Watching the debate last night from the bar in the conference hotel provided some interesting political insights. First, at the speakers’ dinner, the crowd made it very clear that the festivities should end prior to 8:00 p.m. Sure there was an open bar, but we had a debate to watch! There was a buzz surrounding this thing that certainly hasn’t existed prior to other VP debates–or at least since the Dan Qualye, Lloyd Bentsen debate, which one of my colleagues who also has Texas roots reminded me about.
By the time we rushed out of the banquet room and settled ourselves onto some barstools, the debate-watching crowd included college professors, business executives, healthcare administrators, and several hotel employees. The employees provided a bit of racial diversity, but it was a primarily white, middle to upper middle class gathering. I know enough about several of those attending to know that their families would fall in the “over $250,000 per year” tax bracket, but I’d say most are below that level. I forgot to mention that we also hailed from across the country: the Midwest, the South, the Northeast, and the West. Geographically, we had things pretty well-covered.
I thought, seeing as how we all had to get up the next morning and work together to put on a nice series of conference presentations, that this whole group debate watching thing might be awkward. What amazed me was the level of agreement from the crowd regarding our opinion of Palin and our support for Obama. One middle-aged white man watching told me he’d been a registered independent for years but that he hadn’t been this excited about a candidate since Bobby Kennedy in ’68. It also was fun to see how the African-American waitress had exactly the same reactions to Palin’s avoidance of giving actual answers to several of the questions as did I and several of the other women from our group, though she did seem to have a much more positive reaction to Biden’s statement that he does not support gay marriage than did the rest of us. I know that’s the official campaign position on the issue, but I don’t have to like it.
And after watching all these relatively diverse people express their united desire for real change in America, I just can’t believe how close the poll numbers still are. I know I’m going to have knots in my stomach for the next month until we finally have the results in from this election. But two things give me some hope after last night. The first was one colleague who said she had been excited by Palin’s nomination at first, but that the more she actually sees of her the more she realizes she isn’t qualified for the job. The second was a comment from another women in the bar last night. She turned to me and said, “Can you even believe she’s up there?” When I answered, “Well, she’s a woman, you’re going to vote for her, right?” she looked at me and said, “Well, actually, I’m a smart woman, so I’ll be voting for Obama.”
Me too, lady. Me too!