Posted by Brad @ 1:27 pm on April 15th 2009

Tea Party Day

I’ve found myself really mixed about this whole Tea Party business. I’ve expressed amply my reservations, but it was by sheer chance that I wandered into the Pittsburgh Tea Party today.

I hadn’t planned on going, but I’m back in Pittsburgh on a contract job this spring, and also picking up some more freelance work. I was out on my lunch break pounding the pavement and dropping off portfolios downtown, and the tea party was there, in full swing, so I stopped by, if for no other reason than I figured I’d run into some of my old friends from the Ron Paul movement (seems like a decade ago now).

On first blush I was pretty impressed. There was a pretty sizable crowd, a few T.V. cameras, and it was all set up in Market Square downtown, dead center in Pittsburgh’s busiest block for foot traffic. Like the Ron Paul rallies of old, the cross-section of people with signs, the obvious activist, cheered me up. Crazies, maybe, but my kind of crazies. And for the most part, the signage and the speaker up at the podium were all in relative accord. All a generalized message against government spending. Some explicitly anti-Obama, but more were just generally anti big government (with maybe the single biggest bloc being anti-Fed signs). The first speaker I caught identified herself as from D.C., a representative of FreedomWorks, which she described as “a grassroots organization with over 500,000 members (leaving out that it’s a lobbying organization run by Dick Armey). Nevertheless, the message was very broadly anti-government, and sounded pretty good to me.

I did indeed know a handful of people. I ran into the head of the Pittsburgh Libertarian Party, an old friend of mine, and they were there, as Libertarians always. We chatted for a bit, and though he didn’t go into details, when I said something like “looks like you guys have done well”, he made it very clear that it wasn’t “his guys”. “This is a Tea Party thing. It’s their thing, FreedomWorks” When I said “well, at least the Republican establishment is finally on board”, he guffawed and said something to the effect of “Yeah. Be nice if they did this, say, when it mattered. Great to seem them out talking about spending two years after the primary”.

The Campaign for Liberty people who had a table set up seemed more enthused and a part of it all. They were, it looked to me, just thrilled to once again have a big crowd, and were pushing an upcoming rally of theirs on the 25th.

By the time I was ready to leave, they had gone through another speaker (a local radio jockey), and some other guy was talking. He immediately started banging on about New World Order Socialist Obama kind of stuff. The activists were loving it, but by then I was on the periphery of the crowd and the response ranged between bemusement and active mockery. Two comments overheard verbatim: “They sound like a cult,” and “boarding the Mothership now”. The speaker then veered wildly off course and for some damn reason started banging on first about “the lie of global warming” and then about, bizarrely, multiculturalism and something to do with the second amendment in relation to illegal immigrants (we should be able to shoot them, I guess). That’s when I left.

Positives: It was really nice to see so many people gathered and so enthusiastic in support of limited government. It definitely harkened back to the Ron Paul days, and for awhile there they seemed to have most of the crowd on their side when they were just being anti-tax and anti-spending. I also always get a charge out of civic imagination, and that this was clearly well organized and going on all over the country did indeed make me rethink my assumptions. What’s more, one thing struck me, as it had before only in theory: this was a Republican D.C.-based party organ essentially pulling the strings to throw Ron Paul rallies all over America. It was unmistakable. When you think about it, that’s pretty incredible.

Negatives: As I said, it veered wildly off message. And though I was initially flush with warm fuzzies, talking to the LP and the Ron Paul friends of mine from the campaign days, the guys that virtually single-handedly ran the limited government movement in Pittsburgh, there was a definite and explicit sense of unease. One of the guys who had added the event to our Meetup group months and months ago seemed very…well, hedging his praise. The overwhelming impression I got is that the real local activists here who have been on the streets for years for the cause weren’t yet sure what to make of this. I was told that it had originally been planned by Ron Paul guys, but a few months ago the crew from FreedomWorks basically swooped in, scheduled their own event (but with money behind it), and took charge. “It’s their show now” one of the CfL people said a little wistfully and not without a smidgen of resentment.

Believe it or not, that’s not the message I was looking for. I just wandered in, and as I said, at first blush, was already planning the post recanting my criticisms. On a surface level, at least until the speakers started veering into more standard Republican foot soldier tropes, it looked pretty damn good to me. Digging deeper and scratching a bit under the surface though, my sense of unease about the whole operation came back.

I still wish them well, and you know what, if there’s a protest like that in every city today, that’s pretty hard not be enthusiastic about and supportive of. But I still can’t shake the feeling, and apparently neither could the Pittsburgh grassroots, that there was a patina of interloping about the whole deal, the administrators taking the asylum back from the inmates. Nobody was ready to denounce that, and they were guardedly (very guardedly) happy about the whole thing, but that sense of unease lingered, at least if you knew which faces in the crowd to look to (in my case, the Pittsburgh grassroots, and the casual observers).

Posted by Rojas @ 4:18 pm on February 9th 2008

Raucous Caucus: Rojas vs. Sam Brownback

A not inaccurate portrayl of Rojas' Kansas Caucus speech

I’m back from my first caucus experience.

I was sent by the Paul campaign to Topeka, to be the official speaker for Ron Paul at the capital city’s event. For some reason they seemed to think that Barry Goldwater Jr. would have more appeal to Kansas City suburban conservatives. This strategic move created head-to-head public speaking deathmatches at two key caucus sites. In suburban KC: Mr. Goldwater vs. some local McCain nobody. In Topeka: me vs. Senator Sam Brownback.

The Huckabee people didn’t apparently organize well enough to schedule a speaker at the Topeka site–but Holy Freaking God, that was just about the only thing that they DIDN’T have wired up. From the opening of the doors at 8 am, the site was just FLOODED with Huckabee people, and damned if every one of them wasn’t carrying a sign. I probably should have seen this coming when I recieved robo-calls on both my landline and my cellphone in the days leading up to the primary. (more…)

Posted by Brad @ 3:00 pm on January 14th 2008

…and so, for me…

Now that I’m mostly fully recovered, a few final thoughts on New Hampshire, this time from a personal perspective.

First of all, I’m retiring from political organizing. I’m the least organized person I know, so that sort of campaign work, while I was happy to do it, isn’t exactly my bag. We did have a lot of success with it though. Kari and I personally brought in something like 233 people to volunteer in New Hampshire that week and sponsored their trips, which I’m proud of (plus, none of mine snowballed Sean Hannity). That was 230+ people, most of whom have never been politically active before (at least in any organized way), who got to go out to the Ground Zero of electoral primary politics, roll up their sleeves, and get their hands dirty. That was also 230 mainstream (if novice) libertarians who we hooked into the Free State Project (I bet they got a few dozen new recruits from my batch alone), into the Republican party apparatus, into traditional campaign work, and into each other. How effective they were in terms of the final result will always be an open question—I think they were, but to a limited level for reasons having little to do with them. But it’s hard to not view it as an enormously positive thing in its own right, just from your basic civics perspective.

However, particularly as I have no political ambitions to speak of myself, I think that was my first and last foray into political organizing at that level. We’ll see though; no doubt something else could crop up that could pique me again, and I’ll still be involved in my political organization, F.A.C.T., though perhaps in a more unofficial capacity for the time being (I need to graduate!). I hope to retain a position as a dignified figurehead with no real power, while Kari and Chris do all the actual work.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, going out to all kinds of nooks and crannies of the political world, most of them just barely under the mainstream radar. I’ve been involved in more late night hotel room debates over “where do we go from here?” than I care to count. I’ve personally met, interacted, cheered and worked with by now thousands of constitutionalists, libertarians, and funhogs of every stripe. Not to put too fine a point on it, but by now, I think of myself as as much of an insider expert on the Ron Paul Revolution as just about anybody.

Standing in the hotel ballroom as the New Hampshire results came in, where Ron did just fine but underperformed based on our own expectations, I found myself curiously placid and content. Coming back and reading the reactions from other people (including our own bloggers), I was sort of surprised, though I guess I shouldn’t have been, at the level of dejection and “what went wrong?”s that was hovering over all the Ron Paul supporters out there. I can understand that, of course, but it wasn’t my reaction at all, nor was it the reaction, near as I can tell, of most of us assembled there, many of whom had given up significant chunks of their lives for the effort and who should have been, by all rights, more dejected than anybody. Sure everybody was kind of bummed, and if they had to do it over again they would have done things a lot differently, but everybody was also satisfied that they’d done their best given the circumstances, and by and large the conversation mostly centered around happily chattering about people’s next stops were on the traveling carnival of this movement.

I gave my thoughts on why I think NH turned out as it did in my last post, but a quick thought on why I was, and remain, pretty placid and hopeful about the state of things in this loosely-defined movement.

I remember a post Rojas once put up about American soccer. It was at the end of the 2002 World Cup, when America made it to the quarterfinals. Rojas, a longtime soccer fanatic, has often dealt with the question of why/when/how football would come to mainstream America, or what role the United States might eventually have in the world football community (this was all before our blog here). He saw the quarterfinal match between Germany and the United States in a large room in Kansas City very late at night with hundreds and hundreds of other American soccer fanatics, cheering the U.S. on. The United States lost, but after he left, he wrote something about how, for the first time, it occurred to him that soccer didn’t have to break through at the level of basketball or football or baseball in the American consciousness for it to still be something special, with a huge impact. That to put that expectation on it was to miss the point of what it was already; that to ask the wrong question, the answer will always come up as unsatisfactory. To paraphrase, he said something like “you know, it occurs to me now that we, us 20 million or whatever soccer fans in America, are enough. We’re all out there, and we constitute something real. We might not be mainstream, but we’re American soccer, and I’ll put my 20 million up against any other. America will win a World Cup in my lifetime.”

That’s almost exactly how I felt last week as my New Hampshire adventure was winding down.

It’s always been assumed that libertarianism, or constitutionalism, would never amount to anything in its own right because it was just too hard to organize, to mobilize in any effective way. Or that just plumb too few people were willing to cosign to it. And yet, already, a candidate—and by no means an ideal candidate—running on a message of almost pure libertarianism in a party for whom that message has become anathema, is able to mobilize a small army of the most committed and enthusiastic supporters of anybody. An unknown Texas congressman whose message the vast majority of his party openly loathe, was able to outraise Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani (for donations directed at the primary). A candidate with no institutional support, no aura of viability, that approximately nobody in the media takes very seriously, who until very recently has had no organization to speak of, has already gotten 30,000 voters (or about 8.5% of the electorate) to come out for him in just the first two voting states, two very different states for that matter. In a primary with five viable frontrunners NOT including Ron Paul, he’s continually, and I expect will continually be, raking in a significant chunk of votes and delegates, now running fourth, probably at the end of the day coming in fourth or third at the final tally. This isn’t on the strength of money, or personality, or backing, or charisma, or luck, or even just casual preference, but purely based on the strength of ideas, ideas for which you’d be pretty hard pressed to find any mainstream analogues.

That, to me, is pretty incredible. I’m not lowering the bar in saying that (as honestly, I’ve never really expected Ron Paul to be a viable candidate for the nomination), but it just constantly amazes me how fortunate we are to have ANY result.

And what really strikes me, in going to all these places and meeting all these folks, is that these people are out there. Since about 2002, I’ve often felt like I’ve been madly typing away in the dark. I felt a little like an alien in terms of the political mainstream. It’s often been hard to believe what I believe without feeling like I have shit on my face the way I’m received (figuratively) by the people purporting, or asking, to represent me. I feel like my beliefs have stayed mostly the same, but what was even 10 short years ago perfectly mainstream has since become lunatic fringe, to hear them tell it. But I’m realizing now that I’m really not the only one.

These people are out there, they’re hungry, and now, with the Ron Paul campaign, they’ve tasted blood. You could see it on every single one of their faces last week in New Hampshire. It used to be just a bunch of singular crazies out there banging away in the dark, getting a sort of political cabin fever; now, there’s a palatable sense that they’re realizing that people might actually listen to what they have to say, that they might actually have, or can claw, a mainstream voice. People were no longer concerned about how they can write a manifesto of purity to beat people that only agree with them on 98% of things over the head with. They were concerned with knocking on doors, and making their case to the right-leaning centrist housewife who answered the door. “What issue concerns you? Well, have you considered this…” That they can band together and that, in so doing, it might not even MATTER what the hell National Review or Rudy Giuliani might think. That they had the power. It’s the same sort of sense that one could get from Christian conservatives in the 80s, or progressive liberal grassroots in the middle of this decade.

It was, in that sense, enormously uplifting, the whole experience, even in the ballroom as the results were coming in. And though they might not have been able to express it, I think everybody sensed the same thing, which is why you didn’t see a bunch of muted and depressed faces as Ron Paul rambled on in his speech to the crowd, but rather a bunch of howling monkeys still as ready to roll as ever.

I agreed with Rojas’ notion of the Ron Paul Restoration, but now I think Revolution might actually be the right word for it.

Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess. I’ve no idea. I do think the Republican party isn’t going to bend to Ron Paul conservatism anytime soon. I don’t know if Ron Paul can focus and sustain the movement beyond his campaign, or if the LP can capitalize on it. I do think there will be a lot of congressional candidates coming out of the woodwork in the next couple of cycles, starting now, who were inspired to run as Ron Paul Republicans (one I hope to profile extensively when he gets off his ass and announces (you know who you are)), and some of them will get in. I do think that Ron Paul has inspired and will continue to inspire for generations a small but incredibly committed and fervent band of freedom loving folks, and some of them will, in turn, go out there and do good works and keep on truckin’. And I do think that the Revolution—the liberty movement generally—has tasted mainstream acceptance, and coming together to achieve a common goal, and likes it. For the first time, it’s not just libertarians or constitutionalists talking to each other and ceaselessly prattling on amongst themselves; they realize that their message actually CAN resonate (which has always been little more than a working theory). I think the wrong bar to use for the Ron Paul movement is that a Republican candidate for the nomination “only” gets about 10% of the vote (mind you, only about three or four politicians a DECADE manage that feat). To put it another way, a libertarian—which has never surpassed 0.3% of the vote (or whatever), could now reasonably shoot for 10-15% of a general election electorate (and the more mainstream the candidate and message, and the further the “mainstream” candidate move away from it, the higher that can go).

So, and maybe this is a product as much of my own dejection this last decade with the mainstream political discourse, but when I laid my head down on the night of the 8th, I didn’t feel particularly disappointed or dejected. I had instead a weird sense of comfort. Because in all this, I’ve found out that they’re out there, and maybe, at least for now, they’re enough.

Posted by Brad @ 2:58 am on January 10th 2008

So What Happened In New Hampshire?

Hi everybody.

I arrived back in Pittsburgh about half an hour ago. I have not had time to read any press, watch any media save election returns, and outside of skimming some of the last half dozen posts here, haven’t had any time to read through analysis. As such, what I write now is more or less reaction from somebody just coming off the floor of the Marriott ballroom immediately following Ron’s speech. And, I’ve gotten less sleep in the last week than just about any time prior in my life, so what I say may be a bit wonky. Also, I’ll follow this up with a brief post of my own personal stuff in the last month or so (which I’ll do late tomorrow night, after 16 hours or so of sleep), so mostly what I want to focus on here is asking the question in the post title, from an insider’s perspective (for those that don’t know, I’ve been unofficially working as a New Hampshire political organizer for the last few months, and spent the last week on the ground there).

First I’ll give some reasons for how things turned out at they did (not excuses), and then some final thoughts.

Ultimately, what screwed up the polls (or kept them right) was the turnout. Turnout in New Hampshire this year was ridiculous. A lot of that was honestly for the idiotically simple reason that the weather was really, really nice. Tuesday was after three days of snow thaw, and it was a ridiculously clear and balmy day of about 55 degrees (in New Hampshire, in January). At one point at about 6 PM, I overheard a high up Ron Paul staffer in a whisper conversation with another staffer that “this weather is killing us”. What happened essentially was that anybody who had the slightest inkling of voting, did. In New Hampshire, that favors two things: the older vote (half of New Hampshire’s voters are over the age of 50, and are more likely to stay home when the weather isn’t great), and the “just made up my mind in the last day” vote (which tends to favor name ID and momentum). I swore up and down that Obama was going to win in a walk in New Hampshire based on my own observation, but I think what ultimately killed him was the former, that just too many voters over the age of 45 turned out, and that helps nobody but Hillary (Obama still killed among those under 30, who themselves turned out in record numbers). On the Republican side, the older vote came in for McCain, and the quote unquote “casual” vote came in for McCain, Huckabee, and Giuliani (I have to assume on that last one; I didn’t meet a single Rudy supporter the entire time I was in NH, but his name ID remains huge there; I did meet a significant number of people who had decided on Huckabee within the last week, and the crusty old conservatives were all well for McCain). As far as Ron Paul goes, had the turnout been 20% less, he would have been a big third, according to every internal (not just from his campaign) model I’ve seen, and according to a lot of information we got in during the early day. But the fact is, he had a glass ceiling, and the other campaigns (with the exceptions of possibly Romney and Edwards) mostly didn’t.

I’m enough on the inside that I have to be a bit careful in terms of what I can reveal (or even mention) and what I can’t. I will say this. The man-on-the-street vote came out for Obama and McCain and to a lesser extent Huckabee. The best organization in New Hampshire, that I could see, was Hillary Clinton, by far. The people purported to have the best operations in NH, Romney and Edwards, were nearly MIA that I could see. They had the paid people to do the boilerplate stuff like canvassing and meeting with local bosses and all that—to in essence lay the groundwork—but they weren’t even in shooting distance of Hillary’s final on-the-ground push and GOTV efforts. It was, I would say off the cuff, not just textbook last week campaign work, but as if they had bought the rights to said book, sat on them, and then published a massively expanded revised edition three days before the vote. To give you a sense of it, you know those people that work at polls in your local precinct, the little old ladies and button up upper middle age men and occasional overly-ambitious young Democrat? Imagine taking a tenth of them from across the country, sending them to New Hampshire, and organizing and dispatching them like you were running a military operation. That’s sort of what the Hillary campaign was like this week. That said, I STILL thought she would lose by 10 points or more, because there is absolutely no question to me that all the man-on-the-street enthusiasm was for Obama, but I guess you shouldn’t underestimate those things.

I may get in trouble for saying this, but the Paul campaign, by comparison, felt thrown together and scrambling. Most of what they were doing was what campaigns ought to do, but with little semblance of realizing why they ought to do it or how. They had far more volunteers and supporters than they knew what to do with, and given that the Paul campaign’s greatest strength has never been central organization, how they operating was often a bit frustrating and meandering. In short, it felt like a dry run for a real New Hampshire campaign, rather than the big show itself. I will qualify that, however, by saying that with some notable exceptions, every volunteer I met (and I personally sent out and organized A LOT) was as committed and enthusiastic and professional as any other campaign’s. The problem was not with the foot soldiers, but instead (sometimes) with the marching orders. That’s not sour grapes at all, by the way, because I LIKE almost the entire campaign staff, and they did their level best, but like I said most people in the campaign being paid to organize things are relative greens to all this—if we forced the comparison with the Clinton people, it would be downright embarassing—and thus it was hard for the official campaign to match the savvy or seasoning of the rest of the field. I have no doubt that if we had it to do over again, we would have worked out the kinks and would positively kill, and I really mean that, but of course, we don’t have that opportunity.

Independents—I think McCain hurt Obama a lot more than Obama hurt anybody else. In a weird way, all the “Obama rising to the nomination” stuff might have actually worked against Barack, in that a lot of independents seemed more interested in pushing McCain over the top than putting the last coffin nail in Hillary’s campaign (which people that might have been inclined to vote for Obama tended to feel was inevitable anyway). In another weird way, this might actually help Obama down the road. If what I saw was any indication, Obama has no problem bringing people out, getting people enthusiastic. But there might have been a sense here that the story had passed, or was in the process of passing, by the time voting day came around (versus the McCain-Huckabee-Romney story). Perhaps now that Hillary appears to not be dead just yet, a lot of those independents and casual Democrats are going to come back to vote against her big time.

But here’s the real skinny.

There is a tendency among election watchers that after the poll results come in, since there are winners and there are losers, somebody must have fucked up and somebody must have done great work. Of course, that is technically correct, in a narrow way. But in a more practical sense, it isn’t often. Elections are not exercises in bookkeeping. They’re more like sailing through uncharted waters. Skill and savvy can go a long way, but ultimately, make-or-breaks can come just as much through a random confluence of circumstance. Iowa is a good example. Hillary lost big, but in reality, she did mostly exactly what she needed to do. Any other year, she would have walked away with it. But this year, things just kind of fell together more for Obama. It really wasn’t so much that Hillary lost as that Obama won. That sounds pedantic, but it isn’t.

In New Hampshire, Obama didn’t lose, at least not that I saw. He did terrific. Things just turned out better for Hillary. Same with Ron Paul. His result was disappointing, but in the end, he got done exactly what he needed to get done to accomplish what he would have liked. But things didn’t work out in his favor. That’s not to say that Ron’s campaign didn’t make mistakes that cost him, or that Hillary’s didn’t do a phenomenal job, but it is to say that elections are a lot closer to chaos than arithmetic. It’s the same reason that, on any given day, any sports team can beat any other. Most days, they do. But a lot of days, they don’t, and it’s not necessarily because on those given days, one team screwed the pooch or that the other team is, in some objective cosmic sense, better. Shit happens. That might sound idiotically, apologetically simplistic, but it’s also the truth. Elections are not controlled laboratory experiments. It’s more like scrapped-together hypothesis followed by natural observation.

So, what do I think coming out of New Hampshire?

The Democratic race gets slightly more interesting, but Obama still kills. Hillary got just enough of a new lease on life to mobilize Obama’s people. Edwards has some strong states coming up, but after that, he’s a non-factor, and now that the choice is clear and practicable for Democratic voters, and the contest nation-wide, there is no amount of money I would not put on Obama. Seeing their efforts up close and personal, Hillary is not to be underestimated purely on organization and playbook politicking alone, but Obama really does represent a 1968-style revolution-in-the-making. I’ve been around enough campaigns to see when something is being done right, and when it doesn’t matter if something is done right or not, it’s just inevitable. Hillary is the former, Obama the latter. Unless he’s got some concealed personal history regarding sex with farm animals or somesuch, I’m having a hard time figuring out how he isn’t our next President. I’m that impressed with the on-the-ground perception of him, his campaign. and his support.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney is done. Done. I stand by my prediction that the race becomes McCain-Huckabee, though it’s open enough that there are still some surprises in store. McCain, that I saw, didn’t win because his campaign was brilliant or because he had Obama-like man-on-the-street support. He won because the average GOP voter came home to roost—read settle—with him, and in reality, the vast majority of Republican voters, at least when turnout is average or above, are NOT dyed-in-the-wool evangelicals or nutty war hawks, but older people who happen to lean conservative. I, personally, think that’ll be enough to win him the nomination, but who knows. Huckabee’s ability to get casual voters to like him enough to pull the lever also shouldn’t be underestimated.

Ron Paul: I suppose that’s what most of our readers are interested about. Here’s what I’ll say about Ron Paul.

Observations:

1. I do not think that the racism stuff hurt him much. I met a LOT of New Hampshire voters (in the hundreds), and I didn’t hear that once, nor did I hear about anybody else hearing about that once. The people who are following the TNR article kind of stuff are A. a very slim minority of average voters, and B. not exactly the sort of people who winnable for us, or people who could reasonably be described as voters that, at this point, can be influenced one way or the other (at least not in any organized way). Weirdly, the same goes for the libertarian aspect of Ron Paul’s message. Simply put, there are a significant contingent of people who won’t consider a general libertarian message at all acceptable. Those people, however, aren’t going to be won over no matter who is the candidate or how the message is tailored. I met a few people who pointed to some of Ron’s more extreme positions as evidence of them not voting for him. These were not people that went to Huckabee at the last minute. These are people that have been working for Edwards for several months.

2. I DO think that Ron Paul’s supporters turn people off. Part of that is justifiable. I got a lot of comments about how his supporter are rude or turn voters off or whatever. But part of it was in much the same vein that any people over 35 would be turned off by the crowd of a Slipknot concert. Too many young people too enthusiastic. This is the point I’ve been turning over the most in my mind, obviously, since I’m largely responsible for bringing out lots of people who tend to be Ron Paul supporters, and I haven’t yet figured out an easy answer. I think the truth is that enthusiasm of the level Paul generates is just not mainstream and can be off-putting to people who view politics more as a kitchen table breakfast conversation. Do Ron Paul supporters act like douchebags sometimes? Absolutely. But my own, admittedly personal, sense is that that was less of an issue, in its own right as far as specifics are concerned, than people being all-too-willing to view that as a defining thing. The conduct of a vociferous minority of Paul supporters is partly—even largely—to blame here, and believe me that’s what I want to blame it on, but my feeling is there’s something else going on there as well that I haven’t yet put my finger on.

3. I agree with James in many of his comments to Rojas’s big post on this subject. I think the media blackout has really hurt Ron Paul. I am NOT a big “MSM conspiring to do this or that!” guy, but the truth is, Ron does really well among people that made up their minds months ago (third in Iowa; second that I saw in New Hampshire), and he does pretty darn well among people who make up their minds on the day of the event (not so good here but still significant; good in Iowa. I chalk both up to the “Well, fuck it” vote), but he does very very poorly among people who just start paying attention a week or two before the vote and decide then. These are not people that go in depth enough to ponder the 1990 race newsletter or Ron’s position on the FDA (believe it or not, he does WELL among those people); these are not the people who have just in the last minute decided that they might as well vote. These are people who turn on CNN or Fox News a week before the polls open with the most cobwebby and casual impressions imaginable, ask their friends, and pretty much make up their minds based on that. And, on that front, Ron Paul got a mostly total media blackout in the last few weeks. But more significantly, it had nothing whatever to do with Ron Paul, and that’s what killed him. If you tuned in from December 15th on, you wouldn’t have any idea that Ron Paul was even in the race. I spent a fair bit of time in a bar the day before the election with a lot of reporters (by the way, I got to chat with Tucker Carlson, Sam Donaldson, Alan Colmes, and a few others), and the narrative for this election was already there. “If you want to vote, here is the situation” was the explicit premise of every media report that went out, and believe you me Ron Paul had no part of that narrative. Not because the media had some active conspiracy going, but just because they’re self-interested and lazy. The salient point is, if you’re a voter making up your mind in the last few weeks—why on earth is Ron Paul even on your radar, much less somebody you’d consider?

If you want my honest opinion: it’s that, more than anything, that makes him an un-viable candidate. If the media doesn’t decide you are a viable prospect worth treating as such, a great, great bulk of voters won’t either.

Predictions:

Bad news first:

1. Anybody with any hope that Ron Paul will win the Republican nomination, or even become a hugely significant factor in it, should get realistic. He won’t. As far as the major race is concerned, he has now become a nobody. The other candidates won’t pay any attention to him, the media won’t pay any attention to him, and the voters that remain undecided now probably won’t pay any attention to him (barring some kind of maneuver that I’m not seeing). Whether that was ever the case remains questionable, but I think it can be safely said that the Ron Paul race for the Republican nomination, or at least a significant showing in it, was predicated on that possibility.

Whether or not that’s fair is another discussion, but it’s the truth. Ron getting third in New Hampshire was the viability test. Had he done so, the fence-sitting election-watchers as far as Ron Paul is concerned (RCP, National Review, a large part of CNN, back-page stories in most magazines, etc) would have been inclined to talk about him. Now that he hasn’t, the more mainstream blackout of his campaign appears justified and will rule the day. Bill Richardson (presuming he doesn’t drop out) will get more mainstream consideration that Ron Paul. Sucks, but that’s the reality of it.

2. I will also say that the chances or Ron Paul making an independent bid are greatly lessened. I’m almost certain this is not kosher to share (forgive me; I’m new to blogging!) but Paul, his family, and his chief staff were all close to crushed with the result. Early signs on voting day had him doing very, very well (more than you’d think or that anybody would have predicted), but it just got worse as the day went on, and I think that they were predicating a lot of their later strategy on how he did on Tuesday. No clue where they go from here, but I’m on pretty safe ground in saying this was not the result they would have liked, or the one they were expecting (and they are not given to pie-in-the-sky optimism).

3. The people that like Ron Paul and his campaign and message the least are hardcore Republicans. By FAR the most venom I ever got, or heard about, to Ron Paul was not from Democrats or Independents (who, if they had heard of him at all, tended to respect him and “agree to disagree” and wish him well), but from party-line Republicans, the worst of which saw him as something close to the anti-Christ who ought to be burnt on a stake. Even that was a minority view, but if it came from anywhere, it came from party-line Republicans.

Better news:

1. One thing New Hampshire proved, though you might not have thought of this angle yet, is that his support is national. Almost all the discussion has been that he should do disproportionately well in New Hampshire because of its reputation as freedom-loving, but the truth is, he got about 8% there. He got about 8% (actually 10) in Iowa). He’ll get about the same in South Carolina, Nevada, and Michigan. My guess is that in some very big states (New York, Florida, etc), he’ll get about 5 (based largely on name ID and being able to spread the word), and in some smaller states (Alaska, Montana, maybe Nevada) he’ll get about 15, but really, in almost every state in the union, my guess is he does between 6-12%, and the supposed “libertarianisticism” of each state won’t affect that much.

2. His support isn’t likely to go down. The people that are for Ron Paul now are going to be for Ron Paul in 2016. Rudy Giuliani or Mike Huckabee may range from 2-40% depending on momentum, narrative, spending, whatever, but Ron’s 10%, solid. My guess is that Ron’s showing in New Hampshire doesn’t depress his numbers at all. It will put a glass ceiling to it, but the support that he does have (which is significant, and I would guess is about 10% of the GOP and about 15% of the general electorate) will not be significantly depressed.

The Real News:

Back when everybody thought he would get third and still make a race for the nomination, you know what the central piece of conversation being kicked around by Ron personally, his campaign, and most significantly his supporters, was?

“Where do we go from here”.

Even on Tuesday night, Ron’s people spent as much time talking with potential Ron Paul Republicans who might run for Congress as with shaking hands with undecided voters. They took they time making the Liberty Forum, with all its freedom-seeking people, a priority. After Ron’s concession speech, he personally spent two hours standing next to the stage, making sure that literally every single person that wanted to got their shit signed by him or got to shake his hand or got to ask him their question or tell him their idea. Some suggested that his time might be better spent talking to undecideds, but I don’t necessarily think so. The thing is, it may only be 10-15% of the electorate, but Ron, his campaign, and even his supporters, seem to already be intuiting that the Republican convention will be the end of the beginning, that Tuesday was not the beginning of the end.

I have no idea what that will entail, but it was unmistakable at every turn. Take that as you will.

Posted by Brad @ 6:38 pm on January 7th 2008

Some Quick Thoughts From New Hampshire

Feeling a little like a third wheel at the moment. After putting in so much work bringing people out, now that we’re all here (and everybody is pretty well hooked in with the campaigns/causes they want to work for), I’m no longer really needed, which is both a little awkward and an enormous relief. My organization, Free Assembly For Constitutional Thought, may end up getting some press soon, which I’ll let you know about if/when that happens.

Also, the speech yesterday at the Liberty Forum went well. The whole event was a lot of fun. My segment ended up meshing really well with Ron’s when he got on, which made me sound smarter.

Anyway, a few quick thoughts:

New Hampshire the day before a primary is a zoo. I’ve been in New Hampshire close to their primary before, but never on Main Street in Concord or Elm Street in Manchester next to Sam Donaldson and Tucker Carlson with about 1000 people like me waving signs.

Any anecdotal evidence on how the race will go?

Obama is going to kill. Simply kill. 10-15+ point first place finish or more. Clinton, it should be said, has an impressive organization and she and her people are very visible here, but it’s impossible to not smell the stink of death on her. The ENTIRE state seems pretty well taken with Obamamania at present, and he’s going to pick up the great, great, great bulk of independents. Edwards won’t be much of a factor, nor Richardson.

McCain is also going to win. Hard to say by how much, but Romney is deflating at what must be for him a rather alarming rate. McCain doesn’t have the huge enthusiasm behind him that Obama does, not even close, and really nobody on the Republican side save Ron Paul is getting much interest from the Man on the Street types, though Huckabee is a big X-Factor in that respect: he could get 18% or 2% and neither would particularly surprise me. McCain and Huckabee suddenly looking viable is, I think, bad news for Paul. A lot of the “hate the other candidates” voters might suck into Huckabee, and McCain will pick up most of whatever independents are left after Obama. Thompson and Giuliani are of course MIA; Paul will beat them both.

My own guess is that the Republican race is a 10 point win for McCain, give or take, Romeny behind, and the real question is for third. It’s between Huckabee and Paul. Paul has the volunteers, the activists, the army. Huckabee has the air of viability and a fair bit of “I guess I like him more than the rest” mainstream appeal, which could lead him to surprise. I really can’t say at this point. I see two completely viable scenarios, one where Huckabee takes a strong third and Paul isn’t really factor, another where Paul takes third behind a very close fourth and fifth. I honestly have no idea which.

I will say that, as far as the Revolution goes, it will be a big disappointment for people on the ground here if Paul finishes fourth or worse. Not fatal to the campaign by any means—I’m now pretty sure that nothing is going to disband it, the only question is where it’ll be directed. But there will be a lot of long faces in Concord tomorrow if Paul misses third. The third place in New Hampshire among the GOP is the real question mark.

No clue what I’ll be up to, but I may report back if I have the time. Which, like I said, I might.

Posted by Brad @ 2:36 pm on January 3rd 2008

Greetings From New Hampshire, Again

Hi.

We arrived in New Hampshire last night, after a very very hectic last week of last minute brushfires (some bonfires) that needed putting out, including a lot of freakouts on all our parts. Volunteers have been trickling into New Hampshire for over a month now; the last two days has been more or less like some political God shot a starter pistol over our heads. We were not just expecting that, we were hoping for it, but the sudden swell of volunteers appearing still seemed to take us all by surprise. Raw numbers are at this point impossible to come by. My little organization (Kari and I, this one) brought in two or three hundred directly or indirectly, almost all of whom appear to be solely interested in working for Dr. Paul; the larger organizational effort I’m a part of brought in double or triple that. But on the whole, the number of out-of-state volunteers coming in working for the Ron Paul campaign full time already has to be counted in the thousands. By this weekend it will be just silly.

I thank Christ that I confined myself to bringing people here, not with organizing their activities once arrived. Say a small prayer for those folks, whose brains will likely turn to quivvering masses of green jello by Sunday. They have a cadre of terrific, incredibly competent folk: James Forsythe, Vijay Boypati, Roxi Collinson, Chris Lawless, just to name a few. And those are just the ones doing this purely on a volunteer basis, just the ones I know well.

New Hampshire at this time of year is already thick with political signage for all candidates, mostly lots of small yard signs on road medians and in front of most of the houses (I see a lot of McCain and Obama). The difference is, for every single road sign of EVERY candidate, there is a small group of 2-3 Ron Paul supporters holding a 15 foot sign. The streets and highways here are positively littered with every kind of Ron Paulmobile imaginable. At the time of this writing, you cannot cross Concord without there being a Ron Paul supporter (very visible), usually a small handful of them, every twenty yards, no shit. For miles. At least in this neck of the woods, I cannot concieve that there is ANY resident who does not encounter the name a hundred times a day.

Campaign headquarters will make your head spin. It’s difficult to get in; ever see that crappy comedy scene done a thousand times of too many people trying to get in a door and all of them getting stuck? That’s campaign HQ, literally. It takes five minutes to walk in the door. Once you’re in, it’s shoulder to shoulder in a relatively cramped office space. Rows and rows of phones being manned by supporters, organizers grabbing small parties of stragglers, forming units out of them like they were soldiers separated from their companies in a war zone, and sending them somewhere to do this thing or that. I spent about 20 minutes inside and had to flee to get some fresh (8 degrees Farenheit) air (have to stand in two feet of snow to get it though). If there is a New Hampshire resident that doesn’t get a personal phone call from the campaign, I will be surprised. If there is a likely Republican or Undeclared voter who does not get their door knocked on I will be surprised.

The campaign could have hired 300 paid staff members for New Hampshire alone and it would not have been money wasted.

And every supporter I’ve met so far is—as has been impressing Rojas—smart, dedicated, willing to do whatever they’re told, and most surprising to me, by now, seasoned. Everybody is working as ambassadors. Admittedly, with this big of a last minute drive, there is a very strong sense of it being a barely controlled clusterfuck (controlled just the same!), but right now, everybody is patient, everybody is happy, everybody is polite, and everybody is working their asses off.

No clue what all this nets us, but it’s a sight to behold. The volunteer army for Ron Paul out here dwarves any of the other campaigns, and to a person, there is simply no matching their enthusiasm, not even close.

Posted by Brad @ 7:33 pm on November 12th 2007

Some Final Thoughts on Philly

If you want to read me chatter away from a laptop in the middle of the Independence Mall on a cold November day surrounded by thousands of cheering Ron Paul supporters while a bunch of speeches were going on, just search for “Liveblogging Philly” (or check our “Dispatches From the Front Lines” category on the right there, the last 10 of which or so were Philly liveblogging). I don’t know how good a job I actually did (livebloging a political speech, particularly with a connection that takes 3-5 minutes to load anything, is sort of a weird and not altogether natural process), but I certainly had a fun time doing it.

Just a few summary-type final thoughts.

Before that, here’s a pic that shows the scope of the rally better than any of mine did. The stage is to the left of the frame (that pole on the left is literally the far right edge of the stage)(my open tent, incidentally, is JUST out of sight on the bottom right portion), so this is about 35%-45% of the crowd maybe.

half

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Posted by Brad @ 10:42 pm on November 11th 2007

More Philly Photos

freedom1

A guy from my Meetup group offered to function as my photographer yesterday. The connection was so bad even the two pictures I did put up took 10 minutes to do, but for the record, here they are.

A commentator to one of my posts mentioned that it looked more like 300 than 3000, which is true. I’ve yet to find any good pictures that show the totality of the crowd. The reason for this is the way it was arranged, in part—a front few dozen rows, amphitheater style, just for veterans, and a kind of giant ring of people behind that. The other part of the reason is the ground there is dead flat, with no high ground, so nobody could see very far at all, unless you were actually on stage. So, none of the pictures do it much justice, in terms of the magnitude of it, but the photoset there has a bunch of the nice human touches picked out of the crowd.

I’ll summarize tomorrow. I’m dog tired tonight.

Posted by Brad @ 4:09 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

And, I’m out. Time to hit the afterparties. I’ll post a roundup and more complete thoughts tomorrow.

Off-the-cuff estimate: 4,000+

Be sure to check out the other sites I’ve mentioned, my fellow livebloggers.

Posted by Brad @ 3:53 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

I have an announcement to make. Santa Claus, here incognito, has just informed me that he is officially for Ron Paul.

You heard it here first.

Posted by Brad @ 3:38 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

philly3

More at http://www.spirit76.org/

Posted by Brad @ 3:33 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Tex is sitting next to me. One thing we just chatted about is this is a far cry from Ron Paul rallies even 45 days ago. Professional security have set up a perimeter, MSM is out in droves (you can easily pick them out of the crowd; they’re wearing suits and look confused and frightened), signer (for the deaf) standing next to Ron, a huge contigent of veterans, supporters as far as the eye can see (this might be the biggest political rally I’ve ever been to, period), of all stripes. This is no longer a bunch of Truthers and Libertarians and web geeks.

Catch some photos over at redstateecletic.com. Tex is sending her boy out into the crowd taking shots, and passing them on to Laura.

Posted by Brad @ 3:21 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Media is also swarming the place. There are so many various interest groups represented it’s impossible to even laundry list them all (my favorite: the Polish Immigrants For Ron Paul guy). I’m having a lot of fun just watching the crowd, listening to them shouting back, soaking in their reactions.

Ron’s doing pretty well. Still the same unscripted, sometimes meandering and lecture-y talk. But everybody’s loving it. He’s also surprisingly aggressive, taking plenty of potshots at critics, and being totally unafraid to go on about monetary issues, the drug war, guns on planes, and all his other supposedly “unpopular” positions. He’s hitting on everything he believes in, mainstream popular or not, come along if you like. This is a rally for us.

Posted by Brad @ 3:14 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Ron: “Maybe it’s time for a new Declaration.”

Connection’s been wonky, sorry.

Ron can’t help taking the potshots at the United States Mint (very visible across the way), and on currency, getting huge applause.

My favorite part of the speech so far: he noted that today is the birthday of the United States Marines. There are a few hundred veterans in the front row seats. Ron demands that we respect the military, that we only go to war with permission, and only to win. Bring the troops home. From Iraq, from Japan, from Germany….huge response from the assembled Vets.

Ron also makes a few jokes about how apparantly we’re all a dozen spammers.

There are THOUSANDS of people here at this point, and as Ron noted, there’s simply no way to pigeon hole them. That wasn’t true so much in the beginning, it is certainly true now. I wish you guys could be here. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Posted by Brad @ 3:01 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Good afternoon,
Brad stepped away for a smoke break and unwisely left his computer unguarded. Seeing my opportunity to finally burst out of my relative annonymity I thought I would steal the vast and hugely popular political stage that is TheCrossedPond. My name is Lionel Levine, I am a junior at PITT, and….

Not so fast Lionel. Paul’s just taken the stage.

Posted by Brad @ 2:38 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

The crowd is now as far as the eye can see. It’s hard to even get a perspective on it at this point.

So far, speeches from the campaign manager, assistant campaign manager, and now, veterans.

A speech right now on the POW issue, which Ron of course has been a huge force in Congress for.

Getting hard to type. It’s cold!

Posted by Brad @ 1:57 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Another one, www.exileproject.com

We’ve had some connection issues (I finally just bought a one day pass to a local network), but that’s not unusual for these things, which tend towards controlled chaos. On the plus side, the setup is pretty swank. I feel all New Media.

The stage is in the center of Independence Mall, and a few hundred chairs are setup surrounding it exclusively for veterans (Happy Veterans Day!). That’s all cordoned off by security barriers, behind which the masses are collecting, and teeming. There’s currently a pretty damn decent country/rock band playing (Rocky Lynn?) as the people are gathering. Ron’s on at 1.

I’ve got a photo guy floating around, and will upload pictures as I get them.

First impressions.

i’ve been to a lot of these things by now, and so far this one’s shaping up to be one of the biggest and most professionally done I’ve seen. The campaign was wise to keep it here at the mall right in the heart of the city. They’re also, I would guess, starting to spend some actual frontrunner money on these events, just judging from the giant leap this rally is from even the few I went to last month. It’s come a long way from just being a handful of staff and volunteers and Ron in hotel ballrooms. This is a real deal campaign event. But it hasn’t lost any of its charm, because…well, it’s still Ron Paul people here.

2500 people RSVP’d for this event, and by a wild guesstimate I’d say most of them are here by now (crowd is probably pushing 2000 now), and they’re still streaming in. Like I said, I’m in an ad hoc media section, surrounded mostly by staff and key volunteers, in the chairs are maybe 50 vets already, most of them wearing jackets with patches and ensignias, both military and freedom movement. There seems to be a fair few media people here. And, like i said, streams of supporters.

I got here pretty early (11ish), when it was just the hardcore guys, many of whom I recognize by now. Yellow Don’t Tread on Me flags, guys dressed like founding fathers with Ron Paul signs coming out of their backs, lots of slim jims and t-shirts and yardsigns being slung (god bless ’em). As is often the case, people seem just genuinely happy to be here, happy to be among fellow supporters, happy to turn out for Ron. It’s cold, overcast (we saw some snow last night on the way here), kind of dank, but nobody seems to particularly be minding.

Also: more curious bystanders than usual. Lots of regular joes just starting to wander in. I met and talked to a guy from Tennessee who had driven up, and had only first heard of Dr. Paul a few weeks ago. For some reason, in the back of my mind, I half expect it to just be the same people over and over again. But, and I don’t know why this should surprise me, it seems to keep growing. It’s really hard to not be wandering through this crowd and not feel a part of something. I’ve been to plenty of political rallies, by a lot of big names, and as I’ve said before, they always seem polite, button-up, competent, and exciting in a very stifled, formal way.

These are different, as most of us know by now. The energy is closer to a music festival. But the thing is, that’s always been true. Now, it’s true but with crowds MATCHING those big name rallies. I was at the Kerry rally where he announced Edwards as his running mate last cycle, and it was nothing like this.

Crowd’s grown by several hundred in the last few minutes. 3000 now maybe? I’ll get an official count for you when the campaign passes it on.

Ron’s on soon. Liveblogging his speech!

Posted by Brad @ 1:38 pm on November 10th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Well, I’m finally here and set up.

Like I said, I’m new to the liveblogging schtick, but I’ll do my best.

I’m sitting under a tent to the right of the stage next to two other bloggers, our friend Tex from www.lewrockwell.com, and Kent from www.spirit76.org. There’s also a live audio and video stream (I hear), at gcnlive.com. And, here in spirit, Laura at RedStateEclectic.

More soon. Welcome to Philly!

Posted by Brad @ 4:22 pm on November 8th 2007

Liveblogging Philly

Ron Paul’s major event in November is going to be his Veteran’s Day rally (actually the 10th) in Philadelphia this Saturday, live from Independence Hall. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it, but my schedule surreptitiously cleared up, so I’ll be there, and a triumvirate of Awesome Ron Paul Bloggery is quickly forming, wherein myself, Tex MacRae at LewRockwell.com, and Laura at redstateeclectic.com, shall be live-blogging the thing.

I’ve never done the liveblogging shtick before, which’ll be interesting. But check in on Saturday (normally a pretty slow day for us), and you’ll see me here pecking away in some fashion or another.

Mayhaps I should also mention that my birthday is Veteran’s Day (proper).

Posted by Brad @ 12:37 am on November 2nd 2007

Dispatch From Grand Central Station 10/13/07

Awhile ago I promised I would post about my visit to the Robert Taft club speech that Ron Paul gave in Arlington Virginia, and my trip to attend the 25th Anniversary Mises Conference in New York City.

I never did write anything about either.

A couple of reasons. For one, it turned out that the trip was a lot more about attending speeches and mostly meeting a lot of really interesting leaders in the movement (both the Ron Paul and Austrian economics ones) than it was about campaigning. For another, after the Mises thing started winding down, it essentially turned into one long libertarian party that spilled all across Manhattan and that it took me a good few days to recover from. It was a blast, but much of it shall have to necessarily remain…unmentioned.

But, cleaning out my camera, I did want to relate one anecdote. Our Badass Walk of Power with Dr. Ron Paul through Grand Central Station.

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Posted by Brad @ 9:18 pm on October 10th 2007

A Picture is Wor….wait, what?

Kari nabbed this shot in Nashville, and I wanted to share.

Takes all kinds. That’s the beauty of it. And look how placid dude is!

MemphisSign

Posted by Brad @ 11:23 pm on October 9th 2007

Dispatch From Michigan II

Part I is here. Our unveiling of “Dispatches From the Front Lines”, a new regular feature in this vein, is here.

One of the neat things, for me—and I’m sure for Kari—about doing our little traveling roadshow, is how many genuinely selfless, inspired people we run into. Going to a rally is one thing, but when you’re actually there for a reason—in our case to be able to get as many people as we can, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, to camp out in New Hampshire for Ron Paul (and now we’re thinking of other states, spearheaded by other Meetup organizations, if we get enough funds to share the wealth and keep the New Hampshire thing self-sufficient)—you really get to see a different side of things.

People try to play us off as wild-eyed, angry, catastrophic, whatever. And, some of us are, to be sure. But for the most part, from what I’ve seen, people that are drawn to these events, to Ron Paul, to the message, are doing so for exactly the right reasons. They’re coming out of the woodwork—and to be sure they’re not going to be your typical button-up Republican Kiwanis Club crowd for that reason—but by and large they come out because they love their country, because they believe in the ideals it was founded on down to their very bones, in a way that is probably unrecognizable to people battered down by cynicism from years of lowering their own bars in elections that seem more and more to be limbo contests. But that’s their problem. If anything, pity them. It sucks not believing in anything but power and partisanship.

What amazes me about these things, though, is the profoundness of hope. None of us, frankly, have much reason to be very optimistic. But everybody, somehow, seems to be.

Kari called from the road, leaving Ann Arbor Michigan. Ron Paul, after the debate, hopped in a van and headed there himself, scheduled to speak at 7:30. Kari got there a little before then, and set up shop. Immediately, she was amazed by how huge the crowd was.

PaulRallyMichigan

As she described it to me, it was two or three times the size of New Hampshire, which would put it at 2500 (give or take; it’s notoriously hard to judge crowds). But Kari’s been around….rallies a fair bit, and she said it’s the biggest she’s seen yet.

As with the debate crowd, everything was orderly, polite, but still infused with enthusiasm, and again, the crowd skewed even younger than usual. College students were out in droves, huge flocks of them. Some people even said they’d never seen that many students out for an anti-war rally, let alone campaign rallies.

We probably won’t cover the actual content of the speeches much, because we’re not there just listening to the speeches. Kari was working to raise money, selling shirts.

One bit from that:

“Lots of people were paying in liberty dollars,” she said. “It was all over the place. Which I’m not going to turn down, I’m just not.” Kari said it was kind of a pain in the ass to take liberty money, but she had no intention of turning it down. So, instead, she started asking people, while making change, “do you want your change in dollars, or liberty money?” and the funny thing was nobody turned down the liberty dollars. They took the liberty money every time. One kid, she said, spent all his money investing in liberty dollars, so he couldn’t eat (we were the only vendors accepting liberty dollars), so he bought a shirt for the sake of some dollar bills (Kari slipped him a little extra).

The crowd was huge, and ecstatic, through Paul’s speech. The only thing Kari wanted to make sure I related was that Ron Paul, 72-years-old, had traveled to Michigan, spent the entire day doing debate prep, spent two hours in the actual debate, then drove to Ann Arbor to give a rally there, and, according to Kari, stayed at the rally well after he was finished, leaving at 10 o’clock or so and outlasting much of the crowd. “He looked tired,” she said. “But real happy, and what was amazing was he made sure he stood there and shook every…single…person’s hand that had gone up to meet him.”

Finally, and the reason I prefaced the post as I did, I shared an anecdote from New Hampshire about an anonymous Good Samaritan (if you want a better re-telling of it, check it out here), that I thought was a one in a million sort of thing. But Kari’s got me beat. It sounds almost too schmaltzy to be real, but she’s got a witness and pictures to prove it (which I’ll post tomorrow, after she gets back to Pittsburgh, sleeps, and sends them to me).

During the whole rally, there was this guy in a motorized wheelchair zipping around, handing out bumper stickers—not taking any money, just making sure everybody he could reach got one. Kari didn’t say, but I’m sure he had all kinds of Ron Paul schwag adorning his chair. He was working the crowd, so when he came to Kari she chatted him up.

Anyway, the guy is a disabled veteran, and the story she got out of him is that he had spent a bunch of his disability money on a gross of bumper stickers, and had come to make sure as many people as wanted them could get them for free, for the sake of campaign advertising. His only comment was that he really hoped a lot of people put them on their cars, to get the word out.

MichiganVet

That story is inspiring in its own right. It’s also ironic—he’s getting government money and handing out merchandise to advertise for a candidate in favor of largely getting rid of government money. But it’s also a little maddening, for me. This is a guy the Republican party is saying it doesn’t want

Well, you’ve got him.

How you deal with him is up to you.

So, like I said, it seems everytime we go out to these things, we find a little something that just really makes us step back and wonder at the power of hope, of the freedom message, and of the humanity that’s still lurking somewhere in the deepest recesses of the Republican electorate.

Posted by Brad @ 6:35 pm on October 9th 2007

Dispatches From The Front Lines

So, I’m unveiling a new post category, because we’re going to start having enough coverage to warrant it.

Rojas is fairly active with Ron Paul groups in the Midwest. I’m very active here in PA, and am involved with a project that’s going to see me traveling a few times a month to various Ron Paul, or Liberty Message (however you’d want to label it) movement stuff generally. I’ll be all over the place. New Hampshire two weeks ago, Virginia and Manhattan this week, Alabama at some point, New Hampshire again, etc. Combined with that, we now have a couple of friends of the site (Kari, Clay, etc) who, on and off, call me from the road to report from events that they’re attending. Additionally, if anybody out there hits the road for Ron Paul or attends an event in your area and would like to spread the word, contact me through the site, and I’ll be happy to post a dispatch on your behalf (I’ll link to any site you want me to as well, and credit you how you like).

We’re not a journalistic blog per se, and certainly there is no Ron Paul event that goes uncovered if you seek it out (almost everything is available somewhere, YouTubed, hometown meetup blogs, etc), and I’ll certainly link to that stuff if it’s pointed out to me, but point being it’s not my intent to be a one-stop shop for Ron Paul on the Road, but rather, since we’ve kind of gotten a small web of correspondents anyway, I just thought it would be a neat thing to feature their reports as I get them in a slightly more organized way (and to make it more of a point to do so).

Plus, as an ulterior motive, I’ve spent a lot of the last several years pretty angry, and being involved in a very hands-on way with this campaign has, to some extent, really restored my faith in people, in our country, in our system. When you go out to a lot of events, and start to get past the craziness and initial shock of all these people from under every rock you can imagine, you really start to see some of the best side of America, and of political activism. In a way, I hope, these posts will be a way of sharing some of that.

So, if you click on the categories to the right, you’ll see a number of them there. If you’re interested in front line reports from Ron Paul soldiers all over the country, “Dispatches From the Front Lines” is what you want to look at. And, it gives you an extra reason, you Ron Paul folks, to check back at The Pond, as the content, while by no means comprehensive (or even the best (you’ll find some of that on our blogroll)), will at least be exclusive.

Incidentally, categories, though we don’t rely on them heavily, is a good way to check out prominent features. “About” gives self-report bios of our majors writers (Adam, Brad, Rojas, & James, who is a Crossed Pond Cadet), “Dispatches From a Red State” are Rojas’s musings as a libertarian-leaner living deep in Red State country (as a Catholic school teacher in Kansas), “Limey Guide to America” is Adam’s feature, occasionally updated to give accounts of the subtle, mundane, but amusing differences between our two cultures. “Media” is a good place to check out videos, including our frequent “Music Videos of the Week”. “Quotes” is for when we come across little nuggets of wisdom/hilarity. “Ronslaught” is dedicated to Ron Paul coverage. And “Shameless Self Promotion” is where we point out when we’ve made the news. Oh, and “The Hive” is all about bees. I’m not sure why.

Now, add to that, “Dispatches from the Front Lines”.

I’ve already backlogged previous dispatches that were not labeled as anything in particular, and looking back, we have quite a variety. Kansas City, Iowa, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, New Hampshire, Michigan. This weekend I’m hitting Virginia and the Mises Conference in New York City, as I said, and will blog those to the extent that I can. By the end of the primary season, I expect we’ll have quite a diverse sample of random on-the-road correspondences to look through.

Yet another reason why we are awesome.

Posted by Brad @ 8:08 pm on September 29th 2007

Greetings From New Hampshire

Hi folks. I’m writing this from a hotel room in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Me and my Pittsburgh companion drove for hours and hours (it ended up being like 12 and a half, accounting for traffic in New York), and mostly didn’t sleep last night, but we weren’t the only ones arriving in the wee hours (we checked in at 2).

The rally this morning was scheduled for 9:30. My purpose there was a bit different; we had talked to the New Hampshire folks (who are, by the way, really really impressive as a volunteer organization) and organized beforehand that we were to set up shop selling T-shirts near the back of the crowd, the finances of which is ultimately going to underwrite us bussing in Pennsylvanians (and whoever we pick up along the way) to New Hampshire the week of the primary, which has sort of been the long-term plan of our own local Meetups (we do PA work too, obviously, but our brass ring is getting a few hundred foot soldiers for New Hampshire). So, we set up our little table next to a very nice New Hampshire family selling shirts and schwag for the local group specifically at about 8.

The rally was in Veteran’s Park in Manchester (I’m staying in a hotel across the street), which is a very nice place. It was only a rally in the strictest sense; the actual event (which I linked in my last post, scroll down), was to walk New Hampshire with Paul and his family (a whole slew of grandkids and nieces and nephews were there). It was a speech at 9:30 followed by an extremely well organized system wherein all the rally-goers were registered, given instructions and training, and sent to the three major cities in New Hampshire (which contain 70% of the population) in small groups. It was, in essence, a working rally.

So, the point of the rally wasn’t just to get as many people as possible to hear Dr. Paul speak, but to get several hundred people to come out, get pumped, and hit the pavement, knocking on doors across New Hampshire.

By 9, the park was still pretty spare. Only a few dozen hardcore supporters. But by the time Ron got up to the stage at 10, there were several hundred people there (if you want more specific coverage, over at Lew Rockwell he’s posted some dispatches and a link to a Boston Globe online story that ridiculously guesstimates “250”, a figure I can’t even understand how the reporter arrived at unless he left at 9:15. By 930, there were several hundred people, and Rand Paul (oldest grandson), took the stage and killed (bonus: we actually have three GENERATIONS of Pauls, and I’ve personally met and spoken with a dozen of them, and they are to a person excellent human beings; clean cut, all-American, sharp, dedicated, the exact opposite of wild-eyed crazy Libertarians (not that there’s anything wrong with that)).

I only got to hear bits and pieces of Dr. Paul’s speech, as I was selling T-shirts. But, go read my funhogs post. It was the same thing. The park just seemed to sprout, at 930 on the dot, a crowd of several hundred people, of all kinds. Homemade shirts, young and old, crazy and knock-you-on-your-ass sane, people waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, a guy dressed up as a Founding Father with a billboard popping out of his back, some guys with a liberty bell, families, free staters, the whole shebang. If you’ve been to a Ron Paul rally, you know the drill. If not, what are you waiting for?

The speech was vintage Paul.

My favorite part: at one point Ron said “Listen, there are a lot of people out there who think ‘if you can’t convince 51% of people, this election, that you’re right, what’s the point?” But that’s not what Ron’s interested in. He said that during the times in American history that have mattered, everything started at 4%. During the founding of our republic, there were only 4% or so of Americans who really understood what was going on, who really grasped everything. “You guys, you’re that 4%”. He essentially said “look, I don’t care if I can win. That’d be great, but I’m not in this for 51% or nothing. What we’re here for is to POPULARIZE this message. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. And I’ve been a skeptic, in spite of myself, for many years, that it was just too uphill a battle, that I was swinging at windmills. But I’m a skeptic no longer.” It was both a moving story, an inspiring message, and a perfect answer to the “you’re throwing your vote away on a fringe candidate!” folks. He talked about how, at this moment in history, we’re doing something. It may be limited by circumstances beyond our control, it may not ultimately win (it can, of course), but it’s important, and we’re doing it. We’re already doing it. And if it ended tomorrow, we should be immeasurably proud of what we’ve accomplished already. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Sometimes they really are giants, disguised as windmills. Sometimes, they need to be swung at.

When the rally broke up, several hundred people hit the registration table, and were disseminated across New Hampshire.

But, I want to share a little story.

During the rally, our work had tapered off as people listened to Ron’s speech. The crowd had mostly all massed together tightly in front of the stage (it was a big park, which we covered about half of). The density was tighter the closer to the stage you got, of course, and around the outer perimeter where curious people who had wandered in off the street, people with very young children, us, that sort of thing.

There was this one guy, very unassuming, not wearing any campaign gear, just kind of hanging back and listening and scanning the crowd. My partner thought he was kind of sketchy; I just thought he was taking in the scene. But, he was only half-listening to the speech (as was I, being otherwise occupied).

A lot of people had brought their entire families to the rally, so there were a lot of young kids running through the crowd here and there, small packs of them playing off to the side, or hanging on their parents in the knot of people. There were a fair few of them, scattered around. It was a very family-friendly event.

So, this guy sort of moseys over to our table, asks how much our shirts are. We tell him, chat briefly, he kind of nods and moseys off, checks out the crowd some more.

He comes back and starts counting out a shitload of money. Quietly, he says simply “Listen, how about I buy as many T-shirts as I can, and you get a couple of these guys (there were a few milling around near our table) to pass them out to every kid they can.”

He had no interest in this being anything more than anonymous, but he essentially bought every kid in the crowd (50 or so) free T-shirts, to be handed out anonymously while Dr. Paul as speaking. He laid out the cash, we gave him as good a deal as we could (obviously; essentially 10 free), and a couple of 10-year-old boys took the smallest sizes we had, and saw that every single child in the park got one, refusing money from the parents.

I was fairly moved by that, and I talked to the guy. He obviously wasn’t interested in having it be anything but anonymous, but he said he had already maxed out his campaign donations to the Paul campaign, so he saw this as sort of a way to keep giving. He gave us the money, and sort of moseyed off. After 15 minutes, when the kids in the crowd were almost all wearing Paul shirts, he kind of disappeared into the morning.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that all day, and thought I’d share. This campaign is really restoring a lot of my faith in humanity. As I said, the rally broke up, we made a good chunk of change with which to help New Hampshire in the week leading up to their actual primary, and hundreds and hundreds of Paul supporters walked the state. Now, I’m cleaning myself up, and my partner and I are going to go barhop with the New York City group (who brought up 22 or so). Back to Pittsburgh tomorrow.

It’s been a fun day. Even not being a part of the core throng, it was hard not being a little inspired and moved, in spite of myself.

Ron’s at 940,000 in his pledge campaign, which ends tomorrow at Midnight.

I’ll be back at around the same time.

Posted by Brad @ 1:07 am on September 15th 2007

Dispatch From San Francisco

So Ron Paul, for those that haven’t heard, had a very successful event in San Francisco today. We had a correspondent on the scene, our buddy Clay, or weltschmerz as he’s called here (he of Range Voting fame). I asked him if he could write up a little thing about Dr. Paul’s visit, and he was kind enough to.

Also, check out his exclusive pictures, including one of the best I’ve yet seen of the good Doctor.

HappyDoctor

Here’s Clay:


Hey Brad,

In a librul Mecca like San Francisco, life can get a little
lonely
for a Paulite.  Just about the last thing I expect on any given day is
a visit by my Freedom Fighter in Chief.  Thus my most pleasant surprise
this past Thursday, upon waking and checking the Ron Paul RSS feed. 
After a few inspiring blips about sold-out fundraising events in L.A., it
was noted that Paul had arrived in S.F. early that morning.  A quick
news search revealed his speaking engagements would be limited to two
$500-per-plate fundraising meals.  As I didn’t have $500 to drop on a
breakfast or lunch, I decided to do the next best thing: join the unruly mob
that no doubt would form on the sidewalk, and cheer him on during his hasty
exit.  And having just wrapped up my last day of work at the Academy of
Art I.T. department on the day prior, I was at the relaxing well-rested
start of a four day weekend.  I wasn’t even going to have to play hooky
– score!

Sporting my
Taxation
= Slavery
t-shirt and Ron Paul 2008 button, I darted for the 24th and
Mission Street
BART station,
where no sooner had I descended to its squalid platform, than I spotted a
woman in a Ron Paul shirt.  I knew I wasn’t going to be alone. 
“Nice shirt,” I called out to her.  As we rode, we spoke of our own
personal reasons for coming aboard the “Ron Paul Revolution”. 
Immediately I identified that sort of giddy enthusiasm that so many Paulites
seem to exhibit.  We don’t talk about “this guy we’d really like to
have as our President”.  To us, he’s “this guy we think could change
everything
“.

Soon we were coming up the stairs at Market and New Montgomery streets, in
the heart of the financial district.  The
crowd
had already assembled in anticipation of Paul’s exit from his breakfast talk
at the Palace Hotel, and they were excitedly waving their signs and chanting
their slogans.  “Restore the Constitution – Ron Paul revolution!”, went
one chant.

It wasn’t long before Paul strode out of the hotel, a
kid-like
smile
on his face, and accompanied by his campaign manager and some
suited muscle.  And then, flanked by his cheering supporters, he
marched a half mile up Montgomery Street, to his lunch engagement near the
TransAmerica
Building
.  Along the way he made a few
phone
calls
,
chatted
with supporters
, and even paused momentarily for a
brief
interview
with the local news.  Once he had arrived and
posed
for some pictures
, the crowd
saw
him off
, and then marched back down to Market Street, eventually coming
back up to
Union
Square
.

So how did things turn out?  Well, as the latest post in the Ron Paul
newsletter says

Our successful events in the San Francisco Bay Area, along with your
generous online donations, made yesterday far and away our most successful
fundraising day in campaign history.

Come back any time, doctor.

Clay


Great stuff. It’s impossible to not get the sense of how much damn fun this whole thing is, for all of us, how much spontaneous glee and bursting energy there is fueling this thing. And many of us are people who haven’t had anything to smile about regarding our country in far, far too long.

Thank you, Doctor Paul.

Thanks Clay.

Posted by Brad @ 1:57 am on August 17th 2007

Funhogs

So I never did end up writing about the Pittsburgh rally. Nothing kills the writing bug quite like coming off a long hiatus (in this case, a monastic stay), and promising that you’re not going to write anything until you write your One Big Thing. The net effect is that you just get overwhelmed and don’t write anything at all, so to break through it I just started blogging again. Which means I have yet to write anything substantive on either the Pittsburgh rally, or my monastic stay, though I still mean to.

But I’ve had some thoughts I’ve been meaning to post. Rojas preempted many of them in his excellent post yesterday, so maybe I’ll just echo what he’s already said, and briefly add some of my own perspective on the matter.

What’s been framing my thinking on the Ron Paul Revolution, in part, has been, weirdly, Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter gave us a great word, meant generally, but which he also applied freely to a certain class of political activist. Funhogs.

He wrote about most succinctly it in 2004, in an article for Rolling Stone about the anti-Bush vote for Kerry, and though his predictions for that election turned out to be rather grimly and spectacularly wrong, I don’t think the facet I’m going to pull out is. But I’ll let him say it:

The genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them. Election Day — especially a presidential election — is always a wild and terrifying time for politics junkies, and I am one of those, too. We look forward to major election days like sex addicts look forward to orgies. We are slaves to it.
[…]

Even the Fun-hog vote has started to swing…and that is a hard bloc to move. Only a fool would try to run for president without the enthusiastic support of the Fun-hog vote. It is huge, and always available, but they will never be lured into a voting booth unless voting carries a promise of Fun.

At least thirty-three percent of all eligible voters in this country are confessed Fun-hogs, who will cave into any temptation they stumble on. They have always hated George Bush…

The Fun-hogs are starving for anything they can laugh with, instead of at.

In 2004 Dr. Thompson was speaking of the anti-Bush, anti-war vote (and he was two years too early on seeing the real impact of that). In 2008, I think it’s obvious who he’s talking about. Right now, the Funhogs have found a movement they can get down with, a movement they can sign on to, that they can sweat for, and that they mean to carry, on their own backs if they have to, as far as humanly possible. The Ron Paul Revolution.

And, as Dr. Thompson points out, you discount the Funhog Vote at your own peril.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 5:28 pm on August 11th 2007

Dispatch From Iowa III

Calling has become difficult, so Rojas and I are reduced to text messages for the time being. Which is fine. He’s not there primarily as a correspondent so much as a Ron Paul volunteer himself, so he’s got other things to do.

His final analysis:

“Overall feeling: Romney certain first with huge number of voters wrapped up before day started. Paul volunteer operation STELLAR and is leading topic of conversation in every camp. Top five possible. Tancredo likely top 5 with strong ground game. Brownback low profile but surprising number of supporters at speech. Likely top 5. Thompson and Huckabee camps zero buzz and probably in trouble.”

Posted by Brad @ 4:12 pm on August 11th 2007

Dispatch From Iowa II

Some text messages from Rojas. Bear in mind he suffered from heat stroke this morning. :) Just the same, he’s not one to sugar coat anything, and is no mouthpiece for anybody, no matter how much he loves and supports a campaign. He’s a harsh judge, but we love our Rojas.

“Romney people showed up in huge numbers @ 11 AM. Will dominate vote no exagg. Skew very old. Young voters will go Paul and maybe Tancredo”

“Paul speech TOTAL change in tone from recent. LOUD and Angry and Not Optimistic. Angry face. Rambles a bit. Audience respectful and will please supporters but will not win him many new fans, maybe. Missed opportunity? Tancredo and Huckabee both better.”

“Huckabee awe inspiring. Best campaign speech since B Clinton last dem convention. Greatly superior version of J. Edwards. Will be Pres. someday.”

So, at least one Ron Paul supporter (and speech coach) thinks Romney probably will pull out a win on the strength of his organization (no surprise of course, but Rojas was getting I think excited that maybe Paul could steal it as all through the morning his organization blew him away), was disappointed by Paul’s speech (for an alternative take on it, though also one that thought maybe he was a bit under-performing, check out Laura’s post), and was very impressed with Mike Huckabee’s speech. Will post more as I get it.

Update: I asked Rojas, via text again, on his final impression of just the speeches. His response:

“Huckabee best by a mile. Tancredo second on general audience appeal. Brownback a surprise third.”

Posted by Brad @ 12:39 pm on August 11th 2007

Dispatch From Iowa

More pleasantly, I just got off the phone with Rojas, calling in from the Iowa Straw Poll. He had left a message on my voice mail while I was still sleeping earlier.

His first impression (at around 930):

“Hey Brad it’s Rojas calling in from Iowa. Early report on the ground here. In terms of volunteer turnout it is an absolute blowout. I’m not exaggerating that because I’m a fan of the campaign, it is ridiculous. Paul has easily as many people on the ground here as every other candidate combined, he’s absolutely trouncing Romney in terms of volunteers.

The advantage that Romney’s people have right now is their money’s really evident. First of all they have a fleet of golf carts (which ironically is a very easy vehicle to turn over), which makes it easy to get around, so even though there aren’t as many of them they’re getting around campus and making themselves visible.

Not a lot of voters here yet, but let me put it this way, I got here at 8 AM to start handing out literature, and they told me to go find a corner at which to do so, but there wasn’t one on campus that didn’t have Ron Paul people already on it handing out literature and holding signs. The Ron Paul supporters have responded in massive massive numbers; whatever happens tonight it won’t be the fault of the volunteers. They’ve been absolutely terrific and incredibly polite and well-mannered. The meme about behaving themselves really got out to the volunteers, and so far its been absolutely marvelous.

We’ll see if this all holds up as the heat increases; it’s already about 90 degrees. So I’m gonna go back out there. Talk to you later”

He called again about an hour ago, and I was awake to take it.

It’s been brutally hot; Rojas himself ended up having to get treated for heat stroke (and is now inside, getting ready for the speeches). Carol Paul too had to be hospitalized (we guess because of the same thing, but we don’t know). His impression is that the heat is probably good for the T. Thompson and Romney people, because it’s probably keeping away the undecideds (which, one would expect, would be breaking for Paul). He did say that in terms of volunteers things started even-ing out a bit more between the campaigns later in the morning, and in particular the big surprise for Rojas has been the Tancredo campaign, which is putting in a strong showing in terms of volunteer efforts. They don’t have nearly as many as the Paul camp does, but enough to raise eyebrows. They’ve been putting in a good effort.

On the whole though he reports that the Ron Paul effort has been terrific. Decisively out front in terms of volunteer numbers and enthusiasm, and all around just active, respectful, and effective. And, they’re obviously having a lot of fun. That’s important to emphasize. The Romney tent apparently looks like a carnival in terms of equipment, but everywhere there are Ron Paul supporters, there’s enthusiasm, vigor, and fun. The Ron Paul message isn’t just bringing people in, it’s bringing them in with such positivity and relief and glee that the impression is it’s a pleasure for these people in Ames to be able to sweat their asses off in support of it.

He has no idea how the vote’s going to go (results will start coming in at 7:30ish), but he thinks no matter what Ron Paul supporters can be proud as all hell. They’re proving themselves to be anyone’s equal.

He’ll report in to me again later this afternoon or this evening.

As a reminder, Laura at RedStateEclectic and her family are also at the event (I don’t think Rojas has run into her yet), and are live-blogging as much as they’re able over there.

You can also see some live video feeds of Ron Paul support: http://www.justin.tv/ronpaul/

Posted by Brad @ 4:52 pm on June 16th 2007

Paul in KC

Our red state correspondent Rojas attended and wrote about his own impressions of the event held last night in Kansas City at which Ron Paul as the featured attraction. It includes a pretty gushing review of Ron Paul himself, and some pretty harsh words for libertarians who sometimes muck up persuasion opportunities in favor of militancy and dogmatism.

Our good friend Laura from Red State Eclectic also attended the event, with her family also in tow, and posted her own impressions of the event that are also well worth reading. A quickie post last night, followed by a more extended play-by play here. Her 18-year-old daughter blogs about it too.

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