Marshall McLuhan famously said: “The medium is the message.” Matt Bevin might have misunderstood the medium of Fancy Farm but his message shouldn’t be lost.
At the always-boisterous political picnic on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church in west Kentucky, the GOP candidate for Kentucky governor disparaged the usual thrashing of opponents. “The one thing that discourages me . about this process is that we are literally celebrating the worst elements of the political process,” Bevin said.
We agree that the political landscape is littered with too much trash. But then the Fancy Farm event in modern times has become more about political entertainment than political insight. It’s largely about roasting – pork, mutton and political opponents. As such it can be fun, if not informative.
For all we know, its successful recent history might well have inspired the likes of Roger Ailes and others who followed as they built today’s modern-day political entertainment. Clearly, the cable television impresarios understood that a bigger audience would watch political theater than would tune in to information and serious issues.
Fancy Farm Emcee Matt Jones used the wrong analogy for Bevin’s speech, saying it was as if he, the UK-rabid radio host, went into Rupp Arena and praised U of L coach Rick Pitino. It would be more appropriate to compare it to Bevin or any other Republican going on Fox News and chiding them for their constant drumbeat against President Obama, or any of the Democrats in attendance at Fancy Farm doing the opposite on MSNBC or Jon Stewart, say.
Then, again, perhaps Jones was right to compare it to bitter rivalries in sports, where the arguments usually derive mostly from emotion, and less from understanding.
Kentucky has serious issues to solve – pension systems in crisis, tax codes in need of reform, education from cradle to career needing support, heroin and new drug threats, a range of health challenges, and the list goes on. Now that Fancy Farm is behind us it is the time to turn to these issues in this campaign.
In today’s Forum section, we offer you transcripts of some of the speeches given last weekend at Fancy Farm, so those who missed them in person or on KET can see how both sides spent more time poking their opponents than offering their positions. But it is the last time we’ll print attacks from candidates on our opinion pages. If candidates want to provide us commentaries that articulate their positions, we’ll print them. In fact we encourage them to do so. If letter writers want to say why they’ll vote for a candidate, we’ll print them. But we’ll avoid the tearing down as much as possible.
As the first GOP debate of the 2016 presidential campaign last week showed, there is still room for mixing some showmanship with statesmanship in debates. We hope as Kentucky’s candidates square off in debates this fall, including one we’ll announce this week with our Bluegrass Poll partners, we can focus more on substance than slander.
At the risk of stepping backward, we offer one example from Fancy Farm: Republican candidate for treasurer Allison Ball, perhaps looking to build her name recognition, went after Alison Grimes – who isn’t even her opponent nor the head of the Democratic ticket. She zeroed in on Grimes’ decision in her last campaign for U.S. Senate not to reveal who she voted for in past presidential elections. But Ball did no better, proudly proclaiming she cast her vote “against Obama.”
It’s time for candidates to stop saying what they’re against and start saying what they’re for. If that’s the message candidates want to convey, we’re happy to be the medium.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville