Libertarian Sensation Ron Paul Takes Over Webster Hall
A medley of twenty- and thirty-somethings gathered at Webster Hall on September 26, filling the Grand Ballroom with both pantsuits and ripped jeans, cocktail dresses and tricorn hats. Among the performers that the crowd was there to see that evening were DJ Avery Tanner, rock artist Jordan Paige — and presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Over 1,800 people attended the rally for the Republican congressman from Texas, held at the East Village venue known more known for its rock concerts than anything else. Pre-sale tickets sold out within hours, with additional tickets priced $25 at the door.
“This is not your usual political rally,” said Dave Brakey, managing director of Liberty HQ, the libertarian group that organized the event. “It’s sort of a political rock show.”
The lively event was one of many measures that Paul’s campaign has taken to reach out to young voters. Earlier this year, when he announced his bid for the presidency, Paul predicted that President Obama would not be able to hold the youth vote. Since then, Paul has been appealing to that demographic, garnering more “likes” on Facebook than either Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry and releasing a hip campaign slogan, “ReLOVEution,” that can be found spray-painted on street corners throughout the country.
“I’m fascinated with all the young people [here],” Paul said to the crowd at the rally. “I’m delighted to see everyone is under 30.”
Paul’s policy positions span the political spectrum. His opposition to the Federal Reserve, belief in small government and low taxes, and emphasis on personal responsibility all mark him as a libertarian. Although a Republican, many of his views clash with the conservative orthodoxy. He strongly opposes American military involvement overseas, for example, and believes that marijuana should be legalized, or at least regulated by state governments instead of the federal government.
What draws some supporters to Paul, however, is the idea that he is honest and genuinely believes in what he stands for. Even at The New School, a liberal-minded institution, Paul has a following. Lang junior Chance Beyer, an Economics and Politics major, is one New School student who supports Paul.
“Ron Paul exhibits the courage of his convictions every time he places an idea into the public debate,” Beyer said. “Every individual that values liberty and democracy needs to insist on that same courage from everyone who seeks the responsibilities of public leadership.”
According to supporters of Paul, that courage is what attracts young voters to him.
“Young people have their hearts open. They’re still seeking the truth everyday,” said Helene Jnane of Liberty HQ. “When older people get busy, they give up on that search for truth.”
Liberty HQ is not affiliated with Paul’s campaign, but is a major supporter of the candidate. According to Jnane, a majority of the volunteers at the HQ are young people, many just out of college. At the event, it was clear that Paul’s appeals to the youth vote have been effective.
Conor Patton, a 28-year-old student at Adelphi University, and former applicant for the MFA Creative Writing program at the New School, attended the rally.
“It’s very encouraging to see all these young people,” Patton said. “It honestly seems like a hipster concert — not what you’d expect of a 76-year-old Republican.”
Speakers who joined Paul at Webster Hall included Libertarian Queens Councilman Dan Halloran and conservative radio host Jack Hunter, among others. Pras, of the hip-hop group The Fugees, was also in attendance and scheduled to speak; because of time constraints, however, he did not get to the podium.
Despite the buoyant mood in Webster Hall, Paul still has detractors in New York, a Democratic stronghold. Several signs mocking the Paul campaign’s slogans were posted around the East Village on the night of the event.
“No to Ron Paul, we’re not buying his “RevoBullsh#t,” read the signs.
But Paul’s supporters were undeterred. Guitarist Jordan Paige, one of the performers at the rally, may have spoken for the entire crowd when, during a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” he switched the lyrics: “All and all, we should have elected Ron Paul.”