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McCain was in town that morning for a campaign appearance with 200 invited guests. The women at the campaign headquarters hadn't been invited.
Over the next hour, I realized that most of the volunteers came in with specific ideas about what was and was not a waste of their time, and most had decided that they could best help the Republicans by lounging in the office and drinking diet soda.
"I'm a little worried. The week that woman's had," one volunteer said of Sarah Palin. The vice-presidential debate was that night. "If they asked Katie Couric any of those questions, she wouldn't know. Nobody knows that stuff."
The window-repair truck arrived — with an Obama sticker on its bumper. The women were certain that this was evidence of a conspiracy. One woman, in a white blouse (with an elephant on the front over her heart and a bald eagle on the back, both outlined in glitter), wanted to take a picture of the truck. The other volunteers stopped her, afraid of starting any trouble. This led to a debate about the cultlike reverence of Obama's supporters for Obama.
"I'll vote for him, and the world will be just a paradise, and all my problems will be solved," one mocked.
"Sure," Glitter Blouse said. "If you want to vote for an Arab Muslim."
That night, I went to a debate-watch party in the basement of a Pentecostal church on Red Bridge Road. A few retirees stood around a snack table, talking about the economy crashing while sitcoms played without sound on a 50-inch flat-screen TV. Round tables were set up from front to back, and at each were copies of that month's Metro Voice, a Christian newspaper delivered mostly to churches. The cover story was about Sarah Palin as the new face of conservatism, and beneath that was a smaller article on McCain's faith.
A volunteer from Independence told me that the office organizers had warned everyone to be careful whom they spoke to, now that people were throwing rocks at them. "They wanted us to make sure we watched what we said, especially if someone from the media came," she told me. "They know a lot of people [Republicans] aren't happy with McCain, but we don't want to give that impression."
Joanne, the woman who had signed me in, found me flipping through the Metro Voice. "There's a woman at that table who's new, too," she said. "I thought you might like to meet each other. Come sit with us."
Joanne's table was in the front of the room. There sat a woman in her 50s, wearing a dark suit and a black cross. Her name tag read Linda. She said she was a retired teacher and now a seminary student.
Jeff Grisamore, the state representative from Lee's Summit, Missouri, was there to warm up the crowd. After his stump speech — schools, family values and so on — he sat at our table, next to Linda.
There was no point in trying to watch a debate here. Joe Biden's answers were drowned out by boos, people shouting "not true!" or "drill, baby, drill!" The Alaska governor could barely finish the first sentence of each answer before the crowd would cackle at a zinger or howl in agreement, and the rest of her answer was lost.
When the noise did break, Linda would lean to people sitting nearby and enlighten them with her views. The financial crisis was caused by loans forced on bankers as a method of economic affirmative action. Openly gay people violate her constitutional right to privacy. The September 11 attacks were God's will. Nuclear holocaust could be part of the divine plan, and you don't fight the divine plan.