Poor Dick Heller! The lead plaintiff (and namesake) of the landmark civil rights lawsuit that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, D.C. v. Heller, had the misfortune of following Ron Paul to the dais at last Saturday's Revolution March and Rally in Washington.
Heller, whose celebrity in the wake of SCOTUS's pro-Second Amendment ruling has resulted in a "Draft Heller for Congress" movement, tried his best to retain the attention of the crowd, but to no avail. Thousands of people had converged on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to see Ron Paul, and after waiting for hours to see the Congressman, they booked it out of there when he left the scene.
The crowd was eclectic, if mostly young. It was not, from my perspective, a gathering of libertarians.
While a few libertarian themes were sounded from the podium, they were outnumbered by nationalist/xenophobic appeals to the anti-immigration crowd, weird conspiracy theories (one speaker asserted that some international agency is putting dots of various colors on our mail boxes; the color of the dot signals whether the occupant of the house will be a compliant slave or one who resists tyranny, with gradations in between), eminent domain activists who oppose tolls as user fees for road building and maintenance, and passionate anti-war protesters.
The sorts of groups one usually finds at libertarian gatherings were not in evidence. While there were a few signs waved, here and there, calling for an end to drug prohibition or touting the Second Amendment, there was no palpable presence of anti-drug or pro-gun organizations. (One of my friends told me he could detect the fragrant aroma of cannabis smoke, but I hadn't noticed it.)
One result of the panoply of speakers, whose views were (to be kind) out of the mainstream, was that when Congressman Paul took the stage, he appeared, by comparison, to be the moderate voice of reason. Whether this was the plan of the rally organizers or just a happy accident, I don't know.
In fact, Dr. Paul was on the top of his game. He appeared relaxed, wearing a blue-and-white striped golf shirt. He was full of energy and he smiled broadly at the reaction of the crowd, as well he should have done.
Why? The multitude treated him like a rock star. The crowd had been spread out widely on the lawn west of the Capitol building, but when whispers of Dr. Paul's arrival on the premises began to circulate, they surged, almost as one, to the front of the stage. Plenty of elbow room gave way to the shoulder-to-shoulder intimacy of a tightly-packed elevator.
I felt like I was at a Barack Obama rally, without the Democrats and empty rhetoric.
This was the first time I had seen Dr. Paul in person since his pathbreaking GOP presidential primary campaign began last year. I had read press reports about the way he was received at political rallies and on college campuses, but this was my introduction to it by way of direct observation.
One of the things I noticed is that the messenger is more salient than the message. The people who attended this march and rally are, first and foremost, RON PAUL SUPPORTERS. They adore the man. Other speakers echoed parts of his message during the hours preceding his appearance, but they were largely, if politely, ignored.
When Dr. Paul arrived, however, the audience was enraptured. They hung on his every word. They chanted his name. (I don't remember anyone chanting "Howard Phillips, Howard Phillips!" or "Chuck Baldwin, Chuck Baldwin!" And there was nobody left to chant "Dick Heller! Dick Heller!) They cheered. They demanded an encore, even though Congressman Paul had a plane to catch and a place to go.
So I have to wonder if anybody else -- Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, or any other currently active politician -- can be as an effective a messenger for Ron Paul's platform or for libertarian and constitutionalist ideas. Dr. Paul, I know, demurs. He insists that it is the message that matters, not the messenger. I hope he's right, but I fear he's wrong.
See for yourself. I took about 55 minutes of video at the rally and edited it down to about 40 minutes in five segments. (I posted these videos to YouTube just about 24 hours ago and they have already had more than a thousand hits, which is a record for any of my YouTube videos.)
What do you think? Are we seeing the apotheosis of Ron Paul's ideas, or of Ron Paul the leader? It's your call.
Scenes from the Revolution Rally - Part I:
Scenes from the Revolution Rally - Part II:
Scenes from the Revolution Rally - Part III:
Scenes from the Revolution Rally - Part IV:
Scenes from the Revolution Rally - Part V:
Theocratic Party -- I mean, Constitution Party -- presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin introduces Ron Paul in Part III, and the rest of Dr. Paul's speech is in that segment and Parts IV and V.
Other speakers heard on the video include Howard Phillips and Michael Scheuer. The audio tidbits are not well-edited, but you might hear some interesting or intriguing thoughts. In taking the video, I was aiming for the capture of visual images. What's more, I knew my battery power was depleting rapidly in the heat, and I wanted to save my charge for Dr. Paul's climactic address. (Even so, my battery ran out a couple of minutes before Congressman Paul ended his speech; I got most of it, however.)
For other perspectives on the march and rally, check out Steven Latimer's blog (also with video) and the Virginia Conservative. (Other bloggers who were there and who wrote about this, feel free to post a link in the comments section, below.)
Other photographs from the rally can be found on Facebook, here and here.
Update: Dave Weigel has an excellent report at the Reason "Hit & Run" blog, making me wish that I had also seen (in person) the banner that read "Mises Saves." Weigel has video of Naomi Wolf, and his additional photos are here.