The crowd kept pouring into the Xcel Energy Center. All ages. All races. All backgrounds. Young Somalis chanting “O-bama!” And older, white women, bedecked in sparkling red, white and blue and holding up a sign, “Women for Obama!”
But most noticeable was the arrival of such people as Buck Humphrey, who once had headed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Minnesota campaign. And Jackie Stevenson, a DFL activist, a feminist and a Clinton-supporting superdelegate, who at the last minute had changed her mind about attending the event. And St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who was a Clinton supporter until sometime Monday. And Rick Stafford, another Clinton superdelegate.
Former Secretary of State Joan Growe was there. And Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson. And a couple of dozen other people who had invested so much energy into Clinton’s campaign.
Political healing process beginning
Their presence at the event where Barack Obama declared victory shows that, at least in Minnesota, the political healing process already is beginning.
No one is making that healing easier than Obama. Last night, after he had finished the sort of speech that leaves his followers exhilarated and exhausted, Obama did not just leave the arena. Nor did he head to the nearest television camera or the nearest fat cat.
Instead, he went to a room where the Clinton supporters had been gathered and one by one, shook the hands of the 25 people, stopping to chat with each of them.
“Chris (Coleman) walked around the room with him,” said Stevenson, “and introduced each one of us.”
It was really pretty extraordinary.
“He shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for being here; I’m sure it’s not easy,’ ” said Stevenson of her meeting with Obama. “I thanked him and said that everyone involved in his campaign had been so gracious. I didn’t know what to say, so I mentioned that my daughter works for a federal health clinic. And he knew right away which program I was talking about. He said, ‘Oh that’s wonderful.’ ”
Stevenson, a feminist and Clinton supporter, had to admit this: “He’s very impressive.”
And it didn’t end with that. Michelle Obama arrived in the room of Clinton supporters some time after her husband had entered.
There was a little husband-and-wife moment.
“Where have you been?” he asked her.
“In a different room,” she said. “I didn’t know where you were.”
Then, they both went about the business of chatting with the Clinton supporters.
“She didn’t have much time there because they had to get them out of the building,” said Stevenson. “I was standing by the door and as she was leaving, she put her hand out to mine and rubbed her cheek against mine. I’ve never met her.”
Clinton supporters find evening filled with graciousness
The whole evening had been filled with similar graciousness and kindness, Stevenson said.
She had arrived at the building with Humphrey, and as they were taken to their seats, people kept stopping to hug them and thank them for being there.
Laughing, she spoke of how she decided she needed to make a trip to the restroom before Obama’s speech. Again, people kept stopping her to shake her hand.
“Finally, I just had to wave and leave or I would have missed the speech,” she said.
All of the other Clinton supporters received similar treatment.
In his speech, Obama had so many kind things to say about Clinton that her supporters often found themselves on their feet, applauding with the nearly 20,000 Obama zealots inside the arena.
Of course, not all of Clinton’s Minnesota followers were at Xcel, and there’s going to be resentment among some, perhaps forever.
“When you’ve had a race that’s been so close, gone on so long and filled with so much history and passion, you’re going to have some hurting,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who was with Obama long before there was a bandwagon.
Coleman, the Clinton supporter until he saw the writing on the wall after the weekend, agreed with Rybak.
“I think especially for women of my mother’s generation, it’s going to be very hard,” he said. “They had waited so long for this (a woman in the White House). But I’ve spoken with a number of women like that in the last day. I think they’ll come around. You don’t spend your life fighting for women’s rights and then vote for Sen. McCain.”
Not all Clinton backers ready to forgive and forget
The question is, though, how many women will there be like Koryne Horbal, the founder of the DFL Feminist Caucus and a co-chair of the DFL Party in the late 1960s. She didn’t go to Xcel, and she’s not in a forgive-and-forget mood.
“I can’t support John McCain, but I won’t support Obama, either,” Horbal said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
Angered over the way the Florida and Michigan delegates were divided by the party’s hierarchy over the weekend, Horbal said she — and others — will urge feminists to write in Clinton’s name on the presidential ballot in November.
She admits that her idea isn’t off to a roaring start.
“Even Gloria Steinem isn’t with us on this,” she said.
Stevenson is not happy with Horbal’s idea. Before Obama entered the room, she told the Clinton supporters that the idea of a write-in was not something sanctioned by the Feminist Caucus.
“In a few days, I’ll try to talk with her,” she said. “We’ve got two of our people who are going to be off the Supreme Court very soon. The next president will be making those two appointments and maybe more. There’s just too much at stake.”
Stevenson told of how a couple of Clinton supporters in the room had listened to Clinton’s speech last night before rushing to Xcel.
“They came in telling us that she was terrific,” said Stevenson. “It made us all kind of sad. This was a very big dream for a lot of us. We’re feeling pretty bruised.”
But the healing began — at a victory celebration for Obama.
Doug Grow, a former metro columnist for the Star Tribune, writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.