By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Do you think Palin is ready to be president?” I ask.
“Oh, yes. She has more experience than Barack does,” Dorsey says.
I ask what they would have done had Obama picked Hillary Clinton as his running mate.
“I would have voted for him, probably,” admits Whitely, almost conspiratorially.
But now, says Dorsey, “When Hillary sends out those e-mail messages asking us to support Obama — because we still get them — we tell her, ‘We love you, but we can’t vote for you.’”
I ask them if they think Republicans are playing them for a kind of cheap gender allegiance. As soon as the question is out, a couple of construction workers, one black and the other Latino, sitting a few tables away, nod as if they’ve been thinking the same thing.
“0h, no,” says Whitely. “I had a psychic tell me I have a lot of psychic abilities, and I am not being played. I know that. I have seen things.”
“Palin is not a ploy,” insists Dorsey, with the assurance of one who has just sized up someone in person and come away convinced. She hesitates for a moment.
“When Hillary lost ... I was really upset,” she confesses.
I can tell she means it. It’s like she lost a friend.
“We are so ready for a change in the gender of who’s running things,” Whitely says.
“Hillary took it to that glass ceiling, and I think that Sarah is going to break it,” adds Dorsey.
The Palin Power ladies take their leave and wish me well. In the parking lot, as I scarf down the last of my pumpkin muffin, a little old lady — and I mean that to the full extent of the cliché — done up in country-club plaids, lipstick and white gloves (earlier, in the shop, she’d kept one white glove on her left hand while she handled her donut and coffee with the other) calls to me as she gets into her car.
“I think it’s about time a woman ran the country!”
Which makes me wonder, when it comes to McCain-Palin, who’s on top?
A couple days later, Joe Biden appears at Tampa’s University of Southern Florida. When I ask the security guard stationed in the upper reaches of the Sun Dome (home of the Bulls) how many people are on hand, he smiles and says, “I don’t know, but a lot more than they expected. That’s why this section is open.”
From where I stand in the nosebleeds, Biden doesn’t look like much more than a crisp, dark suit with a silver topping. But as he bounds up to the podium, more athletically than he has a right to do, the crowd of students and interested citizens greet Biden like a rock star. It’s the morning after Barack Obama and John McCain had their second debate.
Biden seems energized by the setting and the timing of the whistle stop. Regarding last night’s debate, he says, “I think people are looking for a steady hand, leadership and optimism, not an angry man lurching from one position to another.”
Then he mentions Palin’s attempts to tag Obama as some kind of terrorist sympathizer.
“This is beyond disappointing, this is wrong,” Biden says. “But Obama knows this election isn’t about him — it’s about you.” That one still gets butts out of their seats.
On this Wednesday inside the Sun Dome, the fear that the McCain campaign is pushing feels like a played-out trick. It’s the economy that is on people’s minds. And Biden, who is able to infuse his speeches with equal parts policy and passion, connects the current, potentially catastrophic economic problems to a larger, ethical and moral issue.
“This is about dignity, respect and fairness,” Biden says. “This is about whether you can look your kids in the eyes and say, ‘Everything’s going to be OK.’”
Judging by the thunderous applause, this sentiment resonates at the most basic level with the folks in attendance — many of whom appear to be those mythical white working-class males — addressing their real fears instead of the phony ones levied by the McCain-Palin campaign.
Listening to Biden, I realize there’s a subtext to this election that he seems the most ready to embrace. He skirts its edges during his speech at USF, doesn’t quite give it a name, doesn’t quite step up and say, “I’m proud to be a liberal.” But it’s there between the lines and is reflected in the visceral reflexes of the marginalized working-class men and women in this audience who jump out of their seats when he hits upon the idea that government can work on behalf of everyday folks rather than just for the powerful, and that we can have a more just and equitable society than the one we’ve had for a long time now. And it’s there in faces of the students who light up at the idea of change — not just from the past eight years, but from the culture of fear and division propagated for so long now.