Last Thursday, I sat in Lynah rink with a few friends, and had a typical Lynah experience. Anyone who has ventured to those sacred wooden bleachers has heard and seen a lot of the same things I heard and saw.
The pep band played a rousing rendition of some songs I didn’t recognize, the crowd started an “asshole” chant in response to an outsider’s presence, people who are otherwise calm and reserved were jumping up and down screaming at the top of their lungs and (perhaps most familiarly) my butt fell asleep. Remarkably enough, I was not at a hockey game; I was at a political rally for Congressman Ron Paul.
Dr. Paul (the program made sure to inform us that he’s a doctor who has delivered over 4,000 babies, pointing out how no other major presidential candidate has the baby-delivering skills necessary to lead the free world) is running for the Republican nomination. Dr. Paul will not win the nomination battle, and I don’t believe he will run as a third party candidate. The official Republican National Committee delegate count has Dr. Paul with 26, compared to Mitt Romney’s 573. Furthermore, Ron Paul’s son, Rand Paul, is a Senator from Kentucky with national ambitions of his own. If Dr. Paul runs as a third party candidate, he will almost certainly act as a spoiler to Mr. Romney (think what Ralph Nader is alleged to have done to Al Gore in 2000, only on a larger scale). The implications for Rand Paul’s future ambitions would be calamitous if Dr. Paul were perceived as responsible for President Obama defeating Mr. Romney.
I’ve been to a lot of political events in my time. One can always expect a mix of passion and curiosity in the crowd. That was certainly the basic dynamic for Dr. Paul — I saw a lot of people in the crowd who seemed to be curious Cornellians interested in what a Ron Paul rally looked like. We hear about him on The Daily Show, why not check it out in person? That was more or less my rationale for attending the event.
What surprised me was the rest of the crowd, the passionate Ron Paul supporters. They wore shirts with slogans like “Ron Paul Revolution” written on them, varying from students to grandparents, and everything in between.
By and large, the crowd seemed respectful. However, there was an unmistakable air of hostility that permeated Lynah. Before the speech started, a man holding up an anti Ron Paul sign became the victim of the aforementioned “asshole” chant. I chuckled at the typical Lynah atmosphere transitioning so seamlessly over to the Republican nomination race.
That’s when things got weird. A Ron Paul supporter ripped the sign out of the hands of the protester, and violently tore it up. The crowd roared its approval.
One of Dr. Paul’s core principles is restoring the Constitution. I had hoped that Dr. Paul’s loyal supporters would pause to think about that whole “freedom of speech” thing in the document they’re so quick to fawn over.
Yes, this was Ron Paul’s event, and if he didn’t want a protester there, it’s completely within his right to have him removed. Having said that, the howl that went up in the crowd as the sign’s remnants were strewn about gave me pause.
As the rally continued, and the crowd jeered the “tyrants” and “enemies of liberty,” against whom revolution needs to be waged, I detected that same sense of hostility. The people sitting around me hung on every single one of Dr. Paul’s words, and his amiable delivery began to contrast more and more with the escalating passion of the crowd.
Dr. Paul is a curious political character. As a bleeding heart liberal, I disagree strongly with his views on economic liberty, especially the deregulation of our economy. That being said, his views on personal liberty, like repealing the Patriot Act, appeal to me in a way that has always made me think quite fondly of Dr. Paul.
His passionate campaigning has held a mirror up to both the Democratic and Republican parties. Liberal-Democrats like myself have been forced to consider just how willing we are to ignore President Obama’s, at best, shaky record on domestic civil liberties. Conservative-Republicans have had to consider just how passionately they should continue advocating for smaller government, all the while defending the seemingly endless money-pit that is the national defense budget.
As I got up to leave, I tapped on the shoulder of the middle-aged man who sat quietly next to me through the course of the rally. I asked him if he would support either Mr. Romney or President Obama if Ron Paul was not on the ballot this November. He quickly responded “No.” He then took a pause, and politely told me, “they’re both clowns.” Looking at the farcical and contradictory nature of the current state of electoral politics, it is hard to fervently disagree with him. However, watching Thursday’s crowd lose its shit in response to the rare sight of a solicitous politician, it’s hard to say that we deserve much better.
Noah Karr-Kaitin is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Plain Hokum appears alternate Mondays this semester.