It's lonely being a Republican in Marin County. According to Greenbrae resident and former archconservative KSFO radio host Melanie Morgan, only one in four people in the county voted for George W. Bush in 2004, even though the place is crawling with the filthy rich. But being the minority only strengthens their bond and their resolve. It's an us-versus-them thing, with liberals on the other side.
"Their hatred of us, of Republicans, is so palpable that they are energized," Morgan told the party faithful at the GOP headquarters in San Rafael, where folks were gathered to watch the vice-presidential debate last Thursday night. "People are going to be shocked when Sarah Palin wins the debate!" she cheered. Then she cited the fact that expectations for Palin's performance were pretty low, thanks to the liberal spin machine: "So low that she is going to shock the hell out of the mainstream media!"
The crowd was mixed, most folks over 50, with a few of the requisite Thurston Howell IIIs and clean-cut younger men thrown in. "It's great to be with people who share the same point of view," one onlooker mused, adding, "and rare."
The Marin Republicans had set up an Internet stream projection of the debate on the wall, with chairs organized in a horseshoe around the room. It was packed, and some people were forced to stand the entire time. In an effort to make more space, the president of the Marin branch shouted, "Everyone move toward the left, please!"
"I'm never moving to the left!" someone joked.
At 6 p.m., just as the debate was about to start, the screen suddenly went blank; a problem with the feed. It was back up just in time to catch Joe Biden saying something about the Wall Street debacle, which sparked a chorus of boos.
When Palin said that there should be strict oversight, the crowd cheered. "I may not answer the way you want," she said in her most populist way, "but I'm gonna talk straight ..." The rest of her words were drowned out in thunderous cheering.
Biden went on to deride how McCain supports tax cuts for the wealthy, which inspired someone to yell, "Good!"
Then moderator Gwen Ifill brought up the fact that, were something to happen to Biden and Palin's running mates while they were in office, they would become president. "That would be a national tragedy of historic proportion," Biden said, referring to the hypothetical death of Barack Obama. This ignited a sea of laughter in the room. "Biggest lie of the night!" someone yelled out. Ouch.
Yet with all the call and response, after Biden said that Dick Cheney was the most dangerous vice president in U.S. history, the crowd was strangely silent.
When the debate was over and the lights came back on, everyone was giddy. When asked what he thought of the event, San Rafael resident Glenn Woodruff had one word: "Whew!"
"Both ears and a tail," said Jim Wintersteen, another Marin resident. He was referring to a phrase used by Spaniards in bullfighting that roughly translates to "She kicked butt."
Gini David, another onlooker, was a Democrat until 9/11 happened. Now she is officially an independent, but she's a big McCain/Palin supporter. After reading one of Obama's books, she says she came to realize that he had a lot of ideas, but little follow-through. "Palin is a problem solver," she said. "She has the intelligence and ability to connect the dots. This debate was an excellent forum for her."
Palin did indeed exceed expectations, though people were wary of how the media would spin her performance the next day. "If they give us horrible reviews," Morgan said, "then we know we've won."
There was indeed a certain victorious feeling in the room, the sort of fealty that comes from a collective hope encapsulated in a gosh-darn hockey mom. Yes, all in all, it was a good night to be a Republican in Marin.