McCain Supporters Angry! Mean! Scary!
The latest media meme is that McCain rallies are full of angry, bitter (and presumably racist) Americans who hate Obama. Both, apparently, are based a single rally yesterday in Waukesha, Wisconsin — and just two outbursts from the crowd, at that.
Slate‘s John Dickerson was on the case last night with a piece titled “A Republican Mob Scene: John McCain’s supporters are madder (and scarier!) than he is.”
At a normal campaign rally, it’s the candidate who tries to whip the crowd into a frenzy. At John McCain’s town hall in Waukesha, Wis., Thursday, it was the other way around. “I’m mad, and I’m really mad,” said one man who’d been called on to ask a question. “It’s not the economy. It’s the socialist taking over our country.” McCain started to respond, and the man shot back sternly. “Let me finish please. When you have an Obama, Pelosi, and the rest of the hooligans up there gonna run this country, we’ve got to have our head examined. It’s time that you two who are representing us, and we are mad.”
After the crowd stopped chanting “USA,” McCain promised that he would take on Obama and the Democrats (and wisely didn’t choose the moment to present his case for the financial bailout or his plan to have the government buy mortgages). Before the question-and-answer portion of the rally, McCain had already clobbered Obama several times. But the audience stuffed into the gymnasium at a local sports center wasn’t satisfied.
A man suggested McCain talk about abortion to draw the distinction between him and Obama. Another asked, “Why is Obama where he’s at? Everyone in this room is stunned. We are all a product of our associations. Is there not a way to get around this media and line up the people” whom he is associated with? (No one in the press corps could hear the end of the man’s statement because the crowd roar was so loud. Each advice-giver was cheered like a hero.)
James T. Harris, a local African-American talk-show host, stood and said, “I doubt that anyone in this room has taken, pardon me, the ass-whuppin’ that I have taken for supporting you. Sir, I believe that in the next coming debate it is absolutely vital that you take it to Obama and that you hit him where it hits” [sic]. The crowd exploded. “ACORN is out there, we have Reverend Wright, all of these shady characters that surrounded him. I am begging you, sir.” McCain told the man that he would take his advice—but that he also will offer a “positive plan of action” to address the financial crisis.
Michael Shear and Perry Bacon pick up the torch in this morning’s WaPo with “Anger Is Crowd’s Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally.”
There were shouts of “Nobama” and “Socialist” at the mention of the Democratic presidential nominee. There were boos, middle fingers turned up and thumbs turned down as a media caravan moved through the crowd Thursday for a midday town hall gathering featuring John McCain and Sarah Palin.
[Harris quotes redacted]
In recent days, a campaign that embraced the mantra of “Country First” but is flagging in the polls and scrambling for a way to close the gap as the nation’s economy slides into shambles has found itself at the center of an outpouring of raw emotion rare in a presidential race.
“There’s 26 days and people are looking at the very serious possibility that there’s a chance that Obama might get in, and they don’t like that,” said Ian Eltrich, 28, as he filed out of the crowded sports complex.
“I’m mad! I’m really mad!” another man said, taking the microphone and refusing to surrender it easily, even when McCain tried to agree with him.
Sheesh. Look: It’s the closing days of a long, polarizing campaign. We’ve been whipped up to believe that this is The Most Important Election in American History and that The Fate of America’s Future is at stake. McCain is losing. Obama is winning. The culmination of all this is that some McCain supporters are frustrated.
This has been the case as long as I can remember. Certainly, we saw it in 2004, as Kerry supporters simply could not believe that we were about to re-elect George W. Bush. Heck, we saw it from supporters of Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and other losing candidates in this year’s primaries. People who are enthusiastic enough about a candidate to show up at a rally are naturally going to have a hard time dealing with the fact that their fellow partisans/countrymen don’t share their view. That’s especially for those afflicted with Pauline Kael Syndrome and therefore can’t even imagine what kind of people would vote for the other candidate.
While the existence of public polls can skew the election results that they purportedly are trying to predict, they also have the salutary effect of helping people come to terms with these things. People in, say, San Francisco probably found it hard to believe that Bush was likely to win last time but they were at least prepared for the possibility. Similarly, people in, say, Birmingham (or, more accurately, its affluent suburbs) are coming to grips with the likelihood that Barack Obama is going to be their next president.
I know nothing about James T. Harris. To the extent that he’s a proxy for others, though, he’s far more likely dealing with Stage 3 in the in the grief process rather than a generally bitter, angry individual.