Let me just start by saying I have no problem with people who have political beliefs that are different than mine. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may have guessed that I’m somewhat left-leaning, and you’d be right! I’m one of those bleeding heart liberals Rush Limbaugh hates so much. I love it all…reproductive rights, gay marriage, and taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes!
But that’s just me. The point of this post isn’t to say that I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s to tell you about how weird it was that time I went to a Mitt Romney rally.
I’ve identified as a Democrat since 9th grade, but I’ve always spent a lot of time around Republicans, including one of my parents, some of my friends, most of the residents of my hometown, and all of my former coworkers.
My last job (the one I left just about a month ago) was in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing, as you may have heard, isn’t in the best shape right now. Everyone, fairly or unfairly, blames this on Obama, big government, regulations, healthcare, etc. So at work I literally never talked about my political beliefs. They’re near and dear to my heart, and unless the Republican party drastically changes their stance on women’s issues and gay rights, they aren’t going to change. Also, I knew my former coworkers just cared about different things than I did. They cared about business. I cared about not dying on an operating table because I had pregnancy complications and couldn’t receive medical care.
Every morning I walked past a bumper sticker that said, “Obama sucks, and if you voted for him then you suck, too.” This always made me think about two things. One being that it’s good for everyone, especially writers, to spend a lot of time around people they don’t agree with. If you only spend time with people who are exactly like you, you’re going to be incredibly boring. And two, that’s a really long bumper sticker. Like, learn to be more concise.
But anyway, no one ever said anything rude that wasn’t affixed to a truck bumper, so it didn’t bother me that much. Until Mitt Romney held a rally at my job.
It all started when my boss announced his campaign for state senate. The already visible political threads around the office became even more apparent. Again, no one ever bothered me or said anything, but there were a lot of Romney signs. I ignored them, as I’m wont to do.
But then one Saturday evening, when H. and I emerged from a basement restaurant where I had no cell phone signal, I saw that I had a voicemail from my boss. She was just letting me know that, on Monday, Mitt Romney himself would be holding a rally at work.
“Well,” I thought to myself before the message was even over. “I’m not going to that.”
And, truly, I didn’t plan to. Mitt Romney is just a human being, not Satan or a monster or a robot made of hatred like Ann Coulter, but he’s still a human being who wants to take away personal freedoms that my friends and I enjoy very, very much. The last thing I wanted was to be photographed in a room full of his supporters.
But when the day arrived, things were a bit more complicated than I’d anticipated. There were a lot of people coming in for the rally, and I didn’t feel like making a scene. And, sure, I could’ve just gone home, but my car was blocked in and apparently I have no principles.
So I ended up at a Mitt Romney rally. As some dude (I suppose it was someone involved with the government, but it couldn’t just been some perv. We’ll never know) waved a metal detector at me in what some might call a suggestive manner, I wondered what I was doing. I even signed a “Welcome, Mitt!” sign (my signature was illegible, so whatever). And then I got a VIP bracelet. That’s right. A 26 year old feminist Democrat who once attended an Obama rally and who once got into an argument with her father which she ended by yelling, “I hope you and Rush Limbaugh are VERY HAPPY TOGETHER!” was a VIP at a Mitt Romney rally.
One of my coworkers and I walked into the plant a bit late, and after walking past all the anti-Obama button vendors, we took our places near the back of the room. It was standing room only at that point, and I was totally fine with being in the background. But then another coworker saw us and waved us up to the front row. “We saved you seats!” she called out.
So there I was. Directly to the right of the stage, eye-level with some Secret Service guy’s junk.There was a perfectly adequate rendition of the National Anthem, a vague prayer (we didn’t, like, pray for God to make Obama lose, but it was implied), and some speakers who weren’t Mitt Romney (there’s only so much room in my brain, okay? I have to remember every lyric Prince ever wrote, so I can’t possibly remember the name of every Republican politician). Shitty music played. At the Obama rally I attended in 2008, they played songs like Move On Up. Here, it was just some generic country and what sounded like Hagar-era Van Halen. I was unimpressed.
And then Mitt Romney came out, and people went crazy. From just feet away, I noticed things you can’t notice on television. Like how his hair might be made out of plastic.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be in a room full of people indiscriminately cheering for things you don’t believe in, then I’m here to tell you–it’s weird. I’d never had that experience before because, like most normal people, I only went to political rallies for people I supported. But here, I was the only one not clapping at his jabs at Obama and his platitudes about job creation. I wasn’t scowling at him from the front row like a petulant baby, but I wasn’t pretending to be happy, either. And when he asked, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” I had to stifle my “Yes!” while everyone else shouted “No!” What was I supposed to say? Four years ago I was unemployed and living with my parents. I’m not fully attributing my current lifestyle to Obama, but clearly he didn’t hurt me.
To be honest, Mitt Romney was pretty inoffensive. He didn’t make any crazy gaffes or mention social issues at all. He basically just said, “I love jobs!” for awhile, and people cheered. I mean, it was like any political rally, except I didn’t tear up at this one like I did at the Obama one in 2008 (whatever, Michelle was there so don’t act like you wouldn’t have done the same thing).
After Mitt was done speaking, he stepped off the podium to meet the people. And that’s when I realized I was the people. I was in the front row, and he was shaking everyone’s hand.
My first thought was, “I have to get away from here. I can’t shake Mitt Romney’s hand.”
My second thought was, “Yeah, I’m gonna need to shake Mitt Romney’s hand.”
As usual, the part of me that loves absurdity and taking the path of least resistance won out. Sure, usually the path of least resistance doesn’t involve shaking hands with political candidates, but this time it did. As Mitt Romney gripped my hand (firmly, so firmly), he said something to me. And you know what? I forgot what it was immediately. I think he said, “Thanks for your support.” You know what? Next time Mitt Romney talks to you, how about I ask you to remember what he said.
I don’t know what I said back. “Right back atcha!” “Great show!” “Actually I’m not voting for you but I’m sure you’ll be fine because literally everyone else in this room is!” Probably none of the above. I think I must’ve just made random noises before vaprorizing and ending up back at my desk, because I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I do know I shook Rob Portman’s hand as well, because he was there and I was like, “Well, I’m on a Republican hand-shaking roll today so let’s just ride this thing as far as it’ll take me.”
Looking back, the Mitt Romney rally wasn’t even all that interesting. It was pretty short, and I just sat around a lot. People weren’t allowed to bring in signs, so I didn’t even get to see any good puns. I did see a DIY patriotic denim jacket, which, admittedly, was pretty great. But overall? I didn’t even think it was that bad. Until I remembered that Mitt Romney wants to take away access to safe abortions, end federal funding to an organization that provides birth control, mammograms, and medical care to women who can’t otherwise afford it, and make sure that my gay friends will never be able to legally enjoy the benefits of marriage.
And then I also remembered that we’re all going to die alone and the only things we have in our crazy-short time as living, breathing beings are our human connections. I shook Mitt Romney’s hand. It was weird. He’s going to be President or he’s not, and while I really hope he’s not, if you think differently I’m not going to hold it against you.
And that’s all I have to say about the time I shook Mitt Romney’s hand.