by Charles A. Monagan
Oct 31, 2010
12:55 PMOn Connecticut
The Politics of Hope
Excitement ran high Saturday at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport as thousands of President Barack Obama’s supporters waited for his arrival outside the Arena in a line that stretched to Seaside Park. The visit was a stop on the President’s four-state weekend rally “Moving America Forward,” a final push to get the vote out for Tuesday's elections—in Connecticut he came on behalf of Congressional and Senate candidates, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and Richard Blumenthal and also gubernatorial candidate, Dannel Malloy. But there was no doubt about whom the crowd came to see. “We are so excited to see the President—we drove all the way from Brooklyn (CT) to see him,” said Sherri Vogt, a sentiment that was seconded by her children, Connor and Heather.
After a program of speakers that included Master of Ceremonies hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy, Blumenthal and Himes, the President came out to a roaring chant of “Yes We Can, Yes We Can.” Like a coach speaking to his team the night before the biggest game of the season, he gave his pitch to the multicultural group of all ages in just under 30 minutes. He told the crowd not to listen to the predictions of doom for Democrats on Tuesday, but rather to take action—just get out and vote. “Bridgeport, in three days you’ve got the chance to set the direction not just for this state but for this country for years to come, and just like you did in 2008, you’ve got the chance to defy the conventional wisdom . . . the wisdom that says you can’t overcome the cynicism in politics, that you can’t overcome the special interests. In 2008, they said you couldn't’t elect a skinny guy with a funny name; and just like you did in 2008, in three days you’ve got the chance to say, ‘what?’”
It’s unusual for a president to stump like this in Connecticut, which has been a blue state the Democrats could always bank on in past elections. But with tight races between Blumenthal and Linda McMahon and Himes and Dan Debicella, every effort is being made for Democrats to retain the majority in Congress and seats in the Senate. It made sense to hold the event in Bridgeport, a Democratic city located in affluent Fairfield County—a heavily Republican region of the state—with expectations of low voter turnout.
Early in the President’s speech, he was interrupted by shouts from protesters who held up banners pressing for $50 billion in funding for global AIDS programs but he was unshakable. Obama said, "Listen up. First of all, this is one of the great things about Democrats. We always like to be heard," And that’s a good thing. "But which party is most likely to actually fund it [global AIDS] in ways that actually help people around the world?" he asked. We’re not going to be able to do anything unless we get the economy fixed and unless we put people back to work.” Now back on topic: “This election is a choice,” he said. “If all of those young people who came out in 2008 come out in 2010, we’ll win this election.
“Many of you got involved in the 2008 election because you saw it as a defining moment in our history. But that wasn’t about electing a president, it was about building a movement to change the country for the better,” he said. “We need that spirit today. I need that here in Connecticut, Bridgeport," he said. "I promise you this, if you bring that spirit over the next few days, if you go knocking on doors, if you are making phone calls, if you are going to the barber shop and the beauty shops, talking to your friends and talking to your neighbors; if all the young people who came out in 2008 say 'yes we can' again, I promise you, we will not just win an election. We are going to restore this economy, We are going to rebuild our middle class. We will deliver the American Dream for the next generation and the next generation after that and the generation after that, all the way into the distant future.”
Pumped with hope, the crowd was full of buzz. "I’m completely motivated! I am going to vote so we can put an end to the backward thinking and the polarizing rhetoric that’s out there,” said Wendy Bernard of Southbury. “I’m all for healthy disagreement but the kind of talk that’s out there now is a challenge to the bottom.”
“It was life changing!” said Lilliana Giordano of Shelton. I came to Bridgeport from Venezuela when I was 16. President Obama’s message of acceptance and tolerance is the key to prosperity for all of us. He is the change of our world.”
“I loved it!” said Mary Williamson of Bridgeport. “Especially seeing all the young people out there—they’re the key.”