Young people form the backbone of ‘Ron Paulers’ who rally for their candidate weekly on the courthouse square. Paul has sent mixed signals in recent days about whether he will continue his presidential campaign as a Republican or independent or focus on running for re-election to congress. NEWSTREAMZ STAFF PHOTO
Paul’s fan base is so deliberately visible that there is a love-hate type of relationship that San Martians have with the obvious presence of Paul supporters. The people present at this week’s rally on the Square are gushing with gusto, cheering on hoots and honks and retorting sharply to any negative commentary from passing cars.
“Fuck Ron Paul!” yells the passenger of a truck at the nearest stoplight, who is a Hispanic male in his twenties and looks like he should be a frat boy.
“Oh, OK! Why don’t you go to war in Iraq then?” counters Sean Paul Bolock, who then turns to me and says, “Cowards like him should go and fight. They should go and never come back.”
Bolock leaves me on my bench-perch and runs to the curb to join Eric Brillhart, another rally-goer, in some presumably open and pleasant dialogue with the truck’s passenger. (To be honest, the exhaust pipe on the truck is so loud I cannot hear what is being exchanged.)
Did I mention that this rally is taking place on Valentine’s Day, and also in some unpleasant weather? Not even a Hallmark holiday will keep this group of supporters off the street. According to Bolock, almost nothing stops a wild pack of Paul supporters.
“I was in New Hampshire for the primary [on January 8] and it was 10 below, and we were still out there,” said Bolock. “Ron Paulers are the first ones out there and the last ones to leave. We just love the guy.”[The 72-year-old, 10-term Republican congressman, whose district used to include San Marcos, had sounded like he was suspending his presidential campaign to focus on beating a primary challenge in his congressional district. But on Wednesday, he told CNN, “I will stay in as long as my supporters want me to. And I say as long as the number of volunteers continues to grow, and the money comes in, and there are primaries out there, and they want me to be involved, I am going to stay involved.”
According to his most recent financial disclosure, Paul has plenty cash to keep campaign commercial airtime and airfare, or blimp travel for that matter. Paul had about $6 million in his campaign account, more than any remaining Republican candidate including presumed nominee John McCain.]
Bolock used to live in Lake Jackson,, Paul’s hometown and political home base, and went to high school with Paul’s youngest daughter, Joy. He has been following Paul’s political career for 20 years.
“Go to the 14th congressional district (which is the district Paul has represented in the U.S. House of Representatives for the last 11 years). They don’t say they are Republicans; they say they are Ron Paul Republicans. People there love him,” Bolock said.
Bolock and Brillhart are former roommates, and Brillhart said that Bolock was who first turned him on to Paul.
Brillhart is a Paul supporter because of his strict and conservative interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Brillhart even pulls a miniature Constitution from a pants pocket, flipping through it and citing certain passages and linking them to Paul. He launches for into a history lecture, connecting Paul’s political ambitions with the visions of the American forefathers and Catholic monk and church reformer Martin Luther.
Brillhart’s words are beginning to become mush in my brain as I try to logically internalize this extensive history lesson, and I hear a small exchange between Bolock and the only woman at this week’s event.
“Hi Carol, nice to meet you,” Bolock said. “Carol is Ron’s wife’s name. I can remember your name that way.” He speaks with such faith and certainty that he really will remember the name of the woman he just met because it is the same as Paul’s wife, that I get the impression Bolock lives and breathes everything Ron Paul.
When it is Carol Goodwin’s turn to talk to me, I don’t even have to ask her a question. She looks directly at me, smiles, and begins telling me stories about her 19-year-old granddaughter. After nearly 10 minutes of hearing about the Goodwin granddaughter with the most beautiful blue eyes in the world, she gets to the point: the granddaughter could be sent to Iraq with the Army.
“If Ron Paul gets in there, she may not have to go to Iraq,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said she can smell revolution on Paul’s breath. “I’ve been screaming for a revolution for as long as I can remember,” and Paul is the first presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy that she can identify with.
“What’s the comparison between Kennedy and Ron Paul?” I ask.
“They are both for the people. Paul is for the people. He has no agenda,” she said.
Paul is a panpolitical icon, attracting voters, donors and volunteers who subscribe to the Democratic and Republican parties, and those who choose to identify themselves with no party at all. Bolock, who started making his own homemade signs once he heard Paul decided to enter the presidential race, insists Paul’s attraction is that “he tells the truth. He tells you exactly what the problem is, where it comes from, and he tells you the solution.”
At the same moment, as if cued, the driver — who looks uncannily like Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama — of a passing mini SUV leans out his window, and yells, “Obama 2008!” Bolock’s face tenses slightly after hearing the man, and he begins a tirade against Obama, slamming him for “using the same word over and over again. ‘Change, change, change.’ That’s all he can say.”
After some time of anti-Obama talk from Bolock, I say, “Surely there’s something positive about Obama.” Bolock looks at me in great surprise, almost shocked that someone else would support a candidate other than his own preferred, and asks me, “Oh, you’re not actually an Obama supporter, are you?” (Yes, I am. But because this is not gonzo journalism, I did not tell him so, and thus prevented a possibly tainted interview.)
Bolock then mentions something I had not heard before: Both Obama and his Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, will not withdraw troops from Iraq until 2013. I questioned where on earth he heard something like that, and he cited the Austin Chronicle. I did my own research, and found no evidence of a 2013 withdrawal date from either candidate.
Paul’s stance on the Iraq War, driven by his bring-them-home-NOW attitude, is the unifying factor for those at this rally. However, each person at this rally has his or her own reason for supporting an immediate troop withdrawal.
Bolock claims the war costs “two to three billion dollars everyday,” and that money should be spent on home turf.
Brillhart said he is out here rallying “because I’m from a military family.” His father served 20 years with the United States Air Force, and one hellish year was spent fighting in both the Vietnam War and Arab-Israeli conflict.
The consequence of his years of military service is not one unknown to veterans of foreign wars: Brillhart’s father suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he takes so much medication for his PTSD that all Brillhart knows of his father now is a medicated personality.
“Bring our troops home. That’s my big thing,” he said.
Goodwin is voting for Paul because she does not want to see her granddaughter exported to Iraq. “She is the same girl that I used to buy blue dresses for that match her eyes. And do you know what she wears now?” Goodwin asked. “An ugly green uniform.”
She also admires Paul’s non-intervention approach to foreign relations and his ambition to bring home the American troops stationed in countries we are not, and have not been for some time, in combat with. “Maybe other countries would think we are friendly if we just removed our soldiers from other countries.”
While it is possible pigeon certain demographics as “safe bet” as safe bets for certain candidates (e.g. Hillary Clinton’s single mothers and Hispanic voters, and Obama’s young voters and college-educated voters), Paul magnetizes voters from all ethnicities, incomes, and backgrounds. This small gathering shows the same demographic equality.
Also in attendance at the rally, and the only person with a homemade sign, is Texas State history junior Daniel McCarthy. I caught McCarthy as he was leaving the rally for “delegate training.”
“Delegate training?” I asked him, naively assuming he meant he was a state delegate.
McCarthy, who was wearing a Ron Paul t-shirt and a hat that says, “Ron Paul, the taxpayers’ best friend,” informed me that he was, in fact, planning to be a delegate for his local voting precinct. Delegates are not chosen before the Texas primary on March 4, but instead in the independent precinct conventions just after the polls close.
“More Ron Paul people show up for training than any other candidate, which means that we get that much more say,” McCarthy said. “I wish it would be that way in all the precincts here, and in all the state.”
I asked for some sage advice from the delegate trainee, and he had one word: “Participate!”
The sentiment is echoed by Brillhart: “People often think they don’t have to get involved because other people will, and all it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to do nothing.”Email | Print