When you were in college, I advised you to take advantage of living in early primary states by going out and seeing some of the candidates and you all did. This is something none of us could do when we lived in New Jersey when the primaries were so late it hardly mattered.
Kelly, you did it as a photographer for the Daily Gamecock, taking photographs of Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and John McCain. I know Casey saw Hillary Clinton and then Senator Obama. Jamie saw Bill Clinton at a rally at Elon to add to her album of celebrities.
Now that Dad and I are living in this early primary state, I knew I had to take my own advice, so a few weeks ago, when the Republicans were roaming around the state, Dad and I visited Duke’s Barbecue in Orangeburg, where we heard John Kasich speak. The venue was casual. We were seated at a long picnic table with a politically eclectic group of people all doing their primary research like us.
We met a Democratic transplant from Michigan who had a secret crush on Joe Biden. At the end of the table was a woman giving the stink eye to the CNN cameraman (“The only thing worse than CNN is MSNBC”, she told Dad), and across from us was a conservative couple who mentioned their visit to the tea party convention last year. I told Dad that if someone had told me twelve years ago that I would be attending a political event in a barbecue joint in South Carolina, I would have asked what drugs he was taking.
To keep the equation balanced, we attended two Democratic events this past weekend thanks to Casey, who gave me the heads-up on both of them.
On Friday we traveled to Aiken High to see Bill Clinton speak. While this was not as intimate a setting as the Kasich event, it was still a small venue compared to some of the Trump and Sanders rallies. We were impressed with Bill’s positive attitude, and we came away knowing exactly how Hillary planned to deal with each issue. We met a retiree from New Jersey as well as a young man who had attended many more events than us as he tried to decide not only what person to give his vote to, but which party to support. I was impressed with his thoughtful research.
Late Saturday afternoon, we received an invitation to Hillary’s Primary party, so we decided to be spontaneous and go. We decided to begin the evening early with a typical Southern dinner, which was barbecue at Palmetto Pig. (It’s always about the barbecue down here!) After getting a second email informing us that the doors would open earlier, we moseyed on over, and were happily surprised to be at the front of that line.
Unlike the event for President Clinton, which had no overt security, we had to pass through metal detectors overseen by scary looking secret service agents. We felt like we were in the safest venue in Columbia.
We chose a front-row seat on the bleachers to the left of the stage, and before Hillary appeared, we were interviewed by two different news outlets. The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd diverse and enthusiastic. Like the previous day’s speech, Hillary was positive and enthusiastic. For Dad and me, we had found our candidate, which was a relief after being so disenchanted with the others in the current playing field.
It is sad to me that I have not told this to many of my friends and family. My photos are not on Facebook because I have been trying to avoid being very political, and I am also uncomfortable sharing this fun evening with so many people whose views differ from mine. Yet that party ranks up along with lunch at the pub with the Irish Prime Minister and New Year’s Eve in Times Square. I keep telling myself I should not feel this way because our country is supposed to be about freedom, diverse opinions, and embracing our differences. I think I need to come out of the political closet.