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Rand Paul as ‘The Scariest Thing in America’

Posted: November 1, 2015 | By: Ellen Bruegger Tagged: From the Campaign Trail

Friday night at Buzzard Billy’s in Des Moines there was one question on everyone’s mind:

What would Sen. Rand Paul dress up as for Halloween?

Perhaps I should mention this was a “Liberty Halloween Party.” Aside of the name, nothing at the event evoked images of liberty. The event was held in a small, overheated room in the back of the Cajun and Creole-style restaurant. Aside from a small table at the entrance to the room filled with campaign swag and information pamphlets, there was no way to tell this was a Paul event. The decorations chosen looked like they belonged at a middle school dance more than a presidential campaign event: black balloons, paper pumpkins and styrofoam tombstones with ominous messages like, “If you’re reading this, you need to get a life.” Adding to the middle-school-dance theme was the Top-40 music playing. It was unclear whether this was a purposely part of the campaign push to gain youth support or simply an oversight with the restaurant’s music was filtering in. The TV’s were off. The campaign wanted attendees to converse, not stare at a television, but they had some stiff competition for their attention, most importantly Game 3 of the World Series. Prior to Paul’s arrival, male attendees could be seen darting out to the bar or looking at their phones to check on the game.

As soon as I walked into the event room I was stopped by three campaign workers, one asking for my information to sign me in, one asking when (not if) I would like to volunteer for the campaign and a third who was “trying to get to know me.” The whole thing was very overwhelming and off-putting but conformed a concern of mine, that this event was more for Paul supporters, and less for those still looking for a candidate. After I made it past the welcoming committee and into the room, I could tell it was a tight-knit group, almost everyone was talking amongst themselves. I was the outsider and it was obvious. I was approached by campaign workers at least two additional times throughout the evening, usually asking about my occupation, education and again if I would like to sign up to volunteer.

Rosie the Riveter (Ellen Bruegger) with Senator Rand Paul on Oct. 30.

Rosie the Riveter (Ellen Bruegger) with Senator Rand Paul on Oct. 30.

When it came time for Paul to arrive, there was a slight buzz throughout the crowd, partially because of the excitement and partially because those who were running the event were trying to corral us and make a tunnel for Paul to walk through. This attempt was unsuccessful. In fact, as Paul was walking in I was watching a group of Drake law students make a short video proclaiming that they #StandWithRand. As Paul made his way through the crowd, shaking hands, attention quickly diverted from Paul and back to people’s private conversation. Once Paul finally got the front of the room it was time to reveal his costume, the self-described scariest thing in America, the national debt. Paul donned his hallmark turtleneck with a slightly twist, $18 Trillion, written on it. After the initial awe over the costume died down, a photo line started, and nearly everyone in attendance got a photo with Paul. Shortly after photos were finished and some conversation with supporters, Paul left the building.

I was personally disappointed that Paul didn’t give a speech of any sort, but since this event was mainly for supporters, it made sense. They already know Paul’s rhetoric and don’t need to be convinced of his presidential qualities. All in all this event lacked the professionalism of some campaign stops, but for those supporting Paul, it provided a good social outlet to be with people they share political views.

IMG_1211Bruegger is a graduate student in the School of Education pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Studies Education. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Iowa and talks to her two cats way too much. Follow her on Twitter.