Obama USC Rally Liveblog

It’s almost trite to point it out by now, but if there’s an enthusiasm gap out there, it’s not evident in the early voting, and it’s not evident at rallies like this one today at USC, where an estimated crowd of 40,000 is thronging to hear the President talk about what’s at stake this election season.  Even though things are getting started more than a wee bit late and getting in through security was a hassle, this eclectic crowd of voters is eager in anticipation.  Sitting here on the media riser, the atmosphere is electric.

Liveblog is below the fold.

Our own Calitics alum and current FDL correspondent Dave Dayen in the press pool

EDIT BY BRIAN: I added the press release from OFA about the speakers at the rally below David’s wonderful commentary.

Antonio Villaraigosa up to speak, rallying the crowd.  Talking about the diversity of the crowd, encouraging everyone to get out and vote.  Talking about big Republican money people: “If they were part of the problem then, they’re part of the problem now.”  Hitting outsourcing and tax cuts of the rich.  “The choice is easy.”

“Democrats have a plan to put California to work, to fix our broken budget, and fix our broken infrastructure.”

The crowd is enthusiastic when he talks about the light rail line in Crenshaw, emphasizing that the previous administration wouldn’t even consider the proposal, but that the Obama Administration has helped make it happen.  That’s why it makes a difference who is in office.

“The pundits say young people like to demonstrate, but they don’t vote.  But you showed them wrong in 2008…We are the change, and yes we can.”  Crowd enthusiastically chants Yes.  We.  Can.  If there’s disappointment from this crowd about the issues that have troubled many of us progressive bloggers, it’s not evident here.

Now Antonio Villaraigosa introduces John Perez.  If there’s a more potent symbol of a changing nation than 40,000 young people cheering on a Latino mayor introduce a gay Latino Speaker of the House at a rally for our first African-American president on behalf of a stellar progressive female Senator who happens to be Caucasian, all under the banner of “MOVING AMERICA FORWARD”, I can’t think of one.  Republicans may or may not make big gains this election.  But unless there’s a drastic realignment, their gooses are simply cooked long-term.  Demography is destiny; Millennials will only become a bigger and bigger share of the electorate.  This crowd is an image of the future; Tea Party crowds are an image of a dying past.

Perez: “We want everyone in this country to succeed and live their own American dream…when all the votes are counted, we are going to shock the world.  The Speaker of the House will continue to be from California…President Obama will still be leading our country.  We’re going to send a message to the teabaggers, make sure they know: we love our country, we want our citizens to succeed.  We want everyone to have healthcare…We respect every part of our Constitution.  Hell, we’ve even read it.  We have better ideas, we have better candidates, and in Barack Obama, we have a better President.

Them’s fightin’ words.  Wish more Democrats spoke with that sort of clarity.  Easy to see why John Perez is the right choice for Speaker.

Rabbi Denise Eger now up to speak.  Begins with an invocation in Hebrew.  Mentions the deaths-by-bullying in the hope of creating safer schools with a respect for differences and diversity.  Just another reminder that for all the supposed Neocon support for Israel, the American Jewish community knows who their friends are–and it isn’t the American Taliban.

Next up: pledge of allegiance and national anthem.  National anthem sung by Cheryl Lee Ralph.  Sadly, it continues to be an unsingable tune.

And now the volunteer coordinator for Organizing for America.  Reminds everyone of where they were on November 4th when Obama was elected.  Then reminds people about September 4th 2008, when the polls were looking bad, and the ubiquitous “it’s good for John McCain” line.  Tells the story of the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up to demand to know how they could help, sending Californians all over the country to help the cause.  “It’s 2010 and it’s time for you to stand up California once again.”  “Stand up for the people who put this country on their shoulders and saved it from a second Great Depression.”

“We’ve got 11 days left California.  It’s time to stop asking what change can do for you, and time to start asking what you can do to bring about change.”  Not sure that message will really sell–but if Democrats survive this election without a bloodbath, it will be without question be in part due to OFA turnout efforts.

“If you can’t make phones calls or knock on doors, bring food and water for the people who do.  Every little bit helps.”  Amen to that.  Getting volunteers to the local Democratic club offices has been a challenge in Ventura County.  The question is whether the enthusiasm for rallies and parties will turn into enough phone calls and boots on the ground.  In the end, field drives turnout, and turnout is what will make the difference in lots of these races–including Barbara Boxer’s.

A children’s chorus sings “All I want to do is shine.”  Crowd surprisingly gets pretty into it.  Now the famous Trojan marching band and cheer squad.  Cheers erupt.  But John Perez speaks first as they prepare, introducing Shobana Ramamurfi (sp?), a community organizer with OFA.  Significant accent, and I don’t think it’s an accident.  The diversity theme is huge at this rally.  Jewish, South Asian, Hispanic, African-American, White, Asian.  This is America.  This is the future.

Shobana mentions that she finally got her citizenship right before the November 4, 2008 election.  That she had been walking and phoning for Obama before she was even eligible to vote for him.

“I realized that I needed to make the change a reality.  In 2009, I became an Organizing for American community organizer.”  Mentions that the economy is growing, and that after healthcare reform, she doesn’t have to worry that health insurance companies will deny her coverage because she has diabetes.  It’s a pre-existing condition.

“This election in 2010 is just as important as the one in 2008.  So I’m asking you today, please get out and vote.  If you don’t, you’re letting somebody else decide for you.”

Now up comes Kuttner from House Kumar Kal Penn.  He apologizes for pranks he may or may not have committed on the USC campus while as a student at UCLA.  As a fellow Bruin alum, I applaud.

“Because you voted, the President was able to sign comprehensive healthcare reform into law…Because you voted, our friends are coming home from Iraq.  And because you voted, we now have a President who saved the country from a total economic collapse…That’s all because you guys voted.  But there’s a lot left to be done, and it won’t get done unless we vote again…I know if you turn on the TV recently or listen to the cynics, it’s easy to forget about the power that young people still have…We still have to pass comprehensive immigration reform…we still need comprehensive environmental legislation…we still need to act on Darfur…we still need to do something about DOMA and DADT…There’s way too much at stake to stop now.  Can you bring 10 friends with you to the polls?”

Kal Penn introduces the USC marching band.  Marching band plays the USC fight song.

Coming into today, I was wondering if the rally would come off more as an enthusiasm rally, or a desperate plea for volunteers from a crowd eager to just see the President.  From the sound of it, this crowd really does seem genuinely engaged and desirous of working to help get Dems elected to keep focusing on the issues that matter.  We’ll see if local Dem/OFA offices see an influx of volunteers this weekend.  One can only hope…

USC Marching Band is followed by Ozomatli.

Jamie Foxx comes up to huge applause.  Reminds crowds of the speaker who said she was exhausted defending Obama.  He gets the crowd to chant “We are not exhausted!”  Interesting take.  I understand that with 11 days to go before the election, the Obama Admin has to use this tack to rally volunteers.  But it comes off as grating to those who know that things could and should have been different–and that more folks would be motivated if they had been.

Next up comes Kamala Harris, who speaks briefly about the support behind this campaign.  Including netroots support, mentioned by name.  But oddly enough, never mentioned that she is running for Attorney General.

Jamie Foxx back up.  Jamie is nothing if not one heck of an entertainer.  He can move a crowd.  Gets everyone shouting “Vote!  Democrat!”  Impressive.

Hilda Solis up now.  “Over the past two years, Democrats made progress toward delivering change…while Republicans have done everything possible to halt that process…Democrats overcame Republican obstructionism to enact Wall St. reform, laying a stable foundation for economic growth…Democrats overcame Republican obstruction to pass student aid reform to get subsidies from big banks, to make college more affordable for students like you.  And Democrats overcame Republican obstructionism to pass the Affordable Care Act, so that young people like you can stay on your parents’ insurance until the age of 26.”  “Recuerda: su voto es su voz…Vamos a luchar…que viva Obama, viva las Democratas!”

Back to Mr. Foxx.  Shouts of Yes We Can, Si Se Puede, and Yes We Will.  

And now…Jerry Brown.  “We don’t scapegoat anybody.  When I see the power of the Sun, we don’t need Saudi Arabian oil or Texas gas.  We have California sun.”

“We can create the green jobs of the future for everybody that’s here.  And California has a place for all of us, not just the ones at the top…Gandhi said we have enough for our need, but not enough for our greed…We’re going to win it for the least powerful, because we can empower them to the power of the future.”

Jerry Brown is really coming into his own.

Jamie Foxx back.  He’s an energetic MC, and doing a great job moving the crowd, but as Dave Dayen noted, he hasn’t announced what office any of the speakers are running for.  You can’t take for granted that everyone already knows…

Barbara Boxer at the podium: “I look at you, and I think: We.  Will.  Win.”  

“These are difficult times, and I don’t sugarcoat it…The other side, they want to take us back.  Back to the Bush policies.  They did not work, did they?  You know what the other side is doing?  And the president and I were talking about this?  They are trying to depress voter turnout.  They are hoping that you notice the choice in this election.  They even sent out an ad telling Latino voters to stay home.  Well, we are not staying home.  We will vote, and we will win, because we are the people of California…”

“The pollsters have already decided who will win.  But there’s one problem, we haven’t voted yet!”  Not sure I like this approach from Boxer.  She’s ahead in most polls–no need to act like she’s behind.  Also, a lot of us have already voted by mail…

“The other side has special interests with them.  They have Karl Rove with them.  They have Grover Norquist with them…And I know they have Dick Armey with them.  But we have our own army.”  Me, I cheered at Dick Armey.  He and his tea party crowd are a great asset for Democrats in Delaware, Kentucky and Alaska.  The stronger his influence, the better off we are.

And now…the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

“You know, Jamie Foxx is pretty good at this.  We have to recruit him!  Might have to make him shave his goatee though.”  Mentions all the speakers.  POTUS seems in good spirits.  Still has insane charisma at the podium.  He’s in his element here.  The more he appears like this, rather than in a stuffy press room, the better.

“In just eleven days, you have the chance to set the direction of this state and this country not just for the next 2 years, but for the next 5 years, 10 years, 20 years…You can defy the conventional wisdom that says that young people are apathetic, that you can’t beat the cynicism in politics, that all that matters is the big money and negative TV ads.  You have the chance to say Yes We Can.  Si se puede.

“I don’t want to fool anybody, even though this is a magnificent crowd, because this will be a tough election.  This has been a difficult election…Families saw their cincomes between 2001 and 2009 drop by 5%…Families couldn’t afford to send their kids to college…couldn’t afford to take their kids to the doctor…we lost 4 million jobs before I took office, 600,000 the month after that…we hadn’t seen anything like this since the 1930s…My hope was that in this moment of crisis, we could come together and both parties would put politics aside.  That we would come together to meet this once in a generation challenge, because while we are proud to be Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans.  And there are plenty of Republicans who feel the same way out there.  but the Republican leaders in Washington made a different calculation.  They took a look at the mess they had left me, and said, boy, this is a really big mess.  Unemployment will be high for a while, and people will be angry and frustrated.  So if we just sit on the sidelines, and point their finger at Obama and say it’s his fault.  And that you would forget who caused the mess, and ride the anger to election day…But you haven’t forgotten.  Their whole campaign strategy is amnesia.  So you need to remember that this election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess, and the policies that will lead us out…I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward, Trojans.

“Now, it would be one thing, if the Republicans who made this mess went into a summer retreat summer, said, you know we screwed up, and came up with some new ideas…But that’s not what happened.  The Republican…Chairman came up with exactly the same plan…The Republican plan is ‘you’re on your own’…I don’t bring this up because I want to reargue the past, it’s because I don’t want to relive it.  We tried what they’re selling, we didn’t like it, and we’re not going back to it.  Imagine that these folks drove a car into a ditch, and it was a really deep ditch, and they did nothing to get the car out of the ditch.  So I and Barbara and Antonio put on our boots and climbed down into that ditch, and it’s hot and there are flies down there, and even though Barbara Boxer is small she’s pushing too.  And Republicans are all standing at the top of the ditch, and we say, why don’t you help out.  They say, no, that’s alright, you’re not trying hard enough.  You’re not pushing the right way.  And we finally get the car out of the ditch and on level ground, and admittedly the car is banged up, fender’s bent, and it needs a tuneup.  But it’s on level ground.  And we get a tap on our shoulder.  It’s the Republicans, and they want the keys back.  And we tell ’em, you can’t have the keys back.  You don’t know how to drive.  You can be in the car, but you have to be in the backseat.  Because the middle class is in the front seat.

When you want to drive, what do you do?  You put it in D!  You don’t put it in R, you dont’ want to go backwards.  You want to go forwards.

“There’s a lot of families still hanging on by a thread, that’s what…keeps me fighting…We know that the government doesn’t have the answers to all our problems, we believe that government should be lean and efficient, and like the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln, who by the way could not get a nomination in today’s Republican Party, we believe that government should do for the people what the people cannot do better for themselves….

That is the America I know, that is the choice in this election.  This election is a choice, and if we give them the keys, which will happen if you don’t vote.  They’ll give tax breaks to companies that ship our jobs overseas.  We want to give tax breaks to companies that keep our jobs here in america…I don’t want companies that make solar panels and wind turbines making them in Asia…I want them made right here in the United States by American workers.”

“They want to cut education by 20%.  And this is a time when the future of our country depends almost entirely on the education of our people.  Do you think that China is cutting education by 20%?  That South Korea is cutting education by 20%?  Those countries aren’t playing for second place.

“So instead of giving unlimited subsidies to the banks, we want to give that to students like you so you can afford an college education…The other side has already promised to roll back health insurance reform and wall st. reform.  We want to make sure that health insurance companies can’t deny you coverage when you get sick.  That the law that syas you can stay on your parents’ health insurance, that that remians the law of the land…We want to make sure that taxpayers aren’t stuck with a Wall St. bailaout becdause somebody else took unwarranted rish.  We will oppose privatization of social security…so somebody else can take it and hand it over to Wall St…”

“Millions of dollars in special interest groups calling themselves Americans for Prosperity or Mothers for Motherhood.  I made that last one up.  But you don’t know.  Who’s financing those negative ads against Jerry Brown, and Barbara Brown.  And they’re doing it because of a supreme court decision Citizens United, which shows you how important it is who nominates Supreme Court Judges.  I’m proud that I nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court!

That’s why it’s so important that all of you get out to vote.  If all of you who fought for change in 2008 get out to vote this time, we will win this election…You didn’t get involved just to elect a president…you got involved because the decision we make will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren for decades to come.”

“I understand the last two years haven’t been easy.  I know a lot of you are thinking back to election night, and beyonce was singing and jamie was there, and it felt like a big party, but I told you this was gonna be hard.  But I told you power concedes nothing without a fight.  We’ve been grinding it out day by day and inch by inch…change is harder than I expected, and we haven’t gotten everything done that I hoped for you.  Maybe someone you know is out of a job, or a neighbor has a foreclosure sign.  But don’t let anybody tell you that our fight isn’t important, that we haven’t made a difference.  Because of you…there are small businesses that can keep their doors open even in the midst of a recession, we have brough home thousands of brave men and women in Iraq, we are going to fight to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, because of you we are going to fight for an energy policy in America.  Don’t let them tell you that change isn’t possible.  Here’s what I know.  Change is always hard.  If our parents and great grandparents, if they had listened to the cynics 200 250 years ago, we wouldn’t be here today.  This country was founded by people doing what had never been done before, battling the biggest baddest empire on earth.  We’re going to found a new kind of country.  And we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…The cynics didn’t believe it.  And then, when we had to perfect that union and fight a civil war, the cynics didn’t believe it, that we could free the slaves.  If our ancestors had given up and listened to the cynics, we couldn’t have gotten through the depression, and gotten civil rights and women’s rights.  The journey we began together wasn’t just about putting a President in the White House, it was about a movement for change…if we work for it, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.  If you knock on some doors and make some phone calls, we won’t just win this election, we will restore the American Dream, not just some, but for everybody.  God bluess you, god bless the United States of America.”


You know, for all the pixels spilled about the mistakes and inadequacies of the Obama administration, there’s no question about the difference between the political parties.  And there’s no question Barack Obama is an extraordinary politician.

But again, the real measure of the success or failure of an event like this is whether the people here will actually get out and work to make a difference in the election.  Time will tell.

EDIT BY BRIAN: I added the press release from OFA about the speakers at the rally.

Background on Speakers Participating in the “Moving America Forward” Rally with President Obama in Los Angeles, CA

Organizing for America Rally Features Senator Barbara Boxer, Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Honorable Hilda Solis, Representative Diane Watson, California Assembly Speaker John Perez, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, District Attorney Kamala Harris, and Actor and Singer Jamie Foxx. Ozomatli performs live.

Los Angeles, CA- Today, Friday, October 22, 2010, at the latest “Moving America Forward” rally in Los Angeles, CA, President Barack Obama was joined by Senator Barbara Boxer, Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Honorable Hilda Solis, Representative Diane Watson, California Assembly Speaker John Perez, District Attorney Kamala Harris, and actor and singer Jamie Foxx. Ozomatli also performed. The following is a brief background on some of the speakers participating in the Los Angeles rally today:

Senator Barbara Boxer: Senator Barbara Boxer has been serving the people of California in Congress for nearly two decades. Throughout her career in public service she has been a strong advocate for California’s families, children, businesses, and environment. She currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and also serves on the Commerce, Science, Transportation, and Foreign Relations Committees.

Attorney General Jerry Brown: Attorney General Jerry Brown has been a public servant in California for most of his adult life. During his previous terms as Governor, Jerry Brown cut taxes and built up a large surplus for the state. He has always worked for good government, equal rights, and protecting the environment.

The Honorable Hilda Solis: Before joining President Obama’s Cabinet, Hilda Solis served the 32nd Congressional District in California. Throughout her career, her priorities have included expanding access to affordable health care, protecting the environment, and fighting for working families. She has also been a strong advocate for creating new “green collar” jobs.

Congresswoman Diane Watson: Diane Watson represents the 33rd Congressional District of California. Watson is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and is the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement. She also serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is the Chair of the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus.

California Assembly Speaker John Perez: John Perez represents the 46th Assembly District of California and currently serves as the Speaker of the California Assembly. He has spent his life fighting for better wages, healthcare, and benefits for working families and continues to do so in the Assembly. He is also the first openly gay person of color elected to state office in California, and is a strong advocate for the LGBT community.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: Antonio Villaraigosa has been serving as the Mayor of Los Angeles since 2005. He is the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since 1872. Since taking office, he has worked to build coalitions to fight for the pressing needs of Los Angeles: education, transportation, public safety, and economic development.

Kamala Harris: Currently serving as the District Attorney for San Francisco, Kamala Harris has been a prosecutor for over 20 years. In office, she has focused on cracking down on violent crime. She has increased conviction rates for serious and violent offenses; expanded services to victims of crime and their families; created new prosecution divisions focused on child assault, public integrity, and environmental crimes; and launched innovative re-entry initiatives to prevent recidivism.

Jamie Foxx: Jamie Foxx is a talented actor, musician, and comedian. He has won both a Grammy Award and an Academy Award for Best Actor. He supported Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign.

Ozomatli: Ozomatli is a Grammy Award-winning band formed in Los Angeles. They are known for their blend of musical sounds ranging from hip hop and salsa to Jamaican ragga and jazz. In September of 2009 they performed at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Awards Gala with President Obama and the First Lady as the guests of honor.

Ashlie Chan: Ashlie Chan is a senior majoring in Communication, minoring in Spanish, and simultaneously pursuing her master’s degree in Communication Management at the University of Southern California. Born and raised in Arcadia, CA, she is the current president of the USC Helenes, the official hostesses of USC; is a former Undergraduate Student Government Vice President; and is senior advisor for the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society.

Marquis Olison: Marquis Olison is a writer and actor from Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University. He worked tirelessly in the Los Angeles headquarters for Obama for America during the 2008 Presidential campaign and currently organizes volunteers across Southern California to reach out to voters for the midterm elections.

Shobana Ramamurthi: Shobana Ramamurthi is a Community Organizer for Organizing for America, volunteering up to 30 hours per week to support issues like health insurance reform and to turn out voters in the midterm elections. Shobana voted for the first time in 2008 after becoming a citizen because she was inspired by Barack Obama’s candidacy. Originally from India, Shobana is a dentist and lives with her husband and two sons in Fremont, California.

Since taking office in January 2009, President Obama has made major strides in pulling the economy from the brink of a depression, reforming the health insurance industry to give power back to consumers, and reforming Wall Street practices so that Americans are never again left footing the bill for the mistakes of bankers. The President is rallying support for Democratic allies who will continue to support his agenda to strengthen the middle class, rebuild our economy, and improve the American education system so that our children can compete in a global economy.

The Los Angeles, CA rally will be the fifth in a series of “Moving America Forward” events with the President. The President has held events in Madison, WI; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; and Columbus, OH.


Organizing for America (OFA) is a grassroots project of the Democratic National Committee. OFA’s network of volunteers and staff is actively working in all 50 states to promote the President’s agenda for improving the country. Since 2009, OFA supporters have played a key role in helping strengthen America’s middle class by creating jobs, passing health insurance reform, building a clean energy economy, improving education, and reining in the excesses of Wall Street.