Thursday at 5 p.m., Ariana Lind, co-president of the MSU chapter of the Green Party, arrives at the Auditorium - approximately four hours ahead of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Lind hopes for 3,000 people to show up for the political jamboree that is about to begin. The event would be roughly 10 times the number that turned out for Karenna Gore Schiff and Rebecca Lieberman.
Right now, attendance is around 15. A Green Party faithful breezes past Lind, This is gonna be cool.
At 5:30 p.m. it gets loud. You can feel the excitement - the Auditorium has reached critical volunteer mass. Greens are excited, and when they get excited, they get tactile. I cant quite imagine a group of students for Texas Gov. George W. Bush hugging and touching this much.
Other groups arrive: ECO, Anti-Racist Action, Students for Economic Justice and Socialist Alternative. Anti-globalization paraphernalia abounds. An issue arises: Socialist Alternative has brought a massive red banner declaring its support for Nader. The question: Is it too big? Too red? Lind is consulted. She gives it the preliminary go-ahead, but says she has to double-check with some Green Party honchos.
Lind says the goal of this event is to educate people, but I wonder how many of those in attendance really need to be educated about Naders message? Most of them already seem convinced that he is the one good candidate. Some are concerned about the possible pro-Bush implications of a vote for Nader, but the Greens try to convince them that the lesser of two evils is still evil. In spite of myself, I recall a classic line delivered by the archfiend Dark Helmet in the movie Spaceballs: Now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb. A graying man covered with Nader buttons zooms past Lind, This is gonna be great.
At 6 p.m. the party has started, and the Greens have begun to dance. Again, I have difficulty imagining this kind of impromptu hoedown at, say, a Gore rally. The audience members who have assembled so far seem to be characterized by two main features that distinguish them, superficially, from the general population - more hair and more groove.
Lind delivers the bad news - the socialist banner cant fly in the Auditorium, as it is at least 20 times as large as anything the Greens have.
About 6:30 p.m. Lind seems to know everyone here - no small feat, given the incredible influx of Nader-goers. The Greens have assembled virtually all of MSUs activist community - I got a sense that, were disaster to strike the Auditorium, life would suddenly be very easy for The Gap.
The saga of the socialist banner ends in tragedy. Outside, heavy winds overwhelm one of the banners support poles, which snaps and gouges a socialist in the mouth. Its grisly so I decide to forego my silly What word best describes Nader? interview with the other pole-bearer.
At 7 p.m. Lind misses a thank-you ovation in the Auditorium because she is out front taking a cigarette break. This doesnt seem very Green to me, but hey, its been a busy night.
On the way back inside, Lind confesses that, yes, its a great feeling to know that she and the other Greens are responsible for bringing out the hundreds (and eventually thousands) of people who now fill the Auditorium. Ironically though, she cant stay to see the main event, Naders speech, because her brother is getting married tonight. I take off when Lind does.
The story here isnt Nader. Rather, its Lind and the rest of the Greens, who put two weeks of intense effort into this event. Did it guarantee Nader the election? Certainly not. It was held so that more people will know about his campaign. Well, thats what Lind believes, but Im not so sure. I think the most effective point the Greens have made is not about the presidential campaign at all. Rather, theyve proved that a group of students can pack the Auditorium and get TV crews, newspaper reporters and State News columnists to cover it - almost by sheer force of will. The Nader name helps, but this jamboree is a student event - its success as a student achievement.
Too often we see college as a choice between the opposite poles of studying and partying, education and excess, but of course, theres more. There is organization and mobilization, idealism and idea realization. There are two weeks of arranging and advertising, and then theres packing the Auditorium.
This is something real, which, if you ask me, is much more attractive than either side of the false study-or-party dichotomy. I am humbled by Lind and the Greens - they can plan my jamboree anytime.
Robin Sloan, a State News undergraduate columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.