Biden: ‘A maverick he is not’

Megan Rozsa

The fire was crackling and keeping fellow democrats of Precinct 2B warm on the outside, but the fire of democracy was keeping them warm on the inside.

John and Jeanne Somers of 530 Beech St. in Kent hosted a viewing party for last night’s vice presidential debates between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin. This was a way for them to bring together their neighborhood and talk about what they valued most.

“Four years ago, I was for John Kerry,” said John Somers. “I talked it up with friends, but nothing else. This year, I thought, it’s time to get off the pot and do something more aggressive. So when I was approached by a Democrat friend to hold a party, I thought, why not?”

People from the Beech Street neighborhood poured into the house one-by-one, and were asked by Jeanne Somers to write out a nametag. The neighbors walked around the room and introduced themselves, or caught up with old acquaintances. But no matter who they were talking to, political speech filled the air.

“I drove past a bank that had McCain/Palin signs up all over it,” said Evelyn Colville, a retired Kent State professor. “I wanted to make a big sign that said ‘Why?’ and put it up, but I thought I better not.”

John walked around his living room telling people he and Jeanne were going to buy a new house for the meeting, “but given the state of things . you know,” he laughed.

The Rev. Harold Walker sat on a big blue couch watching his neighbors converse and popped an olive in his mouth.

“This is the second time I’ve been to a (Democrat) party,” Walker said. “I’m a real strong supporter of Obama and the Democratic ticket. I like to be with my neighbors in their support for the Democratic ticket.”

Of the debates, he said the whole purpose of them is to influence the public, which can be a very uncertain thing.

“Biden is clearly the stronger candidate, but when you’re dealing with the public, sometimes it doesn’t make a lot difference,” he said. “It’s clear that there’s a real choice to make here, and it’s profoundly important for our country.”

On issues discussed in last night’s debate, such as the war in Iraq and education, Brad Brotje would like to see a change.

“There’s never money for education,” he said, “but there’s always money for war.”

Palin was boo’ed at the party when she told Biden that Obama’s plan to pull out of Iraq in the 16-month time period was “A white flag of surrender in Iraq.”

“Just think, she could be our president some day,” said John in an unhopeful voice. He looked at the Rev. Walker. “You better start building another ark.”

The room focused intently on the screen as Biden told America how he related to the country.

“I understand what it’s like to be a single parent,” he said. “When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I understand what it’s like as a parent to wonder if your kid is going to make it . The notion that somehow because I’m a man I don’t know what it’s like to raise two kids alone, I don’t know what it’s like to have a child you’re not sure is going to make it. I understand. I understand what it’s like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They’re looking for help. They’re not looking for more of the same.”

The eyes in the room lit up.

“Good job, Joe. That was good, Joe,” they said to the television.

Colville relayed to the party members a time when she used to be a Republican. The crowd playfully jeered her, and she laughed.

“Obama is a class act, and his wife is, too,” she said. “I switched to Democrat in the ’90s after Newt Gingrich ran. Obama is the Real McCoy.”

Connie Craven agrees.

“I pray for Obama, and I pray for his health,” she said. “He’s a real person. I want to be able to say ‘President Obama.’ I want everyone to get out of their houses and vote.”

After the debates, the remaining party members filtered out of the house, pleased with what they saw.

Jeanne and John both agreed the party had a good turnout.

“I wanted to have this party because I feel so strongly that Obama should win the election,” Jeanne said. “Everyone here was very committed. It’s our job to identify people who are on the fence and talk them into voting for Obama.”

John thinks that after eight years of Bush, it is time for a change.

“Sarah Palin lacks experience,” he said. “She’s a few degrees below where she needs to be in order to be considered as next-in-line to the president.”

John thought Biden did well in the debate because he specifically addressed every issue, while Palin went off on obscure tangents relating back to Alaska.

“We’re talking about apples and oranges,” John said. “She’s making comparisons that aren’t really comparisons at all.”

Biden made his closing statement by saying, “This is the most important election ever in your life. We have a need for fundamental change . It’s time for America to get up together.”

The participants at 530 Beech St. couldn’t agree more.

Contact public affairs reporter Megan Rozsa at [email protected].