Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why O'Malley Green Is My New Favorite Color

(Cross-posted from Jousting for Justice)

Today I attended a FANTASTIC Democratic Unity Rally in Randallstown, and I want to write about it while the memory is still fresh and the adrenaline's still high. (Pictures and videos included.)

Lighting Up a Gloomy Morning
Truth be told, I didn't have high hopes for this rally. I'd been up late last night, and the only way I managed to roll out of bed this morning was by reminding myself how awful I'd feel if we lost this election. (That, and I promised myself a nap later in the day.)

The sky was cloudy. It was cold out. Everything was wet from the rain. I was in no mood for a rally. But as we pulled into the parking lot of the Liberty Court Shopping Plaza, I saw clusters of supporters wearing bright O'Malley Green, standing on either side of the road.

We honked, and they cheered wildly! They did that for everyone driving by. Big trucks, little cars, whoever those kids were deserve huge kudos. They were a bright spot in a gloomy morning.

The People
The campaign workers were like bees, buzzing around the parking lot getting everything ready with remarkable good cheer. Some people even their dogs. They handed out stickers, signs, and placards for every Democrat on the ticket--but bright green O'Malley swag was omnipresent. In fact, as if coordinated by a clever Maryland Democratic party, both Franchot and Rupersberger's stuff was also in green. The overall impression was one of life, vitality, and eco-frienly new beginnings. Nicely done.

Amongst the early arrivals were two elderly African American women. Esther and Lillian, I think their names were. I know rallies involve a lot of standing, so I was a little worried about them, but they assured me that they had come prepared to see "Mr. Martin O'Malley" and had folding chairs in the car. They informed me that O'Malley would be speaking at their senior center later that week, and they were excited about it. That was a high point!

(Of course, there was also a low point. When I asked them about Ben Cardin, Esther said, "Who?" Thinking she hadn't heard me well, I leaned in closer and said, "Congressman Ben Cardin?" "I heard you!" Esther told me. "I just don't know who that is.")

The Speakers
There was the usual introduction of everybody there practically right down to the local dog catcher, and things starting warming up, right on cue. Terry Lierman spoke about the Maryland Democratic Party as a whole. Doug Gansler spoke briefly about his desire to be the environmental AG. Franchot talked about the role of the Comptroller. And as I watched the candidates, I realized that Maryand Democrats are truly blessed this cycle. We won't have to hold our noses for anybody--each candidate is really strong in his or her own way. We've got great people running this year.

The most dynamic of the early speakers was, as always, Congressman Elijah Cummings, who received an enthusiastic welcome and turned up the volume. Cummings asked us to look around at the diversity of the crowd, which he said was positively "rainbowish". And just glancing around me without looking far at all, I realized how right he was. African Americans turned out in force. A very nice Chinese American woman stood behind me. And the woman with fantastic boots standing in front of me was of Hispanic descent.

Anthony Brown
One of the smartest things Martin O'Malley ever did was to pick Anthony Brown as his running mate. Anthony Brown is an Iraqi vet who knows what it's like to grow up black in America. He also has an instant appeal that is going to cross political and racial boundaries in this election and those to come.

Other Democratic politicians may seem wonkish or overly polished. We all know Democrats whose strengths lie in fiery rhetoric or poetic language. But Anthony Brown is all sports analogies and military tactics. He's tough, he's straightforward, and he's dynamic. He exudes a can-do, every-day-guy ethos.

He's not your preacher. He's your fitness coach, and you do what he says because you know it's for your own good. You trust Brown--immediately. You know if something needs to get done, he'll be the one to make it happen.

When it comes to Anthony Brown, Martin O'Malley and the Maryland Democratic Party absolutely lucked out.

This guy is magnificent and the crowd loved him.

Now, I've seen O'Malley speak before. I've seen him mesmerize a crowd, and I've also seen him when he looks like an overachieving school boy trying to explain why his homework answer is right and everybody else's is wrong.

But I haven't seen the Martin O'Malley I saw today.

I don't know if some brilliant advance people just made sure that Anthony Brown talked until the sun was just in the right postion or what, but O'Malley came out like a rock star to a cheering crowd and sunshine. He was happy. Optimistic. And passionate.

O'Malley isn't just some guy running for office. He has a mission--a broad mission that really resonates with me. He could talk just about Maryland issues. He could stop giving ammunition to those who criticize him for his perceived higher ambitions. But to do that would be to lie about what he's about--it would also be to lie about the Democratic Party. All politics is local, and all political missions are national--sometimes even global.

Every political struggle, from civil rights, to civil liberties, to security, to education and so on, has a national context. O'Malley gets that. He followed up on Cummings' point that Maryland must be thought of in the broader perspective. As if the world's eyes are on us in this election.

The point of having better schools in Maryland isn't just to help Maryland students--it's to show the nation how it's done, so that all of our children are better off.

Many people have heard O'Malley talk about the real reason Maryland is called the "Old Line State." He talks about it so much because it seems fundamental to his understanding of the political struggle we find ourselves in.

Without a small group of Maryland citizen soldiers, Washington's Army would have been crushed, and our nation would not have been born. O'Malley tells that story to encourage us to think about who we are as a state, what we mean, what our sacrifices and accomplishments mean in the broader context. And as a Democrat in these days we've spent in the wilderness, I find that truly inspiring.

But the part of O'Malley's speech that was the most touching was a small mention of federalism. Perhaps no big city mayor can reflect upon what happened during Katrina without a feeling of dread. Certainly, O'Malley cannot reflect upon it without showing emotion. And it isn't feigned.

He is a passionate, skilled, and charismatic speaker. He's also a passionate, skilled, and charismatic leader. Bill Clinton once famously said that in the primaries you fall in love, but then it's time to fall in line. It was clear that nobody had to fall in line at that rally today.

It's love.

I no longer need a nap. O'Malley killed, and right about now, I'd be willing to walk through a brick wall for him. I guess canvassing and phone banking will have to do.

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Blogger nickshepDEM said...

Thank you for this entry. I really enjoyed it.

I spent 5 hours today dropping off lit and canvassing for O'Malley and the entire Democratic ticket w/ my elected officials.

What have you done to elect Democrats lately?

Lets finish this race strong people.

10/28/2006 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mdman said...

I actually took part of the day off and went to Virginia to do a lit drop for Jim Webb. The Post poll yesterday made me feel a little better about doing that, but on the way home, I stopped in Bethesda and did some phone banking for our ticket. We cannot let up. I am making calls tonight and I will spend the weekend and Monday and Tuesday all day working for the ticket.

I went to a nice little rally in Takoma Park after we finished canvassing on Saturday. We had a great turn out of pols, including Anthony Brown, Chris Van Hollen, Al Wynn, Peter Franchot and Myrna Cardin. Even Donna Edwards showed up. Preaching to the choir, for sure, but a nice little boost for those of us who have been working hard. In fact, we had more people show up to canvass than we had canvassing materials, so we went out in groups of three or four and did lit drop as well.

We cannot let up.

10/30/2006 09:37:00 AM  

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