An overwhelming majority of the crowd that gathered at West Chester’s American Helicopter Museum on Tuesday to see Paul Ryan did so in support of the Republican vice presidential candidate.
Andrea Lynch was not in this majority.
“I am a woman, and I have three daughters, and this is appalling to me. We are moving backwards in our rights and even respect,” said Lynch, a Malvern resident who was one of roughly 25 protesters who clustered along the venue's Airport Road entrance in the run-up to the 3:30 p.m. speech.
A "Legitimate" Gripe?
Lynch, like many of the picketers, was incensed by what she views as the Republican ticket’s hostility to abortion rights. She carried two placards: one that read “Catholic Mother for Choice” another that asked “What is Legitimate Rape?,” a reference to Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s recent remark that “legitimate” rape rarely leads to pregnancy.
Andrea Morganstein, a member of MoveOn.Org—a liberal activist group that helped organize the protest—took the comparison between Ryan and Akin a step further. Carrying a sign that read “Ryan & Akin Agree, Only Some Rapes Count,” she argued that Ryan doesn’t just have similar abortion views as the controversial candidate—both oppose abortion in all cases except those in which the mother’s life is in danger—but said the pair were complicit in an attempt to restrict abortion access by narrowing the definition of rape. In doing so, she said, they hoped to cut off Medicaid abortion funding for victims of statutory rape and some kinds of incest.
“They recently cosponsored a bill that tried, but failed, to change the wording from rape to forcible rape—like a woman had to defend how raped she was in order to qualify for an abortion through Medicaid. And that’s why Akin’s flub is connected to what Ryan stands for,” she said, backdropped by intermittent chants of “four more years” and “Ryan is wrong for women.”
(It's unclear if Ryan and Akin are as uniquely close on abortion as the protesters claim. While they cosponsored the HR 3: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in January of 2011, they were just two of its 227 cosponsors. )
To advance their argument conflating the two, MoveOn took to the skies as well: for three hours an airplane financed by the group carried a banner that read “Romney Ryan Akin= Wrong 4 Women” over the rally.
Protesters Call Ryan Budget a Bust
The protestors also took issue with the congressman’s proposed budget. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” has drawn criticism from liberal (and some conservative) corners for its sharp cuts to the federal budget, including a proposal to turn Medicare for those under age 55 into a voucher system. Several protestors carried signs that read “Ryan: Yes to Millionaires, No to Medicare.”
Les Mills, 73, said he was puzzled by blue-collar support for Ryan. If you’re not rich, he wondered, why vote Republican?
“I don’t understand how so many working people can be ignorant of what happens on the Republican side. They think they’re doing something for them, and they’re not.”
Democrats Make Their Case
The protest culminated in a brief press conference where West Chester mayor Carolyn Comitta, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Democratic U.S. congressional candidates Manan Trivedi and George Badey took turns criticizing the Republican ticket.
“Mitt Romney has chosen a running mate who would not only privatize Social Security, but would also raise taxes for the middle class, turn Medicare into a voucher program, and cut investments in education, infrastructure, and important veterans' programming,” said Comitta in her introductory remarks. “All to fund massive tax breaks for millionaires like Mitt Romney.”
(“That’s not true, that’s baloney!” shouted a woman in medical scrubs from the back of the crowd. The interruption was one of several that occurred during the stump speeches. None were profane or aggressive.)
Senator Lautenberg waxed biographical: he told the crowd that his success owes much to the support of government programs. The WWII veteran said he graduated from college because of the GI Bill.
“We built a society that was called the greatest generation, and that’s what we’re asking for now,” he said, his voice raising. “We’re saying to the wealthiest among us, 'Kick in, do your share!'”
Manan Trivedi, the challenger to Jim Gerlach (R-6), and George Badey, who’s facing off against Pat Meehan (R-7), each took the opportunity to tie their Republican opponents to Ryan.
Trivedi, an Iraq war veteran and a primary care physician, poked fun at his opponents’ brag that he and Paul Ryan exercise together.
“They may be working out with each other, but they’re not working out for the middle class,” he said to laughter.