Obama’s soaring rhetoric shakes the rafters — at Trocaderos in Minneapolis

Obama supporters packed Trocaderos night club in Minneapolis to watch the candidate's speech.
MinnPost photo by Sharon Schmickle
Obama supporters packed Trocaderos night club in Minneapolis to watch the candidate’s speech.

The crowd cheering Barack Obama at Invesco Field in Denver was far larger, but it couldn’t have been more enthusiastic person for person than the crowd watching the speech on giant screens at Trocaderos night club in Minneapolis.

They shook the rafters with their cheers Thursday night when Obama began, “It is with profound gratitude and great humility that I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.”

They cheered wildly again when the Democratic senator from Illinois named his wife, Michelle Obama. And again, when he denounced “the failed policies of George W. Bush.”

Warning to readers: this is not a balanced story. If there were Republicans or even Bush defenders at the event, this reporter couldn’t find them.

There were skeptics, though. Pauline Schuller, 71, from St. Louis Park, needed to hear Obama reassure women. She had supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primary season.

“He has to appeal to the women’s vote,” she said. “He has to give reassurance that he knows how important women are in our society.”

Obama did sprinkle bouquets for women through his speech, talking at one point about equal pay for equal work and, at another point, citing women’s struggle for suffrage as an example of America at its best.

Parties around Minnesota
Obama’s campaign held 14 simultaneous speech-watching parties around Minnesota and hundreds nationwide. The campaign for Obama’s GOP rival, Sen. John McCain, also offers opportunities on its website for supporters to gather together while they watch key moments in the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities next week.

Obama’s campaign workers said 455 people signed in for the party at Trocaderos in Minneapolis’ loft district.

One of them was Adam Elg, 46. He came to the party hoping to hear Obama “really articulate the kind of change he wants to make and not just say ‘We can’t have more of the same.’ “

Obama obliged, spelling out issue by issue what his signature call for change would mean if he became president. Some might have wished for more detail — for example, convincing particulars on how Obama could make his renewable energy proposals work.

Elg was satisfied, though, with broad strokes: “A lot of people say they want more specifics, but I don’t think tonight is the time for that.”

The event was part political rally. And local politicians warmed the crowd before Obama spoke to them via television.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman party hopped, speaking at the Minneapolis event first and then going to another in St. Paul.

Coleman noted that Obama was accepting the nomination on the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“This will not be the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Coleman said. “But I do have a dream that this man becomes the next president of the United States.”

Some at the party said they had come to join others in observing a milestone in history, the first African-American to win a major party’s nomination for president.
Some who shared Coleman’s dream, defended Obama in advance for political attacks they know are coming his way.

Experience and judgment
Tess Bouska, who goes to school in Philadelphia but comes home often to Minneapolis, said Republicans miss the point when they assert that Obama lacks the experience a president needs. What matters, she said, is good judgment to appoint experienced people to the right positions. Obama demonstrated that, she said, when he picked long-time senator and foreign policy expert Joe Biden as his running mate.

And some campaign volunteers said they are prepared, alongside Obama, to take some measure of responsibility for his ultimate success or failure.
Kayci Rush of Minneapolis was 8 years old when she helped campaign for Robert F. Kennedy until he was assassinated in June of 1968. In 1984, she worked on Jesse Jackson’s failed presidential campaign. Both experiences were heartbreaking.

“I was afraid I would be disappointed again,” Rush said. “But a year ago last fall I went to Obama’s campaign headquarters and I felt like I was 8 years old again.” All along, the Jackson campaign felt like “wishful thinking,” she said, but “this time it feels real.”

Obama supporters Katia Rush, left, and her mother, Kayci Rush.
MinnPost photo by Sharon Schmickle
Obama supporters Katia Rush, left, and her mother, Kayci Rush.

One reason Rush feels responsible for the outcome of Obama’s campaign is because she’s convinced deep-seated racism explains the reason some voters are hesitant about Obama. When she hears pundits say that voters don’t know who Obama is, she hears code covering prejudice.

Most of those voters will never confront Obama with the true reasons they are holding back support for him, Rush said.

“That conversation will not happen between him and a white person,” she said. “White people like me . . . are the ones who will have to do some of the work.”

Sharon Schmickle writes about national and foreign affairs and science. She can be reached at sschmickle [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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