BuzzFlash Guest Commentary
September 27, 2002
High Noon At The Holiday Inn With Al Gore
BuzzFlash Guest Commentary
9/25/02 -- Radiotelevision de Rio Bravo from Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua; the Las Cruces High School mariachi band; cheerleaders; union leaders; a college student begging for a ticket...it could only be a Democratic get-out-the vote rally featuring Al Gore, hot on the heels of his momentous San Francisco speech on Monday, September 23 and a rally in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Tuesday
Although I arrived very early for the 11:30 rally, the place was packed. I had brought about 25 slips of paper that I had designed and printed up which included the BuzzFlash logo, the link to my little site, and the Democratic Underground URL. I started out handing a few out to union leaders, a college student, a woman with a camera representing "Lens Press" who was trying to get to the press area, and a few local politicians. As people filed in, the Onate High School band joined the mariachis and started playing ditties like "Born to be Wild," "Twist and Shout," and "Wooly Bully" as only big bands can play them. I think I heard "My Country 'Tis of Thee" three times before noon. Around 11:40 the obligatory "your car will be towed" announcement was made. By 11:45, older women with bad knees were clapping and cheering to "I Get Around" as still more people filed in. I estimate the crowd was at least 500.
By noon, the Gore-Richardson party had arrived after appearing at a breakfast in Albuquerque and the introductions began. Everyone stood for the national anthem. No one can say that New Mexican Democrats aren't patriotic...they sang with fervor and brought tears to my eyes. The Star Spangled Banner usually doesn't emotionally affect me, but these people sang their hearts out and one could tell that many were crying out both love and SADNESS over what has happened to the country.
A representative from Senator Jeff Bingaman's office read a letter. He was supposed to be in town for the rally, but his letter said he was still in Washington working to get a good energy bill completed.
At 12:10 there was an announcement that people had to move so Gore and Bill Richardson would be able to pass. The announcer said the Secret Service had made the request, but I don't believe any Secret Service people were there. I saw only uniformed county sheriffs around the stage.
A large part of the introductions involved the naming of all the unions that were represented: teachers, electrical, plumbing and steamfitters, communications workers, sheet metal workers, steel workers, government workers, the state field reps from the AFL-CIO, and leaders from the Tortugas Indian Pueblo. Listening to the list unfold, I envisioned the working people of the country, the people who make the country run. It was a moving recitation.
The local candidate for the open Congressional seat being vacated by Joe Skeen spoke briefly and was a pleasant surprise. He nailed his opponent Pearce, for whom Bush raised a load of money recently, repeatedly pointing out issue after issue that Pearce supposedly "supports" but which never has voted to fund.
Bill Richardson then came on and did a brief turn before introducing Diane Denish, running to be the first female Lt. Governor. Diane minced no words, calling Al "The man who should have been President" and referring to how he "proudly stood a few days ago...to raise issues that are important to all Americans."
At 12:40, Al finally took the stage, took off his jacket, and shouted "Viva Las Cruces!"
Many of his warm-up jokes are now familiar to most readers: how he used to be V.P., the Shoney's story, etc. But, I laughed as hard as anybody else did because hearing them done live, with little twists and in the company of fellow Democrats, is much different than seeing him deliver them on TV. Especially poignant was how he told the story of the rally here in Las Cruces only a few days before the election (which drew over 10,000 people), how good he had felt, "filled with green chile and red chile...then the election and the 36 days."
Breaking for a moment, he said he was now switching from napkins to a towel to wipe off the perspiration, quipping, "I knew I shouldn't have had that Chile before I came out here!"
Al thanked America for letting him serve, listing all his offices and his service in the Army in Viet Nam, a nice touch considering that Las Cruces is just over the mountains from the White Sands Missile Range and is the home of many military retirees.
After the jokes, Al said it was time to get serious and he started to talk about the election. He said there is a "need for men and women in office who care about YOU!" He spoke about the economy and asked, "Are you better off than you were two years ago? And are you ready to do something about it?" He spoke about the recession, and focused on the latest poverty report and how New Mexico has been hit harder than anyplace else.
"People have to decide to vote in their own self-interest," he exclaimed. "They've been beguiled by fancy slogans used by the other side." He added that meanwhile, Republicans have been "making connections for those who already are well-off."
Then he told a story that I HADN'T heard before. He told the story about how a man was riding down the road and saw a sign saying "Republican kittens for sale." The sign was up for a couple of weeks. Then one day he saw the "Republican" crossed out and replaced by the word "Democratic." Curious, the man stopped and inquired why the sign had been changed to "Democratic kittens." The owner replied, "They were Republican, but they've got their eyes open now!" Much laughter and applause for that one!
Al returned to New Mexico concerns and pointed out that there are only six seats needed to change the House and two of the seats are in New Mexico! Then he said, "God Bless Jim Jeffords."
He mentioned the demise of the surplus, the need for a prescription drug benefit for seniors, and the need to help working people.
Returning to Bill Richardson's bid for the governorship, Al spoke in Spanish (and translated afterward), saying "My mother felt it was a good idea for both of us to shave our beards!" He emphasized that Richardson had the experience to create better ties for better trade between New Mexico and Mexico.
Then Al started to conclude, asking us to recall how we felt the moment the Supreme Court stopped the vote in Florida. People shouted angrily and one voice stood out, proclaiming that "Bush was selected, not elected." Al urged people to start getting people to early polling stations (early voting starts tomorrow 9/26 here in New Mexico). "Every time you feel weary, draw on that feeling.... If someone tries to say your vote doesn't count, send them to talk to me."
On that note, the crowd started to surge forward. I followed and much to my surprise, I was able to get close enough to have Al sign my ticket. People were asking if he was going to run again, one woman praised his San Francisco speech. Just then I managed to get my hand up and shove a wad of my BuzzFlash/DemocraticUnderground slips into Al's hand. He started signing, then realizing they weren't the same as what he had been signing asked, "Are these for me?" Yes, I said, and then told him "we need you." In those brief moments close to him, I noticed that he looks much thinner than he does on TV and that he is very fair with hair that is lighter brown than one would expect.
As I moved away from the podium I bumped into a reporter from the infamous Las Cruces Sun-News who wanted to know what I thought about rallies. I said it energized people. I handed him my very last BuzzFlash/DemocraticUnderground slip. I said that, "This isn't about Al Gore, you know...it's about people who want to be told the truth about what's going on!" I decried the state of the corporate-controlled press and questioned what was going on at the Sun-News. He smiled and said that with regard to attempting to do any real reporting, "do that a few times and you learn not to do it again."
Al was still signing autographs as I slipped out the back, with a sheriff hovering by his side. I saw all the news trucks, with the confession of the reporter still ringing in my ears. I hung around a few minutes and at 1:30 saw a small motorcade pass by, go up the ramp to I-10, and head out to the airport.
For a moment I felt sad...for what might have been and for what is happening now. Al Gore had been inspiring, warm, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.
"Godspeed, Al Gore," I whispered as I left the Holiday Inn behind. "Godspeed."
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Among her many editorial pursuits, Gloria R. Lalumia writes World Media Watch and other articles for BuzzFlash.com.
Copyright 2002, Gloria R. Lalumia
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