Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Countdown to the Debate in Vegas

You could get whiplash on UNLV's campus today as the university hosts the third and final presidential debate.  There are a lot of shiny--and odd--objects around, and an upbeat if slightly carnival atmosphere.
I arrive at campus before the crowds, and was working from a cafe between 7 and 9.  Michael Steele, former RNC chair, rushed through, looking a bit forlorn when no one wanted to shake his hand our take a selfie.  One student recognized him outside, and Steele happily paused for a photo.
State senator and Congressional candidate Reuben Kihuen was the next to swing through the student union on some errand or other.
CNN and MSNBC have large stages set up on campus.  MSNBC did a short interview with UNLV President Len Jessup in the morning, to a backdrop of cheering students and administrators giving a "rebel" cheer. Securing an event of this size and significance is a major coup for UNLV, and comes near the launch of a medical school and a dodgy stadium deal that brought state leadership to campus.
Crowds of Trump and Clinton supporters filled the amphitheater by the MSNBC stage, where Clinton supporters dominated.  Over at CNN, the Trump supporters were more numerous and more boisterous.  
I saw a lonely but exceptionally committed Jill Stein supporter, and wondered if he could have made a bigger impression in a state where his candidate was actually on the ballot.
Nigel Farage popped up at the CNN stage at some point.  Nigel is a bit like a rat: having gnawed through the hull of the HMS Britannia, he jumped ship and is now hard at work trying to introduce chaos in another country.  
Wolf Blitzer was also prowling campus.  My eyes drooped just watching him, but even he drew a mini-crowd.
Security was light yesterday, but today there were large teams of law enforcement standing by the crowds, with lengths of plastic handcuffs at their sides.  
Like most such events, this one brought people out of the woodwork.  This morning, there was a woman riding around on a golf cart screaming "Kitty Kats for Trump!" and this afternoon, a woman tried to give me a copy of a book with George Washington's face on the cover that purported to explain the inner workings of the Trump mind.  I'm not into the horror genre, so I gave it a gentle pass.
I got a tour of the C-Span bus, and then retreated to the peace and quiet of the history department to write a talk about politics in 1960s southern Africa, which seems very removed from this madness.
I'm watching the debate from the comfort and security of home, but on my walk home I was passed by a truck bearing a large billboard that read, "Don't Grope.  Vote!  Paid for by Republicans for Clinton."

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