If you had been in the middle of a packed Kellogg Community College gym with 1000 screaming Democrats last night, you would never believe that there is a so-called "enthusiasm gap" out there right now. The Schauer supporters are ready to rumble, and I could tell by the genuine smiles coming from the speakers on the stage that the crowd's enthusiasm was fueling them - and they gave it back to us as they rallied the audience and implored them to get out the vote.
I certainly could feel it, although I couldn't see it too clearly, as I was slammed up against the barrier in the front row and pinned in that one spot the entire time. Which was fine with me. The press photogs positioned themselves up front on the left and right of the floor, leaving the center for the cheering hordes that filled the place - and fill it they did. It reminded me of my general admission concert days at Wings Stadium, minus the smoky air and Bic lighters and bad drunken behavior of rock fans, of course. This crowd was well-behaved - but they certainly did cheer and wave their signs, and suddenly it was 2008 all over again. Full-throated support for them all: Speakers Representative Kate Segal, UAW leader Bob King, a quick wave and shout-out to Supreme Court Justice Alton Thomas Davis and 3rd CD candidate Pat Miles, roaring applause for Mark Schauer - and the place just erupted with thunder when former President Bill Clinton took the stage.
The guy is a Rock. Star. If we could bottle and sell whatever it is that Bill Clinton has, we would never have to worry about losing an election again. He bleeds charisma, even after his third speech of the day, even in a very hot venue that just has to sap your strength when you are on that stage. But, you feel like he is talking directly to you when he speaks. It's almost as if you both are sitting on your porch, having a beer, shooting the breeze, and he's telling you, "Hey. These Republicans are terrible. You know they are. Just look what they did when they were in power. C'mon, get real here." And he proceeded to rattle off everything they did, from blowing the surplus to non-enforcement of trade agreements to abuse of power to... well, you know. You lived it. Clinton asks us if we want to live it again, incredulous at the thought.
"Why is this even a race?" Clinton said, standing on stage next to Schauer. "This guy has been good."
Clinton said he has spoken at 103 events for Democrats this election cycle, even though he's mostly given up politics to focus on philanthropy. He said he's decided the problems for Democrats stem from changes in voter interests and people's worries that the country is not recovering fast enough.
"People only hire us when things are messed up," Clinton said. "The real problem is there is always a gap between when you start doing the things that make sense and when people feel it."
And he is right. You can't expect all this to be magically fixed overnight. It took a few years to recover from the recession in the early 90's when Bill took office - and this last one was much, much worse than that. Clinton argues that house was on fire when the Democrats walked in, and they are putting it out as fast as they can. He pointed out the accomplishments so far, pointed out that the economy is starting to come back - and wonders why we would throw that all away.
During his 34-minute speech, Clinton said President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress' effort to tackle issues like unemployment, student loans and help for small business are the kinds of approaches that need to continue in Washington.
"Go home and activate the social network," Clinton said. "Make sure every American knows this is a choice -- not a referendum."
He urged the crowd to get on your Twitters and your Facebooks and your telephone and hit the pavement and get your friends and family out to vote. We have a choice in front of us. Do you want to go back to the Bush years of Republican abuse? Just look at the lies and distortions in the way they are running their campaigns. Do you want to see all progress in DC stopped, as the John Boehners and Michele Bachmanns of the radical right start a bunch of frivolous nonsense with "investigations" of the White House, as they ignore everything but their own agenda? Do you want to see the Republican plan of more tax cuts for the rich and privatization of Medicare and Social Security pass the House?
As frustrating as the Democrats can be - just remember what the Republicans have in store. You think you are disappointed now, wait and see what happens should they take power. Much better to cast your lot with the Democrats, and keep pushing for progress, hard as that is at times.
The people in Battle Creek are fired up. I love that town. And talking with the pols was great - Kate Segal and Pat Miles are raring to go, Miles even trying to recruit for volunteer efforts, asking me if I have everything I needed to get the word out up here. The 3rd district reaches down into Barry County, and I was surprised at the number of Miles signs along M-37. He has many supporters out in the rural areas, and if we get a good turnout - we might have a nice upset on our hands. Wouldn't that be sweet?
And Mark Schauer has one of the biggest targets in the nation on his back. Republican interest groups are dumping a ton of money on Walberg, sad but true. Why? They know Tim would be a rubber stamp for their agenda. And the fact that the race with Walberg is sitting at 50-50 in a so-called "Republican wave" year is a testament to how just how hard Schauer has worked for the 7th - the people down there know it. They remember what Walberg was like, and they don't want that again. Schauer is so much better for them. It still will be close though, and it's going to come down to turnout.
Vote. Make sure your friends vote. Make sure your neighbors vote. Make sure your family votes. We can't go back, we can't give up now. You know this.
Don't make President Clinton have to come around here again in '12 and say, "I told you so".