One day after Hillary Clinton announced the suspension of her campaign, supporters of Barack Obama in Los Angeles celebrated the clinching of his nomination by marching in the 38th L.A. Pride Parade, part of an annual three-day celebration of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.
Pam Cooke, the local coordinator of L.A. Pride events for the Obama campaign, expected about 150 volunteers to participate in the parade. Though she has organized Pride events for previous Democratic presidential candidates, this year she felt things were different -- and not just because of the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down California's ban on same-sex marriages.
"This is the first time we have been so excited about a candidate," said Cooke.
Obama volunteers show their Pride
As volunteers trickled in slowly before the start of the parade, Cooke delegated tasks. A few volunteers decorated the makeshift parade float -- a white Dodge pickup truck -- with Obama signs and stickers. Some were asked to develop Obama cheers for the hour-long parade route. Still others passed around t-shirts, voter registration packets, and stickers that incorporated the rainbow flag design into Obama's familiar "O" logo. Once the parade started down Santa Monica Blvd., some participants would exit the procession to register voters along the route -- an example of the concerted effort to appeal to new voters that has been a hallmark of the Obama campaign.
Acknowledging Clinton's concession the previous day, Cooke, along with Jeremy Bernard, a regional coordinator for the campaign, kicked off the event by asking the volunteers to welcome Clinton supporters "with open arms." Local politicians -- including State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles City Councilmen Jack Weiss, Bernard Parks, and openly gay Bill Rosendahl -- spoke to the Obama supporters and echoed the message of party unity.
For Clinton supporters -- even given the welcome offered by Obama's volunteers -- one day was not enough to erase disappointment in the outcome of the primary season.
As members of the Obama camp filed onto the street, holding up signs and chanting Obama's name, several people in the crowd booed and gave the "thumbs down" sign. Others shouted out Clinton's name as the group marched forward.
Obama volunteers, however, were confident about wooing Clinton supporters and winning the election in November.
Michael Maney, a public relations professional originally from Georgia, pointed to Obama's "unifying theme" as what drew him to the candidate in the first place.
"In the midst of all the skepticism in the world, Obama offers an alternative: hope," said Maney. "We can all be united in fighting for change."
Jim Carty, a real estate investor from Santa Monica, believes Obama should have no trouble picking up Clinton's supporters, given Obama's "magical" qualities and his inclusive nature. A seasoned volunteer for the Obama campaign, Carty has traveled to Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and most recently, Montana, telling hundreds of voters why he thinks Obama should be the next president of the United States.
"I've been voting since the 1970s, and this is the first time we've had someone like Obama," said Carty. "I don't think we'll have another leader like him in my lifetime."
Though new to the political process, Luis Penate and Margarita Lopez, both students at L.A. Leadership Academy, expressed the same kind of excitement over Obama. To them, it does not matter that they are not old enough to vote.
"Obama really speaks to us. Not like McCain," said Penate, who is a junior in high school.
His teacher, Phyllis Rosen, says she had a difficult time choosing between Obama and Clinton, especially "as a woman of [her] age," but she eventually decided to support Obama. "He matches the spirit of these times," she said.
Still, reactions from the crowd in attendance at the parade suggest that it won't be easy to convince followers of Clinton to embrace her former rival, despite Clinton's unequivocal call for her supporters to unite behind Obama. With John McCain aiming to pick up these disgruntled Clinton voters, it remains to be seen whether Clinton's efforts to campaign for Obama, coupled with Obama's fight to capture new voters, will be enough to secure a Democratic victory in November.