Guy Adams: California's liberals roll back the years and the Republican jibes

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The Independent Online

Three time zones and a spiritual world away from Barack Obama's floodlit lectern, his tub-thumping speech was being devoured with the sort of unfettered public adulation last seen when he was hop-scotching America to seduce voters with talk of Change We Can Believe In.

At Santa Monica Pier, the Los Angeles landmark synonymous with the Californian dream, supporters of the President gathered around a radio to whoop and holler their way through his 45-minute address, waving placards that invited passing motorists to "honk for a public option".

"He's not lost it!"declared one of their number, Joni Burns. "It's so inspiring, the way he paints the big picture, but also tells little stories that move you and make a point. His speeches explain things so well to the American people. That's why he won the election, and that's why he'll win on healthcare."

The dozen or so protesters had convened as part of a nationwide series of "watch parties" co-ordinated by supporters of reform. By publicly viewing or listening to Mr Obama's speech they hope to steal thunder from conservatives, who have so far dominated the healthcare debate.

"Up till now, Obama has been too reticent. But this is a turning point," said Eric Smith, a hospital nurse. "We've had so many different versions of the truth out there.... But he's now made it clear what his vision is, and why it's insane to oppose it."

Wednesday's demonstration had been organised to coincide with a vast fireworks show and street party celebrating the Pier's centenary. It brought tens of thousands of revellers on to the streets, and organisers included local dignitaries Robert Redford and Joan Baez.

"By coming to a high-profile event like this, we want to mobilise a silent majority who favour reform," said the demo's organiser, Jerry Caldwell. With the sun setting over the Pacific, left-leaning demonstrators on the streets, and Baez and Redford in the background, it felt like the 1960s had never ended. Liberal California is convinced; whether President Obama can inspire the rest of America remains to be seen.