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How Political Rallies Bring Out the Worst in People

An elbow to the gut produces a deeper questioning of the American political system.

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“The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door. That’s the only difference.” -Ralph Nader

The Commonwealth of Kentucky prides itself on the stature of its political debate and the essential ‘American-ness’ of its political rallies. The most famous of these is in a placed called Fancy Farm, in western Kentucky, where candidates speak to thousands of supporters and detractors, with food being cooked and ice-cold lemonade being served. While Fancy Farm is the most famous, these events are dotted all around the state during an election year.

This year’s Kentucky Senate race pits 30-year-incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell against the upcoming Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Either way, it’s going to be a history making election for the Commonwealth. Mr. McConnell could potentially become speaker of the house while on the other side Ms. Grimes is poised to become the first woman elected to the office in the state. The polls have the race at a dead-heat, with McConnell typical ahead by roughly 2 percentage points.

On the night of August 26th, both candidates agreed to give short speeches on the lawn of the Daviess County Courthouse in Owensboro, KY. Quite a big event in my small hometown.

My family decided to head down. Before we left my wife made a homemade sign which read “Tell Me Lies, Tell me Sweet Little Lies.” An ode to Stevie Nicks, the sign was meant to be non-partisan, to show our disgust at the vague half-truths uttered by both sides.

We missed half of Alison’s speech and made our way to the lawn in time to see Mitch take the stage. My wife went closer to hold her sign where it could be seen by the crowd, as I walked off to to shake hands with Alison and voice my concern over her policy on coal-mining.

Politics in the USA is empty air

Politics in the USA is empty air.

As Mitch started to speak, my wife was surrounded by a troupe of loud, cheering, “Team Mitch” supporters, all dressed in matching red political t-shirts, and also carrying signs (although theirs were of the stock printed type). One of the supporters, upon noticing my wife, immediately summing her up as an enemy, quickly and violently thrust an elbow into her and placed her own sign in front of my wife’s in order to obscure it. My wife retorted with an indignant but polite, “Excuse me!?”, and the Team Mitch member gave up her bullying tactics. After the speech finished half the crowd starting chanting “Mitch, Mitch, Mitch” and we went to find a place to cool down from the blazing heat.

Initially we thought the confrontation was hilarious, but upon further recollection it was kind of depressing. Instead of engaging, the Mitch supporters tried to fight. Why did no one ask what her sign meant or why she was waving it. Like a sporting event, both sides are there to cheer their team on in the quest for victory. Except of course, politics isn’t sport and the objective shouldn’t be just to win.


Filed under: Kentucky, Politics, USA

About the Author:

Lawrence Hamilton is a freelance journalist focusing on South Asian security situations and border disputes. has written 52 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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