I’m not going to Fancy Farm. Here’s why. Skip to content

I’m not going to Fancy Farm. Here’s why.

For years and years, I’ve gone to the famous political picnic at Fancy Farm, Kentucky. But not this year. Here’s why.

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I’m not going to Fancy Farm.

It’s not because of the inevitable hot weather. I haven’t sworn off barbecue; my cholesterol is fine.

Nor is it the dearth of Democrats that’s making this Democrat a no-show. The Republican office-holders on the platform all won, fair and square.

It’s the abundance of invective, venom, and vitriol coming from the Republican side of the speaker’s platform (such as this) that will keep me home and under the air conditioner.

Don’t get me wrong. Fancy Farm, like Kentucky politics, has always been a contact sport.

But when I started going to the picnics years ago, the hits from both sides were usually clean. Some were good-natured joshing.

But the advent of Mitch McConnell turned the picnic noxious. “At some point along the way, Mitch McConnell decided that his own longevity in Washington trumped all – that he would even be willing to feed the public’s disillusionment with its elected leaders if it would increase his and his party’s odds of success at the polls,” Alec MacGillis wrote in his 2014 book The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell.  “In the contest of cynical striving versus earnest service, Mitch McConnell already won.”

Since then, the demagoguery from the GOP lineup has gotten worse. One can only imagine how bad it will be this year when Rep. Savannah Maddox, the conspiratorialist “stop the steal” ultra-MAGA driver of the GOP House majority clown car, steps to the podium.

It need not be this way.

McConnell says Sen. John Sherman Cooper was his mentor. McConnell still calls him his hero.

Cooper was a moderate who never demonized Democrats. There’s a famous photo of him and his wife breaking bread at the White House with John and Jackie Kennedy.

It’s hard to imagine McConnell, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and other Republican wagers of political holy war doing likewise with Joe and Jill Biden.

I can remember other Republican politicians who were like Cooper. They include Kentucky Senators Marlo Cook and Thruston Morton. They were more conservative than Cooper. But they also understood that Democrats were just political opponents, not mortal enemies.

The Republican party would do well to emulate the late Senator and Vietnam War hero John McCain.

Remember the McCain supporter who on the presidential campaign trail in 2008 told the Republican hopeful, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and he’s not – um, he’s an Arab.” McCain commandeered the mic and politely shut her down. “No, ma’am,” he replied. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happened to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”

McCain understood that at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. And from Jordan to Jenkins, we're all Kentuckians.

But I fear hogs will fly and kids will stop shooting hoops in Kentucky before this Republican Party brings back civility to Fancy Farm, Washington, Frankfort, and everywhere else. Until they do, I’ll skip the picnic.


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY