Well, I am back from the future in my Time Machine and I can tell you that the Ron Paul convention, or if you prefer the Campaign for Liberty, in Minneapolis, September, 2008, was a moment in time. If you want to be part of history in the making, you’ve got to go. It was a memory that I will not soon forget.
Soon after, some rather ignorant televisions pundits compared it to the “Bull Moose,” Progressives Party Convention of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. But the Ron Paul convention was of the opposite sentiment and Paul made it clear that this was no attempt at a separate party. One of the speakers declared that they were “the constitutional wing” of the GOP, the “true” Republicans and as such they were committed to taking the party back to its Taft family roots.
Like a lot of people I was surprised by the celebrities that showed up. There were famous actors and singers and public figures on hand to tout the Ron Paul line. Sometimes there would be a crowd of people in the hallway, trying to get a picture of this person or that. It seemed like the whole world was for Ron Paul.
My favorite part was the exhibitionists who showed up, uninvited, outside the auditorium. There was a Bible thumper and a gay activist, dressed in a gaudy pink suit and a Disney Mad Hatter hat. He had a big button that said, “Pink for Paul.” The two men were arguing and making quite a scene. Now that’s diversity.
One of the best self appointed performers was a John McCain look alike. He was planted near one of the entrances, carrying a big sign protesting the event and looking mournful and forlorn. Of course, he got a lot of laughs from people passing by. I heard one woman arguing with her husband, “I think that really was McCain.” But nah, he said, “Where is secret service and the press?”
Inside, there were some boring egghead speeches and my mind wandered. Most of the attention was on signing up for one of the seminars. These breakout sessions offered a whole lot of training on how to run for office, how to be a part of the party at the state and county and precinct level.
But the real action came on the second evening when they opened it up to comments from the floor. I guess they wanted everyone to see democracy in action and show the difference from the staged show across the river. Get this, there were signs representing the states. I guess anybody could just go onto the floor and find their state delegation. I watched it all from the nosebleed section, stage left.
Anyway, the Chairman, a stout, dark haired man in his forties, standing behind an impressive podium on stage, recognized the delegate at microphone four. It was the turning point of the whole evening.
“Mr. Chairman,” a young skinny man in his twenties intoned very seriously, “I am Mark Farina from the Blue Grass State of Kentucky and it is my privilege to offer a motion in behalf of Kentucky Republicans committed to the constitution, that this convention, the constitutional wing of the Republican Party, go on record as unanimously, and by consent, nominating Representative Ron Paul as our candidate for president in the year 2012.”
Well, the place was momentarily stunned. I guess no one had been expecting that. And the Chairman looked like he had just been hit in the stomach. Now, the pause may have been a few seconds at most. A woman, panic written all over her face, raced to the podium, put her hand over the microphone, and started to say something to the chairman but whatever she was said was drowned out by the noise. The whole auditorium erupted in explosive cheering.
It is hard to describe the pandemonium. It was like a whole year of Paulista frustration released in a moment. The cheering went on for twenty minutes or so, everyone on their feet. On stage panicked people were running back and forth to the podium. An older gentleman conferred with the woman and the chairman at the podium and then ducked off stage. Another man kept motioning for the audience to be silent. Lot’s of luck.
The seats in the risers made a noise when you lifted them up and slammed them down. So when a group of people figured this out, it spread across the auditorium. 10,000 seats being clacked up and down. It took the noise, already at the highest decibels, a notch higher. People were laughing at themselves, and at the spontaneity of the moment, and at the panic on stage. Some were embracing. And some were crying.
And then in the back of the auditorium a chant began which most of the people in our area couldn’t figure out. It started small but gained momentum and when it got to us and we could understand what was being said it washed over us like a wave, picking us up with it. “Run Ron run! Run Ron run! Run Ron run!” Somehow the crowd started clacking their seats to the rhythm of the chant. It was almost scary. You would have thought that the crowd would have willed Ron Paul to magically materialize on stage.
The Chairman tried gaveling the audience to order. Almost thirty minutes into the demonstration, the lady came back, tearfully shrieking into the microphone, that we were all ruining the program, that this was not the purpose and that we had important work to do, that Ron Paul was not running for president again but the audience only laughed and the cheering continued on unabated. One of Ron Paul’s sons showed up begging the audience to order. Nothing worked.
And then after almost an hour of exhausted cheering, someone on staff got the bright idea of turning the lights off. The audience, made stubborn by the attempts to calm it down, seemed to respond to this. It was absolutely black, with a few exit lights glowing. The cheering noises seemed to be subsiding, even against the will of many. And then, almost spontaneously, on the floor of the convention, the greenish, blue glow of cell phones started appearing. And soon the whole auditorium was lit, bathed in a beautiful glow of light, and they started waving the cell phones. It was a sea of glowing colors.
Somewhere on the floor a group started singing, “God Bless America,” and this too picked up and carried through the whole auditorium, the waving glow of cell phones appearing very much like “sea to shining sea.” There were not many dry eyes. “God Bless America, my home sweet home.”
The crowd was ultimately subdued by a series of You Tubes that appeared on the big screens. They were clips from the GOP debates. The audience laughed and cheered at Ron Paul and booed at John McCain and this seemed to calm them down and remind them of their purpose.
It was close to midnight when the place was finally calm again. A few families with children had left but 80% of the audiences was remarkably still there.
The older gentleman, professor somebody, was introduced and he proceeded to lecture the audience on the purpose of the convention and how Congressman Paul had made it very clear that this convention was for purposes of training and teaching to take back “our Republican Party.”
“He will not be running for president,” the professor said, “Even if he won he would be seventy-eight years old at inauguration.… and he has said that…”
But the old gentleman was drowned out in boos. You couldn’t hear a thing more he said.
The Chairman came back banging his gavel. A group of people in the risers near me were shouting angrily, “There is a motion on the floor! There is a motion on the floor!”
The person next to me chuckled and said, “Good luck trying to have business meeting with 10,000 libertarians.”
“I’m not a libertarian!” the lady on the other side of me snapped.
“Oh, no,” the man said, giggling. “Of course, you’re not.”
Now, my hotel room was on the outskirts of the city, and I was determined to beat the crowd to my rented car. So I made my getaway and cannot report much more on what happened that night. But everything changed the next day. I will give you a full report in Wednesday’s blog. And don’t worry, they figured it out. But it took some compromise.
Anyway, I left the auditorium deeply moved by what I had seen and very much convinced that the libertarian spirit was alive and well. And curious about how the Ron Paul people were going to get their genie back in the bottle the next day. But as I said, more on all of this in Wednesday’s blog. They say that using these Time Machines is not easy on the body and trying to write this all up kind of takes it out of me. But I promise a full report and you will not be disappointed.