Al Gore’s appearance brings out a fair crowd

Michelle Kibiger

More than 3,000 fairgoers stopped eating pronto pups, cheese curds and cotton candy for about three hours to listen to Vice President Al Gore at the Minnesota State Fair on Labor Day.
Gore’s visit continued a tradition which began with Rutherford B. Hayes in 1868. Since then, grass-roots politics have been a vital part of the Great Minnesota Get Together.
From Former Senator Rudy Boschwitz’s milk stand to Sen. Paul Wellstone’s green bus, Minnesotans have come out to the state fair to see the sights and discuss the issues.
“This is where Minnesotans are,” Gore said.
Traditionally a stronghold for the Democratic party, Minnesota is not a high priority for the Clinton-Gore campaign. However, re-electing Wellstone to the U.S. Senate and highlighting party values were on Gore’s agenda during his short stay in the state.
“I just have one question for you,” Gore said. “Are you going to re-elect Paul Wellstone to the U.S. Senate?”
The crowd listening to Gore consisted heavily of baby-boomers and their children, and the issues included labor, education, protecting the environment and the economy.
“Children, education and working families in Minnesota — that’s what this race is all about,” said Wellstone, who introduced Gore.
Susan Rosenberg of Richfield brought her twin daughters to the event to back the Democrats’ support of public education. Elizabeth and Patty Rosenberg, both 16, said they are concerned about prospects for college and financial aid, especially if the Republicans take over the White House and both houses of Congress.
“They’re cutting down on scholarships, they’re cutting down on everything,” Elizabeth said.
Supporting education was also important to several Wellstone supporters conducting a voter registration drive. Jeff Bauer, a member of the College Democrats who did some advance work for Gore’s visit, said Clinton and Wellstone have the right answers for students. He said the message the Republicans are sending is that they want to cut everything.
“They (Republicans) have been slamming public schools,” Bauer said. “Students know who’s trying to cut their aid.”
Bauer echoed the Rosenbergs’ concerns that the voucher system will destroy public education in the United States. “Vouchers are a threat,” he said. “Public schools will die, especially in the inner city.”
Although education is a top issue in this election, economic conditions propel voters to the polls more than any other problem. President Clinton’s outlook on the economy helped him defeat George Bush in 1992.
Clinton supporters say the strong economy will solidify Clinton’s win this year. Bauer said that the 10 million new jobs which Clinton created are good jobs. “They’re not burger-flipping jobs,” Bauer said.
The unemployment rate is lower than it has been in seven years, a fact the Clinton campaign has emphasized since the rate was announced earlier this month. However, Gromacki calls the U.S. economic situation ominous at best.
Gromacki said that based on the history of economic cycles, the U.S. economy should be booming, but it’s not. He said that the slowness is a result of apprehension over the President’s economic policies.
Bauer and Gromacki do agree on one thing — “A college degree doesn’t mean as much as it used to,” Bauer said.
“It’s sad to say,” Gromacki said, “but the quality of an education has become watered-down.”
Bauer said he’d rather have Clinton and Gore in control of the outlook for college graduates than Dole and Kemp. “It’s a scary time to be a college student,” Bauer said. “I feel a lot more confident under Clinton and Gore than under Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.”