I don’t remember a time when my state has mattered so much in a primary, and may even matter in a general election.
So we’ve had visitors.
Friday, Hillary Clinton came to Buffalo’s Pierce Arrow Museum on Michigan Street. Maybe 1,000 people were there. At least 100 were turned away because it was so crowded inside. The cops said we couldn’t come in, but I had press credentials for
myself and my student journalists, so after a few emails, someone from the campaign came out and escorted us inside.
The crowd was excited and energetic. Hillary said she ate some “chicken wings,” and “beef on weck,” which is something you say if you’re not from Buffalo and you think you need to show people from Buffalo that you “get” Buffalo. It’s a weird rhetorical circle that actually casts you as more of an outsider than an insider. Basically, it sounded like she was trying too hard. At least she didn’t say Buffalo wings.
She gave her stump speech. People cheered. We left. A man wearing a Buffalo-skin hat shouted “Benghazi! She had eight hours, and she did nothing.” One of my students wanted to interview him but I told her not to bother, he just hollered everything he thinks he knows at us.
Last night, Bernie Sanders spoke at Alumni Arena on the UB campus in Amherst. Big difference. Huge crowd — 12,000 people? Insane cheering. Rapturous looks on peoples’ faces. Lots of shouting back.
Again, my students had the good camera gear so I just took a few snaps with my iPhone. Here’s one:
Bernie gave his stump speech. He localized it. He talked about local jobs in manufacturing that left for Mexico. People booed. At times, they screamed with joy. I mean, screamed. Especially when he talked about equal pay for women, loosening restrictions on marijuana, and how Donald Trump won’t be president (“Ain’t gonna happen,” he said). The noise was intense. I think Sanders’ message is attractive and I agree with many things he says, but it’s frightening to be among any group of True Believers if you’re not one of them, even if you’re sympathetic to them.
Later, I learned that thousands of people stood outside during the speech because they couldn’t get in. Thousands. It’s just a fact, but Hillary Clinton did not have thousands of people clamoring to get in for her.
One thing about Sanders’ speech that was different from Clinton’s: Clinton’s message was positive. She emphasized how things had been steadily getting better in Buffalo. That’s a message we’ve been hearing for a while. Sanders, on the other hand, told us things were bad and getting worse. We heard about manufacturing jobs that have left over the last decade, and he laid the blame at Clinton’s feet, for her support of trade deals that threw American workers out onto the streets.
Next week, Donald Trump is coming to town, and will speak at an even bigger venue, the First Niagara Center. Last night in Albany, some protesters were assaulted at a Trump rally. I’m considering keeping my students home for this one. On the other hand, it might be educational to see an angry mob up close.