Last night both democratic candidates for President were in my hometown. Having become thoroughly disenchanted with Bernie, I decided to try and hear Hillary Clinton speaking at my old university.
I got in line about an hour and fifteen minute before the doors were set to open, in hindsight far too late. I didn’t get in the door, or even get all that close to the door. In the end, I had the opportunity to listen to the speech from outside the room where myself, about a thousand others and a group of protestors all waited with the slim hope that we might see the Secretary walking in or out of the building.
No such luck.
But I left the university with a deeper sense of accomplishment and contentment than I thought I would. Though I waited for Hillary and never got to see her, I was nonetheless comforted and excited by the whole experience.
The crowd was amazing. It was a lot larger than people anticipated and snaked across much of the campus. Though we were waiting in the sun in Southern California, the atmosphere was light-hearted; everyone just hoped they could get a seat. People were talking about politics and issues with complete strangers. As a person deeply interested in politics but who had never attended a rally, this was a fascinating experience. But what struck me most about the crowd was the diversity. People of all ages, sexes, genders, races, and ethnicities were lined up together. This seemed to be more than a political moment; it was an American moment.
I was even encouraged by the protestors. I was heartened to see peaceful but passionate protest and I was even more gratified by the way in which some in line listened to them or otherwise joined in light-hearted counters to their chants. When I was a student here, the Occupy Movement was in full swing and violent protests had come to our campus when the Regents of the University of California system attempted to have a meeting on our campus. When I heard there were protestors, the violence of a few years ago returned and I was nervous something would happen. The protestors were vocal throughout the whole line and even during the speech that was piped out to us. Though some were annoyed, I was gratified to see this example of free speech and messy democracy.
My experience culminated in stating in a packed area with Hillary supporters as we fervently hoped and scanned windows and doors in the hopes that the Secretary would come greet us. Though we were sorely disappointed on that front, it was wonderful to interact with the crowd and to see so many people of all ages engage in the political process so energetically.
Far from dampening my desire to go to a rally, my inability to get in seems to have kindled a deeper commitment and desire to actually get inside one of these rallies. Waiting for Hillary was truly a transformative event in my political life.