CLIVE CITY, Iowa — The Ron Paul event I attended this afternoon at Des Moines University was immediately unlike any campaign event I had been to before.
I arrived five minutes late, which ordinarily means I arrived 40 minutes earlier. But when I walked into the massive classroom that was holding the event, Paul was already deep into a discussion of monetary policy. The event was ostensibly a forum about health care, but Paul had already moved off topic and was calling for an end to the federal reserve and a more responsible monetary system.
This would become a theme, because to Paul, the federal reserve and America’s monetary system are rarely off topic. Over the course of today’s speech, he looped back to hospitals, doctors, and patients every so often, but only to point out that the struggles they face have much to do with inflation, which is caused by the federal reserve and America’s monetary system.
The drop of the dollar was a favorite hobbyhorse because it played right into Paul’s message. “The wealth of a country is measured by the strength of its currency,” he said. “We’re flunking.”
One other thing Paul did talk about was disentangling ourselves from overseas commitments. He said that while other candidates (Democrats, of course) may want to pull troops out of Iraq, only he wanted to pull them out of Korea, Japan, and everywhere else they are installed around the globe. This would save us a ton of money, Paul argued, and make us safer, because the presence of our troops in foreign countries stokes a lot of the anger that is directed at us. But a few minutes after discussing foreign policy, Paul was back to statements like, “Our nation is based on debt.”
But for my lack of interest in Paul’s pitch, the crowd was loud and enthusiastic. I set out afterwards to meet them. In particular, I hoped to meet the guy in the cape and the two people dressed in animal costumes (a chimp and a beaver, I suspect; judge for yourself at right).
The first person I ran into was an employee of the university who joked that he was there for the “free lunch.” He said he was only checking Paul out; he was caucusing for Obama. The second and third people I spoke to were Paul supporters, but happened to be out-of-towners from Minnesota. The fourth person I spoke was an organizer for the Iowa Fair Trade Campaign who said he liked Paul’s trade ideas (because Paul opposes NAFTA and other trade agreements) but that he planned to caucus for an as-of-yet-undetermined Democrat.
Next I talked to an airplane pilot who loved Ron Paul but was in from Texas. Then it was an ardent fan of Paul’s monetary policy views who had driven down from Minnesota. Then two college-age kids who were taking their Ron Paul signs back home to New Jersey.
Getting desperate to find an Iowan supporter who planned on caucusing tonight, I headed outside, where people were clustering around Paul as he got into his van. I approached four people carrying Ron Paul signs, but was careful to ask where they were from before I began the interview. No luck: Kansas City. Then the guy in the cape showed up.
“Are you a Ron Paul supporter?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I’m with the Iowa Fair Trade Campaign.”
Despondent, I told him I had stopped him because he was wearing a cape. He said it had something to do with fair trade. I asked if he had seen the people in the chimp and beaver suits. He had. “I think they’re a little weird,” he said.
Noticing the complete lack of irony, I said, “This coming from a guy wearing a cape.”
He was taken aback. “I’m wearing this cape for a reason,” he said.
Eventually, I found a student from Northwestern who was planning on caucusing for Paul. He said that he liked Paul’s non-interventionist views, his free market positions, and his devotion to the Constitution.
And there you have it. If this event was any indication, Ron Paul has an awful lot of committed supporters nationwide who are going to be very disappointed when the results roll in tonight. Commence slaying me in the comments.