ROCHESTER, MI — On Monday, the Romney campaign, led by Paul Ryan, vice presidential nominee and Wisconsin representative, had a chat with Southern Michigan’s most exuberant loyalists. Along with a hefty slate of Michigan’s Republican candidates and incumbents, Ryan gave remarks at Oakland University’s O’rena in Rochester, Mich. The Thunderstix clapped, “U.S.A.” chants rang out through the cavernous hall and the mere mention of “Obama” or “Biden” drew a chorus of lusty boos. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, with the general election reaching its homestretch, there I was, right in the belly of the beast.
Surely, though, this chaos was nothing that a “proud hunter” like Ryan couldn’t tame. Indeed, for all the hype surrounding his natural charisma and silver tongue, I was half-expecting to be swept up in a whirlwind of Ryan-ism myself. If there’s one thing that’s difficult for me to take with a straight face, it’s political rhetoric. The cattiness, the baseless accusations, the half-truths and unabashed contradictions — whether it’s from the right or the left, I’m prone to dismissing most of the vitriol as static. Would Ryan, though, with his reported irresistible charm, stand alone as a model of integrity among it all? Could he break through my icy layer of skepticism?
In a word: no. By the time Ryan actually got on stage, my old habits had already crept safely back in. Whether it was inflammatory, garbled or just plain uncomfortable, each Republican hopeful that filed onto the stage only pushed me closer to the edge of outright political apathy. Kerry Bentivolio, a House of Representatives hopeful for Michigan’s 11th District, stammered through vague ideas of hope and American values. U.S. Rep. Candice Miller managed to blame high gas prices on “an absence of leadership in the White House.” My favorite in terms of entertainment value had to be Don Volarics, whose over-the-top hysterics mostly resulted in awkward applause or dead air. I don’t think he has my vote for the House, but I’ll definitely put him down for “Most Likely to Have Pre-gamed with a Box of 5-Hour Energy.”
Of course, the common thread throughout all of this rambling stemmed back to the faults of one man: President Barack Obama. Pastor Kent Clark lamented how the Lord had been “banned from America” by the current administration. Pete Hoekstra — Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s Republican challenger — criticized the strength of our national security. Ben Bishop, the tween son of Oakland County’s Mike Bishop, was given a minute to talk about how his generation wouldn’t have the ability to pay off the debts that Obama’s spending would incur upon them. Thank you, Mike, for sacrificing your son in order to complete this three-ring circus of a rally. Ugh.
I realize that the Republican campaign has never been about winning votes through fair play and ethics, but when Ryan and his cronies are coming out with a holier-than-thou attitude about the dirtiness of the political process, how can you not feel like your intelligence has been insulted a little bit? “Obama is criticizing,” Ryan said. “He’s going from hope and change, to attack and blame. We’re not gonna fall for that.” What do you call what you’ve all been doing for the past two hours, Paul? It’s disheartening, to say the least, that by the end of the night, the only speaker who had said anything with even an ounce of goodwill toward the opposition was none other than Michigan’s own, Kid Rock.
“I strongly believe,” he said, “that it’s possible to disagree about politics without hating each other.” That may be true, Kid, but just be sure to let your friends know it too.
Gus Turner is an LSA junior.