spectators. Everybody was intent on the stage, hanging on every word from an obviously exhausted Barack Obama. I’ve also never seen that many people crammed into such a small place be so polite & civil. After the rally, all 90,000 citizens filed out through a gap in the fence maybe ten feet wide. With the crowd, it was impossible not to end up stepping on toes & falling into your neighbors in the crowd. Yet you’d see an elderly man tip his hat and say "excuse me" to a group of black kids in Obama t-shirts who must not even be old enough to vote, or a 6’8" man in an Obama sweatshirt with the red, yellow and green of African solidarity apologizing to a suburban soccer mom trying to navigate a stroller through the crowd. Tomorrow, they might not make eye contact on the street, but tonight they were too excited chanting Obama slogans to be anything less than thrilled. For me, the highlight of the night was an Indian man with a small child on his shoulders. The kid, obviously up way past his bedtime, asked, "Daddy, when is Obama coming?" The man replied, "Patience, son. Democracy takes time." Yes, we can.