iOS app Android app

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Patricia Lesko

Patricia Lesko

Posted: October 26, 2010 10:34 AM

On Sunday October 24th, while the Jay-Z song "Empire State of Mind" blasted from speakers, a crowd moved to their seats in Rackham auditorium on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

The crowd included almost a dozen Democratic candidates on the ticket along with Rep. John Dingell--state-level and local politicos who have hitched their political wagons to Representative Dingell's star. It was a Representative Dingell Get Out The Vote (GOTV) event, and the honored guest was former President Bill Clinton.

See video of the event below:



To warm up the crowd an acappella group launched into "A Bridge Over Troubled Waters" -- a tune Democrats such as former President Bill Clinton and President Obama are working hard to make sure doesn't become the Dem theme song after the mid-term elections. Despite a smattering of rain, the mood was upbeat among the people waiting in line to go through security.

Beth Simon, 29, drove an hour from her home in Redford Township, to the Clinton-Dingell Get Out The Vote rally. Simon, a student at the University of Phoenix online, said, "I'm here to support John Dingell and the Democratic Party. We need all the Dems we can get. This is a bad year. I miss the Clinton years, but Representative Dingell has always been there for us."

President Clinton added Michigan to his list of states visited during this mid-term election season in order to shore up support for Democratic candidates. Representative John Dingell Jr.'s candidacy isn't faltering; he's polling at 53 percent, according to an October 22nd poll done by the Detroit Free Press. Mr. Dingell isn't expected to lose to Republican Dr. Rob Steele, but a Dem incumbent polling just over 50 percent after five decades in office is making for a closer race than expected.

Shoshana DeMaria, a resident of Ypsilanti Township, located just east of Ann Arbor, waited in the long line to show her support for Representative Dingell and, she admitted, to see former President Clinton."How often," she asked with a wide grin, "does Clinton come to Michigan?"

DeMaria said that she wanted to make sure that Democrats win in November. "We need to keep the President's agenda alive."

Republicans are eyeing Michigan this election season, in particular the Michigan 1st Congressional District, where Republican Dr. Dan Benishek is leading Democratic state Representative Gary McDowell in the polls . That seat, being vacated by Representative Bart Stupak, has been Democratic since 1992. The NRCC, and the DCCC have funded mailers and television attack ads the Michigan 1st race, but not in the Michigan 15th Congressional District race.

Ypsilanti resident LaVerne Mingas and her husband Virgil, a Captain with the Detroit Fire Department, talked about their reasons for attending the rally. Ms. Mingas was adamant:

"I'm here because I wanted to see and hear Bill Clinton." When the subject of John Dingell came up, Ms. Mingas, who teaches at a nursery school that serves both low income and single-parent families said, "I want to hear him say he cares about Michigan, cares about the unemployment. I want to hear him say he cares about education."

She didn't go home disappointed.

UAW President Bob King, who delivered a rousing speech, promised to deliver one of the largest turn-outs ever from among his membership, and called for the creation of more "good middle-class jobs."

Representative Dingell, in his speech, hewed to well-honed Democratic talking points: the struggle of the middle-class, the idea that Republicans will give tax cuts to the "richest two percent of Americans," reduce the deficit by "trying to privatize social security," that they will cut Pell grants, and student loans. Mr. Dingell went on to say that Republicans have declared war "on middle class families. Not on my watch. Not on your watch."

Representative Sandy Levin, who has represented Michigan's 12th Congressional District since 1983, told the audience that "young people" will decide the course of the November election. Levin said, "If you vote, we win. This election will decide the course of American politics for the next decade." Providing a possible explanation as to why President Clinton was called to Michigan at the last minute, Levin said, "I can safely say that he [Dingell] considers this the most important general election he's ever been in, except, perhaps, for 1960."

The ovation for former President Clinton lasted almost a full minute. Mr. Clinton began his 40 minute speech by telling listeners that, "frankly there are a few things about this election that have got me somewhere between disturbed and ticked off." He also said that he "just about gags," when he hears Republicans on Capitol Hill "lambast" Democrats and President Obama as "big spenders and socialists." Mr. Clinton spoke about a report he had read that detailed expected voter turn-out in November. He said overall voter turnout is expected to be down by "25 percent, that the African-American turnout will drop 40 percent, Hispanic turnout will drop by more than 30 percent, and the drop anticipated among voters 25 and under will be "55 percent."

The audience gasped and booed.

To counter the feared drop in Democratic turn-out, Clinton urged listeners not once but twice to "flood Facebook, YouTube, and flood your email. Do whatever you can. Do not let young people sit this election out."

Barb and Bob Roether, 60-something Democrats from Ann Arbor, both of whom attended the rally, heeded Clinton's call to use social media to reach out to friends, colleagues and, particularly, young people. Immediately after the rally, Barb Roether posted photos of the event to Facebook, and Tweeted this message to her followers: "We must all get out to vote Nov 2nd. Democrats need to be heard & we must not go back to old regime. Great message from Clinton today."

Ironically, few of the Democratic politicians who urged the audience members to get out the vote during the upcoming election, heeded President Clinton's repeated calls to use social media to encourage friends, colleagues and, in particular young people, to boost the Democratic vote on November 2nd. Neither Representative John Dingell's Twitter or Facebook page appears to have been updated. Former President Clinton's Facebook nor his Twitter page, each last updated on October 15th, appear to make mention of his own Michigan Get Out The Vote message, or referenced his trip to stump for Rep. Dingell.

 

Follow Patricia Lesko on Twitter: www.twitter.com/A2Politico