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Take the heat, take the prize

By Sheila Bapat
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 23, 2000
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Bear Down gymnasium crammed in five thousand young people last night, as loudspeakers blasted Prodigy and Offspring and flashing lights simulated a cheesy junior high school dance.

All this hoopla for nine minutes of rhetoric from Arizona Senator and GOP Presidential Candidate John McCain.

Among the hordes of young people vying for a glimpse of "Arizona's Son," were two elderly people, patiently sitting through two hours of blaring techno music.

Don and Mary Anne Winn, who would only reveal that they are in their late sixties, were probably the only two not singing along to Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy."

Their presence among thousands of twenty-somethings seemed about as natural as Pat Buchanan at an NAACP meeting.

But the two are die-hard McCain supporters, just like the Young Republicans who arranged the rally. The Winns are not even Republicans. They are Independents, former Bradley supporters. But like so many Americans, they have grasped onto McCain's promise to reform.

Clearly, McCain has tattooed his "reformer" message into the minds of the young and old. McCain is a candidate who can pull in support from anti-Bush Republicans, anti-Gore Democrats, the young, the old, the press, circus clowns and farm animals.

Though the rally's music did not appeal to the Winns, they found the youthful energy inspiring.

"McCain's message is good, because we need someone to energize the young people," Don Winn said. "I was surprised at the crowd, they were falling out the door."

Winn recalls another time in politics, when another "reformer" captured the attention of the youth for the new ideas he brought into politics.

"I remember when Kennedy got people to come out, to make a change. It's refreshing, because Bush is a money man. He owes everybody. I can't see how he can lead the nation when when he owes everyone money."

Winn supports McCain even though he is an independent and cannot vote on Tuesday's in Arizona's closed primary.

"But I'd vote for [McCain] in the generals. I'm more of a Bradley suppoter, but he's not going to make it."

One of McCain's talents has been sweeping in support from a variety of demographics, basically all voters who can't stand the other candidates.

Kevin Hess, an engineering junior, said he supports McCain because of his message as a reformer.

Hess is a registered Republican from Washington. He, too, cannot vote in today's primary but is hoping the candidate will make it to the generals.

"He's alright," Hess said. "I'll probably vote for him in the generals."

Whether or not McCain's message is honest is not the issue. Voters are sick of establishment, the frat-boy image that Bush is trying to dispel.

But McCain is not unusual, not a phenomenon unique to the 2000 election. He is not the first politician to frame himself as a reformer, to promise change inside the beltway, to vilify big money infiltrating politics, to tap into what all Americans have wanted since the post-Watergate era began. He is not the first to run as a reformer. He is certainly not the first to promise change.

The phenomenon is that his reformer message is truly working. Now, more than ever, it is clear that voters everywhere, regardless of age or even party, are sick of partisan pro-establishment. Crowds of young and old are eating up McCain's word because they desperately want it to be true.

Whether or not McCain can actually deliver is another story.

One of the many signs floating among the crowd seemed to capture it all: "McCain has a vision. Bush has a wallet."

American cynicism and frustration with politics is at its peak. McCain will be the "reformer" who will capitalize off of it in today's primary. After all, he is "Arizona's son."

Sheila Bapat is a political science sophomore. She can be reached at editor@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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