Barack Well Received in SoCal

Courtesy of Jenny Lin

President Barack Obama stopped in Los Angeles on Friday, Oct. 22 to rally voters in preparation for the upcoming California election. The event, entitled “Moving America Forward,” drew more than 37,000 people to the center of campus at USC. Several UC Irvine students woke up early to attend the rally, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president and hear what he had to say.

Appealing to the assembly of Trojans, Obama urged voters and supporters to “fight on” in his speech, which was part of a cross-country tour of rallies and fundraising events across the country intended to “get out the vote.”

“This is going to be a difficult election,” he said. “We need all of you to fight on. We need all of you fired up.”

Much of the content of the speech was focused on engaging young people to get involved. Recalling the activity of younger voters in his own election to the presidency, Obama encouraged college students to get active and make a difference, “just like you did in 2008.”

Thousands of people lined up as early as 5:00 a.m. to get a good spot for the event. In the end, most attendees were not able to actually see the stage; some were forced to listen from nearby streets or on the opposite side of campus. Although traffic had been a problem in previous rallies in the area, Obama opted to fly in on Marine One for the event. The lack of a presidential motorcade kept the streets much less crowded for those who attended.

The rally turned out to be quite a production. Los Angeles-based band Ozomatli performed a short set of songs and the USC Marching Band played the standard Trojan fight songs. Jamie Foxx introduced several of the speakers and pumped up the audience. Several notable California politicians also addressed the crowd, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Barbara Boxer and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.

Foxx echoed the concern of several of the speakers when he noted that Republicans were beating out Democrats in terms of enthusiasm and activism. He responded by leading the gathered crowd in a chant: “We’re not exhausted.”

Many observers noted that Obama’s visit to Los Angeles underscored concern for potential GOP victories in the state. The latest polling, however, has Attorney General Brown at a 13-point lead over GOP candidate Meg Whitman; Senator Boxer is ahead of Republican-hopeful Carly Fiorina by eight points.

Without mentioning the names of their opponents even once, each politician, speaking on the steps of the Doheny Library, echoed a message of social justice that resonated with the assembled Democratic supporters. Brown reminded the crowd that “the country works better when we share.” Obama stated that, in his opinion, the basic philosophy of the Republican side is “you’re on your own” and added, “I believe in a country where we look after one another, where we say, ‘I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.’”

In a moment of pseudo-comedy, President Obama offered an analogy: “Have you ever noticed, when you want to go forward in the car you put your car in D? When you go backwards, you put it in R.”

Obama went to great lengths to tout his achievements, while attributing the difficulty of the current economic situation to the policies of the previous administration. He stated that the Republican strategy has been to get people to forget this point, but added, “As I look out on this crowd, this tells me you haven’t forgotten.”

Time will tell how effective President Obama’s efforts over the past few weeks have been. Every indication is that the Democratic Party will lose seats in both the House and the Senate, and the rally highlighted this perceived threat. Nevertheless, President Obama remained hopeful that his supporters would come through. He encouraged voters to “defy the conventional wisdom” and “overcome the cynicism,” leaving the crowd with his time-tested mantra: “Yes, we can.”