About Town - September, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Portland's Got a crush on Obama

I've attended a fair number of political rallies, although I must admit that I've only seen one presidential candidate speak live (when he was running for president). Still, it feels fair to say that I've never seen more rabid political fans than those who filled the Portland Expo Center this evening to hear presidential candidate Barack Obama speak.  It inspired my curiousity: Obama may be falling behind in the polls, but is there any other candidate who incites such elation in his or her supporters? I honestly don't know the answer, but I want to.

The room was sweltering, and Obama, tall and lean, entered in a blue dress shirt, sleeves rolled up, top button undone. His lips don't look purple from a distance. He said he had a head cold, and warned the audience that he might sound like Elmer Fudd, but his voice boomed throughout the arena.

Obama was speaking in Maine, but his sights were on our neighbor to the south/west, where a primary win could change the momentum of the 2008 presidential race. Before the senator took the stage, Obama's statewide coordinator in New Hampshire, Brian Sullivan, exhorted the audience to join that state's volunteers in gathering support and door-knocking efforts. Obama too asked the crowd to forego the "easier choices" -- presumably, getting swept away by the Hillary wave -- and actively join his campaign.

He never mentioned Clinton by name -- he saved the naming of names for the really bad guys, like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Scooter Libby -- but she was present throughout his speech. She was there when he highlighted his early and vocal opposition to the war in Iraq; she was there when he claimed his lack of Washington-insider experience was in fact a boon ("A long resume does not guarantee good judgement," he said); she was there when he acknowledged part of his  foreign policy platform is the principle that "strong presidents aren't afraid to talk to their enemies."

And the crowd loved it. I saw girls squealing, Beatles-style, and old ladies frantically waving their Obama '08 signs. Obama himself noted the diversity in age, race, ethnicity, and class -- both at the Expo Center and at his other campaign stops.

All the Democratic candidates will appear at a debate at Dartmouth College tomorrow night.

9/25/2007 6:58:32 PM by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [1] |  

Impeachment supporters visit Allen's office

Earlier this afternoon, about 250 people hand-delivered letters to Representative Tom Allen's Exchange Street office, calling for Allen to vote for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The letters, written by the Maine Campaign to Impeach, included these key points: 

·        Bush lied to Congress to start a war without legitimate reasons

·        Bush administration has committed illegal torture throughout the world

·        Bush administration has detained American citizens without charges or counsel

·        Bush administration has illegally wiretapped American citizens

Allen staffers had the unenviable task of receiving each and every paper individually, and in some cases listening to a small speech. Allen himself is out of town.  

An extremely informal survey suggested that the activists calling for impeachment would not support Allen in his Senate race against Susan Collins in 2008. One protest organizer, the energetic Deborah Gordon, said she would prefer to vote for a third party candidate -- or not to vote at all -- than cast her support for Allen.

9/25/2007 3:02:05 PM by Deirdre Fulton | Comments [0] |  

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rally Supports Jena 6, Maine inmates

"Free the Jena 6!" cried demonstrators in Portland's Post Office Park on Thursday afternoon. A group of around 70 people gathered, as part of nationwide demonstrations that day objecting to racially motivated prosecutions in the Louisiana town of Jena. (See here the full story of the six black teenagers expelled from school and charged with attempted murder for beating up a white kid, just a short time after a group of white teens got off scot-free for hanging three nooses from a tree on school grounds.)

Several people spoke, including longtime Maine African-American activist and former legislator Gerry Talbot, and City Councilor Dave Marshall. Marshall detailed three race-related initiatives the city is undertaking, including a day of remembrance for the victims of the Darfur genocide, a project getting local artists to design anti-racist fliers to be distributed in response to occasional racist flyering around the city, and the probability that the city will