On Friday I went to a Ron Paul rally. I listened to Ron Paul give the best speech I have ever heard in my entire life. Most of the speech appeared completely unrehearsed. I saw RP look at his notes once and only once. He looked his audience in the eyes and I am absolutely certain there was no teleprompter behind us. That man was not reading, he was speaking from his heart. He explained some rather complex concepts to us about the economy and how it connects with foreign policy. But it was all perfectly understandable. For once I felt like a speaker was not talking down to me, and actually believed I have the intelligence to understand something other than an upbeat blurb. I got a Ron Paul button and a sign. I cheered with the crowd. From where I sat I could have taken two steps and been standing right next to Ron Paul. There were quite a few other people up there with me. And we all sat neatly in our chairs and clapped when Ron Paul said something that was good to hear. We made sure not to clap or cheer too long, you know, let the man have his say. I gave Ron Paul a standing ovation along with everyone else at the end. Then I quietly decided to let the people who had never met Ron Paul throng him and I went home. Actually, throng would be the wrong word to use. They lined up in a neat greeting line and walked up to him in an orderly fashion. All in all, there were 300+ people at the rally, which, I think, is good.
Contrast that experience with the Bush rally I attended back in 2000. Yes, I did go to a Bush rally. No I do not like Bush and even in 2000 I had some misgivings about him despite my concerted efforts to get the man elected. Easy to say in retrospect . . . I digress. There were about a thousand people at the Bush rally. I was near the front of the crowd. The rally was held in a small stadium and the people had to stand on the cement floor to listen to a speech that we had heard many times before. When Bush entered they played some upbeat and overly loud song and we all cheered like he was a rock star (which he is not). Bush did not look at the crowd much of the time, or at least, not where I was. This may have been partly because he was standing on a platform high above our heads. At the end of the speech I got smashed against the side of the stage by a mass of screaming, struggling people. It is amazing that nobody got hurt. I managed to get a sign I had autographed by Bush and I managed to shake his hand as he walked past me. But he did not look me in the eye or even see me. All he saw were my hands sticking out of the crowd. The people right next to me on either side did not get autographs or handshakes. It took me hours to leave the rally. The press of the crowd was overwhelming and infuriating.
I think the biggest difference between these two rallies would be accessibility. Ron Paul supporters feel like Ron Paul will listen to us. He's a regular guy, just like we are and he has no sense of celebrity-ness even though he's famous and we all love him. When Ron Paul is there we are very excited, but we do not have that same desperation that drove the Bush fans to crush me against the wall. We do not mob RP, we just walk up politely, say hello and ask him some questions. I am sure not every RP supporter is that nice to him, but the majority are. There is no one attempting to keep us away from Ron Paul although there is security available. They just do not have much of a job. The Bush people made it impossible for his potential constituents to talk to or reach Bush by putting up an actual fence between us. That made people crazy, it made them feel like Bush was not hearing them. I doubt that we would have mobbed Bush if he had been standing on our own level and we had been asked to line up. Had we been able to ask him questions like Ron Paul supporters can we probably would not have been such a messy crowd.
I am not going to compare the actual candidates in this post, just the rallies and the way things were done. I can definitely say that "it is a far, far better thing I do now than I" did when Bush was running.