John Kerry comes to town

John Kerry may be the best option for America, but he’d be hard pressed to make a case that he’s the most punctual. Today we queued with what organisers claimed was between twelve and twenty thousand others (I’d guess more like ten, though Michigan Radio say City Officials concur with the twenty) to join what we’re told was Grand Rapids’ biggest ever political rally and hear the man put his case. The merchandise peddlers along the line provided some entertainment (the claims from one that his wares were “ebay ready” produced the largest smile) but it showed the faithful’s commitment that many spent more than two hours queueing in the sweltering heat.

I’ve been considering blogging some thoughts on Kerry for a while. The appropriate moment never seemed to quite present itself before today’s rally. He didn’t impress me during the primaries and it wasn’t till a C-Span interview I happened to catch a couple of months ago that my interest was piqued. I was well aware that no politician who was remotely close to my mix of political stances was going to be elected, but it seemed that at least here was a man who would know his own strengths and weaknesses, listen to arguments and defend his decisions.

Watching Convention speeches streamed through the Democrats’ website, he didn’t impress me like some other headliners, but today in Grand Rapids he seemed to have hit his stride. To my surprise there were clear policies spelled out. The promise of pressure for environmental and labour standards in international trade agreements drew my applause; there was also the familiar pledge to implement the 9-11 Commission’s recommendations in full, mention of four years’ state university tuition free for any 18 year olds who spend two years working in a voluntary service programme, and health care reforms that will reduce the burden on business of providing health insurance, along with other sketchier offerings. He was touting a book in which he claims all his policy objectives are laid out.

I like to think I don’t fall into the “anyone but Bush” camp. I’d at the very least add the proviso “almost” to the start of the phrase (the thought of Cheney taking Bush’s place, for example, is mortifying) but I did rather take to Naomi Klein’s piece in last week’s Guardian: “Anybody but Bush – and then let’s get back to work”.

Klein is entirely right that with Kerry at the helm the left’s job will not be done. What his speech on C-Span and each appearance since has left me feeling is that at least he would be a president with whom those of other persuasions could enter into dialogue. That in itself would be progress. It’s sad, but that is why I’ve volunteered to help the campaign.

Naturally, there is a photo here.

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