At the rally I was also interviewed by Channel 8 News. Alas, the extensive interview done by Chris Amato was not aired. As Rachel Barnhart was the anchor woman that night, we certainly hope the exclusion was not because we have once or twice tweeked Dear Rachel’s fine blog The Rochestarian. Looking back, I wish the interview had been after meeting Cruz’ supporters who had much to say.
In the interview, I argued that Cruz’ unwavering call to return to the gold standard is one of his most radical proposals. Since the U.S. left the gold standard in 1933, no major presidential candidate has demanded going back. (Ron Paul floated the idea in his campaigns.) Actually, the gold standard has not been a major election issue since 1896 and 1900 when Williams Jennings Bryan twice lost to William McKinley on a “Free Silver” bimetallism platform: including his iconic “Cross of Gold speech” at the 1896 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Chris asked if the gold standard was my primary issue. No, it’s not. I mentioned Cruz’ distasteful references to Mideast carpet bombings and making deserts glow and his ill-informed ideas about policing Muslim neighborhoods (without mentioning to which neighborhoods he was referring).
My claim was that the media should question Cruz on his gold policy, including giving him the opportunity for full explanation on his plans to achieve it.
Having arrived after the crowd had filled MCC’s gym, on the sage advice of a security guard, I left my sign behind. As the rally was a private event, two women wearing Hillary shirts, and ticketless, were not admitted. Sans ticket myself, but sporting a goldish McQuaid golf team shirt, I was allowed entrance.
Inside about a 1000 supporters had gathered. As many in the crowd were from outside Rochester, the gym had the flavor of a big basketball game in Wayne or Ontario counties. Mainly the people were just regular folks, polite and orderly, excited to see their candidate most seem to have followed closely on the campaign trail.
There was quite a sizable contingent of media, mainly local and regional including Channel 8 who asked to interview me outside before Cruz arrived on stage. And also representatives of the national press corp covering Cruz. One young woman originally from Buffalo was following Cruz for the D.C. based online publication, The Hill.
CNN was there. For a provincial like myself who doesn’t get out much, I was intrigued by Sunlen Cerfaty, the very polished and metropolitan looking correspondent who would report live on Cruz’ speech. As she prepared, Sunlen was in a little red bubble communicating back and forth with the national studio.
I showed her a picture of the sign and politely asked if she might consider an interview. Sunlen loved Athesia’s handiwork, but the story didn’t quite rise to CNN level. I watched as Sunlen did a few trail runs, readied her notes, and then gave the MCC gymnasium its two minutes or so of fame.
Cruz’s appearance was impressive. He is a skilled speaker, pausing and shifting pitches effectively. Cruz speech itself was not really inflammatory or negative. He just laid out the core principles animating his campaign. Cruz’ bon mot was when he compared the Democratic candidates to the original Republican field of 17: “On the one hand, you have a wild eyed socialist whose ideas are bad for the nation and the world . . . and then there’s Bernie Sanders.” We all laughed (maybe even Sunlen).
After the rally, I had the chance to engage with Cruz’ supporters filtering out. Just holding the sign, at first I received a chilly reception, told I was in the wrong place. One woman looking at my fool’s gold placard, shook her head saying, you silly man. (Not the first person to ever make that observation.)
One man did stop to say my presence was exactly what Senator Cruz stood for: my constitutional rights. As I honed my approach to better open dialogue, many people stopped to discuss the gold issue.
Before going to the event, I asked various non-Cruz supporters what they thought of Cruz’ gold platform. Most had maybe barely heard of his position. The topic seemed arcane and way off their radar screen. But Cruz’ supporters knew all about it.
Almost every one was in favor of the gold standard. They provided valid reasons. They worried about the power of the Federal Reserve and felt gold backing would inoculate us from bad decisions by the Fed. People didn’t like how China manipulated its currency against U.S. interests. One man said he’d heard that Russia was adopting the gold standard.
Overall, the concern was about currency manipulation in general. There was mistrust of large financial institutions. The Rothschilds were even mentioned. This was a libertarian group, resisting whatever felt like strong centralized power.
But the crowd was less optimist that Cruz’ vision could be realized. Asking if they supported the gold standard and could Cruz make it happen, I mainly got yes and, alas, no. But several did say if anyone could, it was Cruz.
One man walked by and even mentioned William Jennings Bryan! Be still my populist beating heart. For a time, John Owens, a student at Aquinas Institute fascinated by politics who had come to neutrally observe the rally, stood with me. When the man said WJB, John said he knew who Bryan was — as he had just studied the Cross of Gold speech in A.P. U.S. History. Bless you Aquinas Advanced Placement teacher for you have taught your children well.
At this point, a confession in hopes of reversing some bad karma. Inside the gym I had chatted with a couple of supporters and taken a picture (responding to Cruz’ 10 flat tax, the man said he could accept 11 or 12 percent but no higher). I fear I may have given the impression I was gung ho for Cruz. Outside when holding my sign, the supporter walked past saying: “You can stick that sign up your ass.” Oops, a little deserved.As almost all the crowd was gone, Abdul Suttar — having left Afghanistan in 2007 or 2008 to come to the U.S — walked by as I was speaking with two men who were leaning more towards the Libertarian Party candidate.
Abdul simply said everything out of Cruz’ mouth made him want to vomit. He mostly objected to Cruz’ comments about policing Muslim neighborhoods. The two men said they respected Abdul’s perspective and said they were glad he was here in America. Cliff took the picture.
On the way home, I went into a convenience store on Mt. Hope still carrying the sign. The clerk liked it. Not having heard of the gold standard or the rally at MCC, she thought I was holding a placard for a new, cool sounding restaurant: Cruz’s Gold Standard.
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