Saturday mornings in summer, downtown West Tisbury is as jammed as down-island with people and cars. The Farmers Market draws a mob scene to the Grange Hall every Saturday and Wednesday. This morning the mob scene was augmented by those of us who’d heard that U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was going to be talking to supporters in the garden behind the West Tisbury library at 10:30, then adjourning to the Farmers Market just up the road for some hand-shaking.
I came flying back from Vineyard Haven, where I’d had a 9 a.m. meeting with a prospective client. Wasn’t packing my camera, so of course I had to detour by my house to pick it up. This entailed giving Travvy his second peanut butter bone of the morning and assuring him that I’d be back soon. He knows I’m lying, but if he’s got the peanut butter he doesn’t care.
I was late, but so was the candidate. She’d come from a prior engagement, at which each speaker was allotted five minutes and none of them had stuck to the limit. “Democrats sure love to talk,” she said.
Those of us in waiting had a good time talking to each other. Surveying the assembly, one friend noted: “You can tell which of us live here because none of us have tans.” To which I added: “If we do, it stops at our T-shirt sleeves.”
In her opening remarks, Elizabeth noted how many things we used to take for granted were now considered radical: birth control, the right to vote, etc. She’d recently been asked by an interviewer if she believed in science, and the interviewer seemed surprised when she responded with an unequivocal YES.
She then spoke briefly about how the campaign was going. Asked what response it was getting among young people, she praised the enthusiasm of her young campaign workers and noted that polls report her doing especially well among younger voters and older ones. We’re working on reaching the middle, she said.
Fundraising is up — according to the campaign website, $8.6 million was raised in the second quarter of 2012 — and she was especially pleased that 81 percent of the donations were $50 or less and more than half were $25 or less. Many people are making monthly credit card contributions of $10, $15, or $25. (That would be me.)
And across the commonwealth the field organization is expanding, so that in every city and town it’s neighbors talking to neighbors. People in Pittsfield, she said, aren’t interested in exactly the same things as people on Martha’s Vineyard. Amen to that. The campaign can formulate general talking points, but they play out differently in different communities.
It’s important to work right up to the election, she said — and it’s just as important to keep working after the election. The people we elect need to keep hearing from us. Amen to that too.
Near the end of the Q&A, a fellow launched into a non-question, which he cleverly tied back to Warren’s earlier affirmation that she believed in science. 2,000 engineers and scientists didn’t think the 9/11 report’s explanation for the fall of the Twin Towers was possible; what did she think? The crowd, including me, got a little testy at that but the candidate finessed it so neatly: This was what was great about democracy, she said. We can put our theories and explanations out there for all to consider, and if they gain enough adherents, yesterday’s crackpot theory may become tomorrow’s “everybody knows that.”
I want to remember this. Lately I’ve been way too tempted to argue with online trolls, even though what they’re spouting is neither interesting nor original and there’s zero chance that anything I say could have any impact on their thinking. Do I really trust the marketplace of ideas to take care of it? Not entirely — not as long as so many of the trolls are sucking their ideas out of a mega-funded right-wing yak machine — but it’s for sure that whatever I say isn’t going to make a difference. No more troll-related detours!
As Elizabeth was leaving to head over to the Farmers Market, I told her I’d been moved by what she said at her July 1 talk, about running for office being an act of optimism. I said I agreed; that I was running for Martha’s Vineyard Commission to fight off my pessimism. “Good for you,” she said, and hugged me.
Out in the parking lot, I met Leon Brathwaite. I’d heard about him, and he’d heard about me; he’d been thinking of running for the MVC (he’s also a West Tisbury resident) but is running for Dukes County Commission instead. We hugged each other.
Running for office, even a way-down-the-totem-pole office, makes me feel part of something bigger, something pretty cool.