A crowd of nearly 3,000 gathered at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds last Friday to hear Paul Ryan speak at the scheduled “Victory Rally.” Although the event was scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m., Ryan did not make an appearance until 3:15. Despite Ryan’s tardiness, the crowd’s energy did not diminish. The campaign rally, in Ryan’s absence, became more of a party. An odd mix of young conservatives in boat shoes, wearing sunglasses with neon security strings, and men who stood shameless in their work uniforms, a faded dip can impression in their back pocket, waited while loud country music played over the speakers. A local food truck, bearing the sign, “I built this,” provided food. One young couple even danced.
As 3:15 finally arrived, the country music dropped and music, which can safely be described as Ryan’s theme song, sounded over the rally. The crowd turned to the approaching caravan led by two police officers on motorcycles, followed by a myriad of what seems like standard government-issued black SUVs, state trooper vehicles, all with their lights flashing, and in the middle came Ryan’s massive tour bus.
Finally introduced, Ryan took the stage. After a moment of silence for the American victims of violence in Libya, a shout out to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Ryan launched into his stump speech. He focused on economic self-determination and personal freedoms; criticized “suger-high” economics while championing “pro-growth” economics; constructing a version of America where a strong family is related to how much they have to pay in taxes and peace is only achieved through strength. Ryan ended his speech with a call to return America to its founding values of hard work, liberty and self-determination.
All the while an American flag, hung from an extended crane, hovered behind Ryan’s shoulder, captured by the various television cameras set on raised platforms directly opposite. Many of the crowd stood outside the stage’s enclosure, behind the fenced in area for media and organizers. Their view was dominated by the camera’s platform, and in extension, the larger audience of Ryan’s rally, those not yet in attendance.
As Ryan concluded his speech to widespread applause, it was apparent that his message resonated with many of those present. Andy Yoder, standing next to his wife Rachel, who wore a black head covering, said he was drawn to the rally by curiosity, but indicated that he agreed with much of Ryan’s message.
“I like his willingness to face reality and restore the country to its founding principles,” Andy said. When asked about which part of the ticket was more exciting, Andy replied that he was, “more impressed by Ryan based on what I’ve heard about him.”
Although most of Ryan’s audience applauded heavily during his message, others came out simply for the political spectacle. Aaron Delome, a student at Bridgewater College, sported a Franklin Roosevelt t-shirt and made an Obama O at the Ryan bus as it drove in. When asked why he was at the rally, Delome made it clear that he did not support the Romney campaign superficially for its stance on student aid and environmental policies.
“I’m a student, so I kind of think students need aid. And I also find the clean coal stuff really troubling,” said Delome. Ryan did not address either issues during his speech.
However, like the more conservative members in the audience, Delome agreed that it was good to be involved in the political process, “It’s just good to get out and hear a different perspective, to get involved.”
David Yoder,Opinion Editor
Konrad Swartz,Feature Editor