Kentucky was in the spotlight last weekend as it hosted the Fancy Farm event, a time where politicians of all stripes gather to give speeches and some civil political humor. In one part stump speech, one part joke-fest, Fancy Farm highlights the wit of America’s politicians as they sometimes go head-to-head against each other. This year, the embattled Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a dubious re-election possibility. He and his opponent, Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, drew record crowds as they duked it out over who was better for Kentucky. Kentucky Junior Senator Rand Paul was also at his home state’s event, treating the crowd to some mad rhymes. All in all, the Fancy Farm funnies coming from staid politicians like Paul and McConnell were the best part of politics at a time when there is little good about politics at all.
Rand Paul in Rhyme
2016 presidential hopeful and noted libertarian Rand Paul took the podium looking casual in slacks and an unbuttoned, tie-less dress shirt and asked for the impossible: a moment of silence from the crowd in order to recite a poem. Much like a high schooler serenading his lady love with a self-written poem in awkward end rhyme, he delivered his poem on Alison Lundergan Grimes, enumerating her faults lyrically. As far as literary merit goes, the poem belongs where all high school attempts at rhyme belong, but politically it had some interesting substance to it. He accused Grimes of being against coal in a state where coal mining is a major industry. He also noted her voting record for prominent liberal politicians, including President Obama. In a red state like Kentucky, that kind of thing might sink her hopes. Or at least that is what Rand Paul seemed to be saying. His best line came right at the beginning. “There once was a woman who came from Kentucky, who thought in politics she’d be lucky,” he recited. Poetically, it was all downhill from there. Politically, he may have scored a few points for the creativity of his message if not for its partisan substance.
Alison Lundergan Grimes
Grimes is making waves in Kentucky for running against the 30 year senate minority leader and actually looking like she can win. Fancy Farm was her chance to show what she is made of and she did so admirably, delivering what was probably one of the best lines of the whole event. She told her audience that McConnell was the ‘Mad Men’ of politics, “treating women unfairly, stuck in 1968, and ending this season.” These are confident words coming from someone going up against one of America’s premier career politicians. It was also oddly confident in a state like Kentucky, which voted him in to all five of his senate terms. But she was not the only one predicting McConnell’s demise. Democratic Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear took a quick selfie with the Republican just before taking the podium himself. His explanation for such a millennial move was, “I had just to get one last photo of the Senator before Kentucky voters retire him in November.”
It seemed like the only one not counting him out was the minority leader himself. As far as Fancy Farm funnies go, however, McConnell’s one liner was not as good as Grimes or even Paul’s poem, but it was effective. In an appeal to the cheering and booing voters of Kentucky, he noted that experience is a good thing to have in politics. “ Barack Obama has been a disaster. I guess that’s what we get for electing someone with no experience.” It was not an especially good zinger compared to his, “[Obama’s] taken more selfies than Flat Stanley.” Nevertheless, even that reference seems a little dated. After being a Senate establishment figure for 30 years, McConnell is having a hard time selling himself as a candidate of “change,” but that’s exactly what he tried to do.
McConnell’s speech was saved from being boring, however, by some witty banter with the crowd. “Fancy Farm is fun,” he said, “but there are serious problems facing our country.” It was his segue into discussing how Obama is ruining Kentucky and the rest of the United States. It lost all of its gravity, though, when a clear voice was raised from crowd replying, “You!” It seemed as though some in the crowd thought McConnell was one of those “serious problems” and had decided to make that view known. Amid all the funnies and quips thrown about by usually austere politicians like Paul and McConnell, one this was abundantly clear: they were not the stars of Fancy Farm, the crowd was.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury