Delores Reid-Smith, a member of the Charlotte chapter of the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee who is organizing a bus trip from North Carolina to Washington, summed up the projected attendance drop more succinctly: Obama “isn’t a newbie anymore.”
Even the president acknowledged that the thrill might be gone for some of his supporters. After national voter turnout surged to 62.3 percent in 2008, it fell to 57.5 percent in November, the lowest figure since 2000, when 54.2 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
“So, I’m a littler grayer now. It’s not as trendy to be involved in the Obama campaign as it was back then,” Obama said at a Chicago fundraiser last March. “Some of you have rolled up those HOPE posters and they’re in the closet somewhere.”
Andrea Young, a school speech pathologist from Norcross, Ga., said nothing could have stopped her from attending Obama’s 2009 inaugural. She made the journey on a bus initially chartered by South Carolina Republicans.
This year, she tried to organize a bus trip to Washington through her Spartanburg, S.C., church, but that fell through. Now she’s considering driving with friends or traveling by bus with another church group.
“I’m excited, but I have obstacles in front of me,” Young said. “I thought it would be a slam-dunk organizing a bus trip, but people are lacking finances.”
Neither finances nor the Atlantic Ocean is stopping Verna Brandford from attending Obama’s second swearing-in. The London resident was there in 2009 and booked her flight to attend this year’s ceremony moments after the American television networks called Ohio for Obama on election night.
“To have witnessed such a historical moment clearly cannot be repeated,” Brandford said in an email interview. “However, this time is an even more momentous occasion for me as your president as a man of color did not only attain the unattainable once in 2008 but did it a second time in 2012. What are the chances of that happening in one’s lifetime?”