Tonight I found myself at the McCain/Palin rally in Grand Rapids on a trip with my school. My history teacher told me Monday that he had twenty tickets to see speeches from both candidates, and I practically jumped out of my seat to go, mind working all the while on how I could cover the rally for the left side.
Needless to say, I was a bit overprepared tonight - I had with me a voice recorder (yes, I recorded both speeches and the Q & A in their entirety) and a notebook, as well as a camera manned by a Democratic classmate and close friend. I took five pages of notes, front and back, and I hope that I can give you a bit of insight into what the Republican Party's got planned.
Before the doors opened for seating, we got to spend a delightful 20 minutes outside in the sun - an experience made WAY better by seeing our Dems out in full force, lining the streets in protest. In fact, the Democratic protestors were more enthusiastic than the Republicans, and it wasn't even our rally!
Once inside, I was struck by the "well-behavedness" of the Republicans. Isn't this supposed to be a rally? Where's the screaming? Instead, we all filed into chairs and were treated to - oh boy! - country and sixties music. A recurring theme tonight was just how well the Republicans knew who their constituencies were.
Eventually, ten to twenty minutes after the advertised start time of 5:30, Congressman Pete Hoekstra emerged, introducing a few speakers and, ultimately, Governor Palin and Senator McCain. I was possibly alone in that I was irked when Hoekstra made a comment about how the McCain/Palin ticket was going to fight back and finally beat the "radical jihadist" threat. Let's see if we can be any more offensive, Pete!
And this militarism was not only found in Congressman Hoekstra. The all-volunteer Christian school pep band played Anchors Aweigh a total of three
times. Yes, we get it, McCain was in the Navy! Cool! Additionally we got to hear God Bless America and My Country Tis of Thee a number of times, as well as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the National Anthem, and being led in prayer,
all of which was a great
introduction to the major themes of the night - nationalism, militarism,
and blurring the line separating church and state.
It was incredibly ironic how many of McCain's buzzwords and 'quotable lines' were stolen straight from Senator Obama. Right at the beginning of the rally, speaker Ann Schmidt, a collegiate Republican, mentioned that "McCain doesn't see Republicans and Democrats, he sees Americans," to a rousing wave of applause. Is this reminiscent of the 2004 Democratic Covention to anyone else? How about their new slogan, "We Can Do It"? Ring a bell to anyone? To top it off, McCain and Palin both went on and on about change and hope and "no more politics as usual" and a "government on your side." Gee, those ideals sound mighty familiar!
Even the young woman held up as a 'turn voter' testified that she wasn't much of a Democrat to begin with, just brought up that way. Flimsy!
The whole night I heard pandering to one group of voters after another. Nationalism that toed the line, on the other side of which stood rampant imperialism. A blatant disregard for separation that send shivers down my spine straight into my hardcore atheistic boots.
However, my abosolute favorite (read: ironic) quote of the night was when McCain was asked about his plans for defense of the country, and how he would treat defense spending. He responded that he would never cut defense spending. His reason? "We live in a dangerous world!" Wow. A vote for McCain really is a vote for George Bush III.