Martha’s Vineyard

Like brass bands and old soldiers strutting down Main Street on the Fourth of July, the American ritual of electing a president can be a noisy parade that stirs patriotism in every heart. American voters, being quirky, are looking for a candidate who can run both a gunnysack race and a war room, and while platforms may differ, Republican and Democrat voters alike want to shake the hand and touch the robe of the next president.

Last summer on Martha’s Vineyard, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton all made appearances in backyard tents and oceanfront living rooms during a single week in August when the island’s summer population was at its peak. For the real possibility of a brush with history, $2,300 got you a fireside chat with Obama. $500, $1,000, or $2,300 brought you incrementally closer to Romney, and Edwards—true to his grassroots strategy—charged $50 for a backyard rally in Chilmark. Undecided though I was, I agreed to join an Island choir performance at the Tabernacle, in the historic African-American community of Oak Bluffs, which was how I came to hold a free ticket to “A Vineyard Evening with Hillary and President William Jefferson Clinton.”

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