In a major campaign event, the media hierarchy usually goes like this: network and cable television crews are on risers, high above the crowd, so that their lights and their cameras have a clear line of sight to the candidate.
We radio folks, however, well, we’re usually lower … literally. Behind curtains, or, as we were last night at Elizabeth Warren’s Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel headquarters, on the floor next to the TV crews, sandwiched in a narrow slice between the risers and a high-traffic path back to the green rooms.
So, you could say, I didn’t see much. But the truth is, in this regard, we may have had the advantage. Everything the TV cameras did not see, I did. Which means, I saw actual voters.
There, on the hot and crowded floor, was a man with a feathered dream catcher the size of a truck tire with a blue “Warren” poster tied to the middle. There was a woman, arms crossed and strong, looking tired from a day knocking on doors, but satisfied. There were men jumping for joy, tears streaming from their eyes. There was an octogenarian celebrating Massachusetts’ first female senator. There, too, was a young boy who was born in an America where the secretary of state has always been a woman.
And as the night climaxed, there, right next to us, was Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty. The Fairmont Copley ballroom was so crowded, the 79-year-old former governor had been pushed to the back of the room, jostled into our radio pack. He stood on a chair to get a better view. A few minutes later, Kitty stood on the same chair with him. He steadied her with one arm around her waist. The other held on to the risers. When we offered them another chair, Dukakis graciously accepted it.
Here was an iconic Massachusetts couple, tenderly sharing a moment of history. But here, also, was a former presidential candidate sharing this moment on the floor, alongside the rest of us.
For me, this was the best view of all. A view of the basic truth of American democracy that’s at risk of being overshadowed by the looming tower of big money. The political elite are increasingly unlike the rest of us. But, at its heart, ours is a symbiotic system. An imperfect one, by many measures, but one in which at least once every four years, politicians acknowledge that they need voters, as much as voters need them for fair representation.
Last night, the party faithful called the Warren election a triumph of grassroots organizing. Some GOP critics called it the soulless grind of a political machine. It’s likely more than a little of both.
But at the center of those competing visions were the people I saw. The voters of Massachusetts, who came to the polls yesterday to say, “We will support you. We will give you our time, and even our money. You may have those things from us, so long as you do not take us for granted.”
Listen to Meghna read her essay on Radio Boston: