As the motorcade for Rep. Paul Ryan traveled to an event at a Florida yacht club less than an hour from where the Republican National Convention will be held, dozens of protesters were waiting to greet him. Approximately sixty-five individuals gathered in Treasure Island for a protest rally organized by the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN).
The participants were as diverse as their message: Some concerned about the effects of the Ryan budget on the middle class and others worried that Ryan's vision of Medicare would threaten their safety net. Still others were experienced demonstrators that viewed the event as a "warm-up" for the weeks ahead.
Greg Stemm, a writer who jokingly described himself as an "Elder Activist", was among those chanting outside of the Ryan event. "To me this goes deeper than Medicare. It's about all of the services the Ryan budget would just gut. He wants to reduce spending on student loans. I would not have been able to get a good education without a student loan. I wouldn't be as successful without the help of the American government. I agree with the President. I didn't do it alone."
As someone who says he has been involved in a number of community organizations for decades, Stemm believes that the importance of this election cannot be overstated. "There is a clear-cut distinction between the two versions of America. There is so much on the ballot this time. The people that are getting involved are aware that their future is at stake."
Several feet away from the protesters, a group of sign-waving supporters cheered and waved for Ryan with chants of their own. A man who identified himself as a member of the Tea Party was excited about Romney's selection for VP. "He has energized our base. People that were unsure of Romney before now see that he's willing to work towards Ryan's plan for our country and that he is serious about taking us in a new direction. Paul Ryan now reshapes the election."
It remains to be seen if Romney will, in fact, be adopting Ryan's budget as his own. An adviser for the Romney campaign stated earlier this week that it would be "politically unwise" to discuss the details of Romney's economic plan. Stemm stated that, if ever given the opportunity to address Rep. Ryan personally, he would ask about the specifics of the budget. "We haven't been told what the plan is," Stemm said. "I want specifics. I don't buy into their 'trickle down' economics. We've seen that that approach doesn't work."
Stemm also expressed frustration with the coverage of the election so far. "I don't blame the media. I feel that we need to take responsibility and give the media the questions we want answered. Go to editors and journalists and voice your concerns. That's the only way to get the information voters need to make an informed decision."
While Stemm awaits a deeper discussion of the issues, signs and slogans appeared to summarize the sentiments of the day. FCAN protesters stood outside with posters advocating positions of "the 99 Percent". Meanwhile, the website of the yacht club hosting Paul Ryan bore the phrase: "Exclusivity Redefined."