We’ve been unfaithful to Tocqueville. Instead of following our friend’s route from Cincinnati to Pittsburg, we ended up visiting Sebastian’s host family in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He stayed with them for a year during high school. Family comes before work, sorry Tocqueville! Before taking off from Johnstown, we found out that Paul Ryan was going to have a so-called “Victory Event” at the Harrisburg International Airport to do some last minute campaigning. Harrisburg was on our way to Philadelphia, so we decided to register online and head to the event. Here is our annotated picture gallery.
Upon arrival, Ryan’s event organiser let us park our car for free in the airport’s parking garage. Luxurious shuttle busses with leather seats took us from there to the hangar where the rally was about to take place. On the bus, they showed a video with footage of Romney and Ryan speaking to crowds to fire up the passengers. Wow, this is a well-organised event, we thought.
There was a long line of people waiting to get inside the hanger. As everybody had to go through airport-like security, it was moving slowly. This gave us time to listen to what the people around us were saying and probably to catch a cold. It was freezing. Almost all of the 3,000 people in the crowd were die-hard Republicans, carrying all sorts of Romney/Ryan memorabilia. They came to the rally already convinced who they would vote for. For them, it was about seeing and hearing their hero (their prophet, their favorite band) with their own eyes and ears, being there together with others who feel as passionate about him as they do. Much like a religious service or a rock concert.
In front of us, we had to listen to the lively discussion of two professors who were moaning about their union (“everybody should get payed according to his abilities!”) and their students who were supposedly getting dumber every year. Furthermore, they continually bashed Obama and his administration. It was quite entertaining!
Not all people in the line were staunch Republicans though. We were lucky to stand in front of a Canadian-American family. They wanted to show their teenage son what it is like to go to a rally. His mother, a registered Democrat, is still not sure who she would vote for on November 6, she told us. She agrees with the social programs introduced by the government over the last four years. However, she said she was unhappy with the overall economic situation in her country. So now she is undecided, listening to each new ad that comes out and following closely what the candidates are saying until election day. As we talked to her, we had been standing in line for an hour and could barely feel our feet anymore.
To ease their boredom, people started to hand out Romney-Ryan stickers. As you can see, we disguised as Republicans to fit in with the crowd. I don’t think our cover worked so well. Sebastian looks more like a lost member of the IRA (hat tip to our couch-surfing host in Philadelphia who just came up with that comparison).
Then it happened! You could hear people cheering everywhere in the line. The Ryan-Romney jet had landed!
The only problem now: The line was still long and moving slowly. People were starting to get really nervous. Would they still get in on time? Soon the rumor spread that the event had already started.
This police officer eventually spoiled the whole party for those who still weren’t inside (like us). He told everyone about the fire marshal’s decision that no more people would be allowed to enter. Some hard-core Republicans were infuriated, others had tears in their eyes or were begging the security staff to let them pass. Slowly the waiting line dissolved. But wait! Just shortly after, the doors opened again. The fire marshal had apparently changed his mind!
So, after two hours of waiting, we finally got in and literally saw the last ten seconds of Ryan’s speech. Can you spot him in this picture? He’s that guy on stage, dressed in a red sweater. Everybody was cheering from the top of their lungs and waving their signs in ecstasy.
We saw Ryan and his children waving goodbye and heading to the plane. After his departure, they played AC/DC. I was wondering what the band would have to say about that. Remember what the Rage Against Machine guitarist Tom Morello had to say when Ryan said the band was one of his favorites?
The real highlight was the people in the crowd. Here’s one example.
We were surprised by the number of children present at the rally. But then, Republican have a conservative view on family values, so it kinda makes sense. We would love to meet these children again in twenty years, just to see who they vote for then.
Some of the local politicians were in the room and the republican fans could take a souvenir picture with them to go home happy. We didn’t, we were just happy to go back to our car so we could start defrosting.