I attended my first Ron Paul "Meet Up" meeting last night. I'll admit, I didn't really know what to expect, although I thought it might be a little different than the usual crowd that I hang out with. I'd read a lot of the comments on assorted websites dealing with Ron Paul, watched some of the home made Ron Paul endorsements on YouTube, and concluded, as any brilliant person would, that Ron Paul supporters might not be your typical Republicans. I was right.
We had somewhere between 15 and 20 folks in a coffee shop in an area of Lincoln near one of the liberal arts colleges. I took my 18 year old daughter along with me (she actually wanted to go, and got someone to work her shift at work so she could go). I should note for those who don't know me and who haven't read much of my stuff, that I am a 45 year old, lifelong Nebraskan. While I've been in and out of academia and been exposed to a lot of different people, my life is really pretty conservative small townish.
We walked into the coffee shop where an orderly line was forming waiting for the poor employees to make our assorted coffee drinks. There were a couple of folks in front of me, and a couple who came right after us. My daughter and I just held our tongues and listened to conversations going on around us, and decided we must be in the right place--a couple of guys behind us were talking about the Tucker Carlson interview, the people in front of us were talking about the Ron Paul website, etc.
After we'd all gotten our drinks and sat down in the little "sitting room" that had been reserved for us, the introductions started, where we all described why we were there, and where we were coming from. We had it covered from left to right, and if you look at the traditional ideological "diamond" test, we had it covered from top to bottom too, I think. The organizer was a 50-something Democrat who at one time had been a Christian Communist (briefly), and several other things. She described herself as pro-life Green Catholic Democrat right now, I think. She was a self-proclaimed former hippie (but is now a financial adviser), and hence our "committee" structure is actually a "pod" structure. I'm on the "Oversight Pod" right now, with more to come later, I'm sure.
Then there was the 50's something tax accountant who is a current Libertarian (claims he's been on Ron Paul's Christmas card list for 20 years, having donated to his congressional campaigns for a long time). He's a former Libertarian candidate for Congress, and knows something about finance, so he's on the "oversight pod" too.
The final member of our "oversight pod" is a fairly recent college graduate (political science major) who has been involved, it seems, in a number of local campaigns--mostly libertarian, although I think he said some might have been Republicans. Long haired, he doesn't look like he'd fit well in most of the Republican circles that I've run in. So, just from the oversight pod, we have a diverse group--actually, not just out of the oversight pod, but considering the whole crowd of 16 or so, I was probably the most traditional Republican in the bunch. I think there might have been one or two others who are currently registered as Republicans, but I doubt if there were many more than that.
The rest of our group ranged from the high school government teacher who decided he'd been teaching kids about the Constitution long enough that he ought to work for someone who actually supported it; to the Green anthropology student who thought it was important to support someone who actually believed in liberty--even if he wasn't a Green--because if those liberties were infringed upon, he'd never get to promote the Green cause; to the guy who walked in late who had claimed some sort of long term connection (I think through family, because he had to be college aged) with the John Birch Society; to the 20-something married couple (she teaches high school English, he does something with computers, I think); to several college students; to some other tech-types.
The interesting thing about this group is that even though we come from vastly diverse backgrounds, and ranged in age from 18 to well into the 50's, I sensed something there that I would have never expected. Everyone--to a person--was willing to go out and register to vote as a Republican (Nebraska has a closed primary system, so they'd have to do that to vote for Paul), but they were also anxious to find out how they might get involved at the county level (I had just finished my "Time to Decide" post and was able to provide input on how to have influence at the state level). Some of these folks--college students, even--had already taken it upon themselves to print up copies of Ron Paul literature (available on his website for download).
We brainstormed ways of getting Paul's name before the masses--some were going to go and paint some "sandwich boards" and walk around at the local "Jazz in June" event that happens every week outside at the University; some were going to print up business card type arrangement that could be handed out (or left on tables or bulletin boards). There's a meeting next week of the "events pod" to plan--"events", I guess.
All in all, it was a remarkable evening. In spite of our differences in background, I felt a real sense of community with these folks, and a real sense of energy and commitment to a cause that they all really believed in. If you haven't connected up with one of the "meet up" groups yet, do. And if there aren't any in your area, look into starting one. You'll be amazed--and maybe even energized the way my daughter and I were as we drove home--the whole conversation revolved around things we could do for the Paul campaign. There's something about being with a group of "true believers" to really get your blood flowing!