WASHINGTON, D.C. — John Kerry returned this week from a snowboarding vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho, ready to dive back into campaigning for the presidency. And what better way to kick it all off than with a big party to help raise big bucks?
Thursday began for Kerry with a ringing endorsement from former rival Howard Dean (see "Howard Dean Gives Spirited Endorsement To John Kerry"). Later that evening, the Massachusetts senator was the toast of the town at the National Building Museum in Washington for a $1,000-a-plate "Unity Dinner" that featured a who's who of Democratic luminaries: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, Wesley Clark and Dean.
But the real revelry began later that night when more than 3,000 young Kerry supporters flocked to Dream nightclub in D.C. The afterparty fundraiser, organized by the Democratic National Committee and called "Something New: Young Dems United," brought in a whopping $250,000 in small-gift donations. The people in their 20s and early 30s who populated the club danced nonstop to a mix spun by special guest DJ Biz Markie.
Star Jones, co-host of "The View," served as the emcee for the evening. She started out by expressing her annoyance over the 2000 election: "I had a blue dress all ready, and it was supposed to be for Al Gore's inauguration. I done lost too much weight to wear it now, but I still feel like George Bush and the Republicans stole that election. This year, we gotta whip 'em like they stole something."
Jones was followed by Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, who came out at 10:30 p.m. to rally the crowd and to introduce Carter, the Clintons and Sharpton.
Hillary spoke first, stressing to the young audience, "This election is more important for you than for anyone else."
The crowd then went into a frenzy when Star Jones introduced "the man who played his sax for Arsenio Hall." Bill Clinton began with a partisan zinger, saying, "The Republicans want to privatize everything, except your private lives."
Brian, 26, an independent who was lured to the event by a friend, paid $100 at the door just to hear Bill Clinton speak. "He's so dynamic," he enthused. "Listening to Clinton makes it totally worthwhile."
Getting to the point, Clinton summed up November's election like this: "The Democrats and Republicans each have 45 percent of the vote with their respective bases, so it's all about who gets that remaining 10 percent, and whether each side shows up to vote."
Up next was Sharpton, who described Bill Clinton as "the last elected president of the United States," then railed against President Bush's stance on gay marriage. "It don't matter who you go to bed with if you don't have a job to wake up to."
Julie, 23, was one of many partygoers who predicted a strong young-voter turnout in November. "I'm an 'anybody but Bush' voter, but I do really like Kerry. There's a lot of young people who are really upset about the economy and what's going on in Iraq." Julie came to the fundraiser with 15 of her Democratic friends, all recent grads from Stanford University and the College of William & Mary.
Recent data seems to support Julie's hypothesis that more young people are tuned in to this election. A poll by the Vanishing Voter Project shows that almost half of all adults ages 18 to 30 said they had read, seen or heard an election-news story within the past day. In 2000, only a third said that was the case.
Michael Clearwater, 23, is less optimistic: "It's depressing because I don't think young people truly understand how important this vote is. It represents a huge cultural and societal shift, and it irks me that most of my friends aren't paying attention to the real issues."
For more political news, insight into the 2004 presidential election and information on registering to vote, check out Choose or Lose.