Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everybody Loves Clinton (oh, and Lynch)

In a hip-to-hip crowd in the Local 7 Ironworkers hall in Southie, if anyone carried disdain for former President W.J. Clinton, that was buried real deeply. It seemed everyone in the crowd, as well as on the dais, was there to praise and cheer for Bill.

The rally was for MA 9th CD Rep. Stephen Lynch, but the smooth, silver-headed Clinton held the day. Several second and third-tier state pols spoke in favor of re-electing Lynch, as a lead-up to his presentation. That was place holder opening act skits while he and Clinton finished a fund-raiser in the adjacent room.
When the serious duo came — first Lynch and then Clinton — it was all Bill all the time. You're think the rally was for Clinton and Lynch was brought in to fluff the crowd for him. Lynch praised Clinton's presidency mightily and repeatedly, then Bill took over and did the same. He eventually got back around to saying how important it was to keep Lynch in office.

Shades of White

Race and other demographics hadn't seemed much of an issue in this primary so far. Sure Lynch is Irish American and D'Alessandro Latino, but no one has made a deal of it.
I was in the hall packed with maybe 500 folk when the campaign ran a few video clips praising Lynch. Suddenly in the last one, an older black man appeared. As with all the others, he chanted the glories of the incumbent.

Who knows where my brain was, other than not in the moment. I scanned the room several times and moved to get good views. I didn't see a single black face. There were a few Latinos, mostly the purple-shirted service-workers union set. Plus there appeared to be two Latinas in serious business sheaths. They could easily go from work to cocktails and were likely pol staffers from their look and jewelry.
That brings to mind the district's demographics and its likely effects. Although the rally was in South Boston, it was not limited to that neighborhood. Lynch's people pushed it on his website and Facebook page. While it was more convenient for a Southie resident to go to the Summer Street office to pick up a ticket, outlanders from elsewhere in the district (including me) managed it.

To the composition questions at hand, South Boston is one of the whitest areas of the city, at about 87%, with about 7 to 8% Latino, 4% Asian, and 3% black. That contrasts with the whole city at 56% white, 23% black, 16% Latino and small numbers Asian and other.

Interestingly enough, the sprawling, elongated district is not so different from Southie. It runs about 79% white, 8 to 9% black, nearly 5% Latino and nearly 4% Asian. Moreover, in contrast to Lynch's strong emphasis on his union background and worker support, the 9th is only 17% blue collar, with 69% white collar and the rest in that amorphous tech/service/agrarian lump of gray collar workers.
The hall today was disproportionately white and union workers by appearance and what they cheered. You might suppose his heavy emphasis on the blue-collar vote would not have played well with the 9th's demographics. Yet, he snagged the special election victory in 2001, then won terms in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

He loves the history of being the son of an iron worker, then one himself. In reality, he had higher visions early, as evidenced by his becoming Local 7 president. He did that other collar work in getting a technical degree from Wentworth, a law degree from BC, and a masters from Harvard's Kennedy School. His ambition and accomplishments should let his talk the tongue of anyone in his district.

Stealth Mac

I didn't hear the name of Lynch's Dem primary challenger, Mac D'Alessandro, once during the rally, either from the dais or even in the crowd. Yet he was there in several guises.

Before anyone spoke, the purple shirts brushed through the crowd. Maybe a dozen 20-somethings mingled wearing their t-shirts with SEIU/NAGE for Congressman Lynch on the back. No irony was lost in the message that included D'Alessandro's most recent employer. It could be that the two will split labor votes from a variety of angles.
In the opening acts, MA Rep. Marty Walsh made an odd, even irrational, and only slightly veiled attack on Mac. "You don't see Republicans running against their own," he disingenuously said. "That's the wrong message." He said we should not elect someone who "doesn't know that the district's all about." Perhaps another view of his comments is that incumbents think all incumbents, surely including Walsh, deserve re-election, per se.

Amusingly enough, when Clinton gave the final speech, his first remarks ground Walsh's argument to powder. In fairness, he likely would have been more politic about had he not been in the fund-raiser room when the original aired. Clinton seemed to relish memories of his own primaries and generals. He lead off saying politics was a contact sport and you needed to be ready to mix it up if you played. He said there should open debate and people should stop whining.
On the other hand, Clinton didn't seem fully aware of the primary contention. He spoke of aiming for a Lynch victory in November. Odd that.

What the Guys Pushed

In the intros:
  • MA Sen. Jack Hart used several rhetorical devices, favoring epistrophe. His recurring phrase was "with that kind of moxie." He depicted Lynch's votes and positions as independent and courageous.
  • Guy Glodis, Worcester sheriff, plugged himself as running for MA auditor, but briefly. He said that Lynch taught him to remember the underdog and that pols were there to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. He claimed Lynch had "emerged as a national leader for upward mobility and economic prosperity."
Afterward, there was lots of dead air and downtime before the main act. The campaign didn't pipe in spiffy music (we did get to leave later to Bruce's The Rising; so they had CDs). The time and space provide eavesdropping. People were talking the same junk we all do of weather, vacations, other people...and not politics. Given the anti-/pro-Clinton chatter on his FB page, I thought the former President might be in the air.
Lynch himself was refreshingly humble when he arrived. He honestly recognized that Clinton was far more famous and introduced and praised him, acknowledging who was the main act today.

At two points he asked rhetorically whether this was still Clinton country. Those brought the loudest, strongest responses of the day. He presented a Sun King-level history of Clinton's eight years at the helm — undoing Republican waste and deficit spending, growing the staggering economy, getting and keeping us out of war and on and on.

For himself, Lynch spoke of his origins in the Old Colony housing projects and his iron worker start. He said that the proudest moment of his public life was his election as union local president, an honor and sign of respect from his peers. He depicted himself as finding dignity in hard work and translating that into his Congressional career as, "I went there to stand up and fight."
Clinton came on to boisterous accolades and picked up the common-man theme, noting that Lynch understood hard work. Then, he dawdled and meandered in what was not his most focused and brilliant oratory. In fairness, he has likely just pummeled and cajoled the donors behind the wall at length. He may have used his best material and a lot of energy.

To his credit, he did acknowledge the obvious — he was repaying Lynch for supporting and campaigning for Hillary Clinton when she ran for President. He noted that the secretaries of state and defense are two officials who are not allowed to campaign for others. "So, you're stuck with me."
Bill did wander about his topic considerably. Like Lynch, and more, he spent a lot time on the glories of his administration. He was quick to blame previous Presidents for the folly of Reaganomics, in the form of "eight years of trickle-down economics on steroids" when the Republicans had both the White House and Congress.

When he got beyond his own accomplishments, he did have some contemporary messages. His most serious was that health-care costs ruin our economy. He said that if we got those under control, we could fix the rest of our economy, including job creation, in a flash. He referred to other industrialized nations as "our competitors," saying their citizens paid perhaps a ninth of what ours do for proportional health care.

At a couple of closing points, he got to reasons to re-elect Lynch. First, he noted that he understood the anti-government/anti-incumbent drives. "I don't blame people for being mad and wanting to vote against everybody," he said. He also got a bit philosophical and dramatic in saying that those facing joblessness and home loss might feel, "Stop the world. I want to get off. Give me one thing I can control."
He urged the audience to talk with someone new every day. He said to warn them that if they vote against good incumbents or don't vote, "you will get exactly the result you don't want."

Clinton stood still and used his arms, hands and face expressively. He did ramble verbally though, even bringing in the cliche of Willy Sutton saying he robbed banks because that's where the money was. He did return to Lynch's cause often enough though to make his pitch.

As we broke up, a clump of five women his age who had been seated in the small bleachers behind where I stood came together. One stopped the others for attention. Twice, for effect, she said her piece, "I don't care what you say. He's a good looking man."

PM Followup: Chris Lovett posted the BNN tape on the rally with some salient points. I counted six MSM video cameras and at least one serious telephoto long-lens still camera.
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Anonymous said...

Know anyone who has video of the whole thing?

All the stuff online just has Clinton's speech, but since Walsh and Hart are my elected officials and Glodis wants to be one of them, I'm more interested in what they had to say.

massmarrier said...

I'll update if I run across anything. Please do the same.