Moving America Forward Rally At USC: As Much About Cynicism As Hope

Friday morning I got up at 5 am, loaded up my camera gear, got on the train and headed to downtown LA for the Moving America Forward rally with Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer and President Obama. I expected a crowd, and I expected enthusiasm, but even
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Friday morning I got up at 5 am, loaded up my camera gear, got on the train and headed to downtown LA for the Moving America Forward rally with Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer and President Obama. I expected a crowd, and I expected enthusiasm, but even in my optimistic wildest dreams I did not expect what I saw, which was thousands of people waiting in very long lines for the opportunity to see the President speak for about 30 minutes.

It was his standard stump speech with the usual local twists on the "You can't drive" riff, but he added one section I haven't heard before (he's probably said it, but I didn't notice or something), and it directly addressed the disappointment and cynicism many feel with regard to the first two years under his governance:

Because here’s what I know. Change is always hard. And if our parents, if our grandparents, if our great-grandparents, if they have listened to the cynics 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 200 years ago, we wouldn’t be here today.

Think about it. This country was founded on 13 colonies coming together to do what had never been done before -- declaring a revolution, throwing off the yoke of tyranny, battling the biggest, baddest empire on Earth. And then, they decided, you know, we’re going to try to form a new type of government.

And they wrote on paper, they said in their declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” -- (applause) -- “that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Applause.) The cynics didn’t believe it.

And then, when we had to perfect that union and fight a civil war, the cynics didn’t believe it. They didn’t think we could free the slaves.

If our ancestors had given up, if they had given up to the cynics, we couldn’t have gotten through war; we couldn’t have gotten through depression; we would not have been able to battle and finally achieve civil rights and women’s rights and workers’ rights. (Applause.)

That is the spirit we have to summon today. The journey we began together was not just about putting a President in the White House. It was about building a movement for change.

I could tell you about all the people I saw who were enthusiastic and motivated. I could tell you about all the young people I saw and heard, before and afterwards who were completely committed. I could tell you that whether you agree or disagree with the man, he brings an enthusiasm and commitment I don't see in many elected officials at any level. I could tell you that when his helicopter circled the campus, the crowd went completely wild, just as they did for the Secret Service snipers when they took their place above the speech venue. I could tell you all these things, and they'd be true, but none of them matter.

The only thing that matters here is whether or not we want to keep trying to make things better, or let the Tea Party have a chance at it. The majority of the 37,500 at USC yesterday wanted to make things better. They had genuine enthusiasm for building on what was already done in 2008 and were going out into the community to make sure people voted. Here's what California Assembly Speaker had to say about it, via David O. Atkins at Calitics:

Perez: "We want everyone in this country to succeed and live their own American dream...when all the votes are counted, we are going to shock the world. The Speaker of the House will continue to be from California...President Obama will still be leading our country. We're going to send a message to the teabaggers, make sure they know: we love our country, we want our citizens to succeed. We want everyone to have healthcare...We respect every part of our Constitution. Hell, we've even read it. We have better ideas, we have better candidates, and in Barack Obama, we have a better President."

Them's fightin' words. Wish more Democrats spoke with that sort of clarity. Easy to see why John Perez is the right choice for Speaker.

I'll just leave you with this, also from David at Calitics:

You know, for all the pixels spilled about the mistakes and inadequacies of the Obama administration, there's no question about the difference between the political parties. And there's no question Barack Obama is an extraordinary politician.

But again, the real measure of the success or failure of an event like this is whether the people here will actually get out and work to make a difference in the election. Time will tell.

Whatever your opinion of where we are and where we're going is, the choice on November 2nd falls to one between a Tea Party future where climate change is a lie and safety nets for citizens are unconstitutional, or a future where progress is imperfect, flawed and slow, but progress nevertheless. Is it all shiny like 2008? Not really. It's banged up like the metaphorical car in the ditch, but that car can still move forward. With help.

Please vote on November 2nd.

Bonus: Impressions from 35 feet from the podium

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