Good Lord, no wonder the streets were so empty today. Okay, I really have no idea. It was Sunday, and it’s my only day resembling a day off, so I never leave my apartment. Still, I bet they were very empty.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland is an area that I and most sensible Portlanders have learned to avoid for much of the summer months. In early June, you have what used to be called the Rose Festival Fun Center which came to be referred to as the Crime Center, what with its proliferation of shirtless methamphetamine users and fistfights and the occasional stabbing, so they’ve since assumed an anodyne corporate-sponsored name to lure the white people back from the suburbs. The next three months are blues and food festivals where the food and beer are too expensive, the lines are too long, and you have to address your personal hygeine needs in plastic booths. The closest I’ll get to these messes is the occasional friend with the boat where I can sit with a cooler on the Willamette and watch the teeming masses with a cold drink always within immediate reach.
I drive by on the Marquam Bridge on I-5 and rarely bat an eye at the enormous swath of humanity. I think I would have noticed if I’d headed down that way this afternoon that Barack Obama drew 75,000 people to his Waterfront Park rally on a hot May. That’s barely fathomable. We’re talking Sugar Bowl here, Grand Funk Railroad in Michigan in 1973. Hell, the Promisekeepers rarely draw like this.
It doesn’t seem worth mentioning anymore. Barack, a venue, a bajillion people. Blah blah blah. This is rather mind-boggling, though. 75,000 people would sacrifice their Sunday for a crowded, uncomfortable, difficult to get in, difficult to get out political event.
Love him or hate him, whether you buy into that Muslim hokum, this is the kind of stuff you don’t see every election cycle. I don’t think we’ve seen it in our lifetime. I went to a Michael Dukakis rally on a toasty spring weekend afternoon just like this one with no limits on attendance and I don’t think the crowd cracked 1,000.
I’ll leave the pie-eyed idealism to others, but even my jaded, cynical self has to concede that this is veering toward the neighborhood of astonishing. Whether it’s the steady IV drip of nakedly-disingenuous talking points we’ve been fed over the last seven-plus years or the impressively consistent ability of this Administration to screw up one one-car funeral after another and wrecking our dollar, our gas and food prices, our Constitution, our standing in the world, our infrastructure, our schools, and the 4,000-plus killed and however many tens of thousands of our kids have had their brains or organs scrambled by our ill-fated Middle East adventure, there’s a lot of folks out there who are ready for a change of Executive Branch scenery.
You aren’t going to be seeing anything resembling these numbers for a McCain rally. I don’t imagine this went over too well in the Hillary camp today, either. The only question for her Oregon campaign now is whether she would prefer paper or plastic when the state hands her ass on Tuesday.