If the classic 'Tale of Two Cities' were ever to become a modern sitcom --- St. Louis could well be the setting. Just this past week, as politicos spread across the city for votes, the presidential candidates keynoted events, though in very different venues, and each event spoke volumes about the two men.
Obama's event took place on the Arch grounds, mere walking distance from the 'Old Courthouse' --- the same historic courthouse where the infamous Dred Scott case was originally tried, the case that ultimately enforced slavery as the 'law of the land.' Dred Scott v. Sandford, maintained that both slaves AND THEIR DESCENDANTS could never be citizens of the US. This was the legal standard until the 13th amendment was added to the constitution, which abolished slavery, followed by the 14th amendment which guarantees full rights and citizenship to any person --- regardless of race.
I asked voters in the crowd to talk about the issues they were weighing as they considered their votes. In relation to national security, judgments of the 'temperament' of the candidates mattered. A self-defined 'soccer mom,' Annie Darek, explained;
..."if you take away policy and look at the temperament issue, it tells the story. McCain sneers, rolls his eyes, and is overall condescending, dismissive and insulting. Obama is respectful, studious, listens to people and uses humor in a human way --- not sarcastic."
Annie added that national security is fought on two fronts: through the force of weapons and diplomacy.
"Diplomacy is HUGE and McCain's zero on that front. McCain doesn't care that he has no diplomatic skills. Obama's more than capable handling any sort of crisis in a calm and thoughtful manner." As she spoke, the crowd nearby all agreed in a chorus of affirmations.
Annie's comments fairly echoed recent polling comparing democrats vs. republicans on 10 key electoral issues. According to a poll taken this month by Rasmussen, the majority of voters nationwide now trust democrats more than republicans on all 10 electoral issues cited, including national security. Here in Missouri, Rasmussen polling also places Obama ahead in Missouri by some 5 points, while a Suffolk University poll places McCain ahead in Missouri by one point, which is within the standard error of measurement.
The McCain event took place in St. Charles County, a conservative area known for its planned segregation and gated communities. Tickets were required and could be purchased either through the campaign or on the local Metrotix website. Republican leaders were present, including Senator Lindsey Graham, former Senator John Danforth and current Senator Kit Bond. Senator Bond recently embarrassed constituents when he clarified his understanding of water boarding in an interview with PBS journalist Gwen Ifill. When asked if water boarding constituted torture, Bond compared it to swimming:
"There are different ways of doing it. It's like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. The water boarding could be used almost to define some of the techniques that our trainees are put through, but that's beside the point. It's not being used."
Senator Graham introduced the man of the hour. You'll recall that Senator Graham recently attacked his 'friend', Congressman John Lewis, for daring to speak out against the hate speech reported at several Palin appearances.
While both campaigns gave stump speeches, the composition of the crowd defined each event. It is very telling that here in Missouri, a state infamous not only for its conservatism but its institutional racism, Obama generated a record-breaking crowd of 100,000, who came out on a chilly Saturday, waiting some 2-4 hours to hear him speak. The crowd was as diverse as it was large.
Conversely, the audience facing McCain had only two flavors --- wealthy and white. Crowd estimates put attendance at roughly 2000 people.
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