Friday, April 29, 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's off with her head

~~ “White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane

Today my friend Dan said to me, “I never thought I’d see you at a Cruz rally!”

Neither did I, Dan. Neither did I.

In an unusual and unlikely turn of events, Indiana is surprisingly important in this year’s primary race, at least the Republican one (Hillary’s got it wrapped up on the Democratic’s all over but the shoutin’). With our late primary date, we usually don’t get a whole lot of attention, either from the media or from the candidates. Getting all this attention is a mixed bag. We have to deal with phone calls (yay for caller ID!) and lots of political ads, but we also get candidates actually stumping in our state. That doesn’t happen very often, and for a political junkie like me, it’s total catnip.

So when my friend Cassie posted that she got a ticket for the Cruz rally here in our town, I thought, “You know what? I’m going, too!” (Neither of us are Cruz supporters or Republicans, by the way.) I got my free ticket and headed up late this afternoon.

It was quite an experience. The first thing I saw when I walked in was that line of posters up there. It was truly a WTF moment. (I snagged one of the double-sided posters on the way out. How could I not?) It was a good-sized crowd, although not a particularly large place, and although Hoosier Nice isn’t quite at the level of Minnesota Nice, it’s pretty damn close. Everyone was polite and nice. And very pale. Seriously, I think I saw maybe two people of color at the most. Not a diverse crowd at all, although Cassie and I were surprised at the number of younger people.

I was happy to find Cassie right away and meet a long-time Facebook friend in real life! Thanks for saving me a seat, Cassie! I also found Dan pretty quickly, as he was part of the press cadre and was busy talking to people and getting some pictures. We didn’t get to talk for long, but agreed that we need to make some time to do that! He snapped a couple of pictures of me and Cassie.

The rally began with a prayer—ahem—and the pledge of allegiance. Cassie and I stood but remained silent. I find the reciting of the pledge of allegiance kind of odd, although I know it’s common in both Republican and Democratic rallies. I’m not sure why we are supposed to do that. It’s a grade school thing that I don’t really feel the need to do. I’m an American, for Pete’s sake. Why do I have to pledge my allegiance?

Anyway, it was an awkward start to a rally that grew increasingly uncomfortable. First was Carly Fiorina. She is actually a very good speaker, if you ignore her content. She is very much the “attack dog” for Cruz. I won’t make any judgments about why he chose a running mate when he is obviously losing this nomination race. Wait, I think I will! Seriously, what the fuck, man? You don’t choose a running mate until you’re the actual nominee! As the media is saying, it is very much an act of desperation.

Then it was the main attraction, if you can call Ted Cruz an “attraction.” It was basically the stump speech I’ve seen him giving as I’ve watched coverage of these primaries. Some of the same lame jokes and one-liners that I’ve already heard. Hillary’s going to jail, the Washington establishment, blah blah blah. The crowd didn’t seem that into it at first, but as the rally went on, people started getting a little more agitated. Some of the biggest applause lines were that he would “repeal Obamacare” (can’t do that on your own, man) and that on Day One, he would “tear up” the Iran nuclear deal (can’t do that, either). Probably the biggest “boo-getter” was a mention of Planned Parenthood. That just made me sad.

Cassie stuck around and got her picture with Cruz and Fiorina—she told Cruz that she likes Planned Parenthood...way to go, Cassie!—but I really needed to get out of there. It’s hard to describe what I was feeling by the end of this rally. I felt very alone, but was happy to be sitting next to Cassie for the moral support. I felt a bit of despair that so many people were eating all this up. And oh, the irony of Carly Fiorina talking about losing jobs to Mexico! She said, “I know where the jobs are going.” Yeah, so do those 30,000 people you laid off! The hatred for the Affordable Care Act, the hatred for Planned Parenthood, the hatred for Hillary was just a big fat Hate Fest. I felt like a Stranger in a Strange Land, and I definitely did NOT grok this.

I’m glad I went but it was a little damaging to my psyche. I’ll bounce back! I guess I’d better, because I got tickets to go see the Vulgar Talking Yam (hat tip to Charlie Pierce) himself on Monday. I feel reassured that Ken is planning on going with me. A while after I got those tickets, I found out that Bernie Sanders is also going to stop here, on Sunday. I just can’t do it, though. I need my quiet Sunday and I will spend the afternoon girding my loins for Monday. I honestly don’t know if we’ll be able to get in and I am not standing in line for hours.

We have a backup plan, though. Food and beers at Brew Werks! Victory with a capital V!