Op-Ed

I pretended to be Republican to attend an Andy Barr rally. It was worse than expected

Some of the crowd at Veterans for Barr Rally held Aug. 29 at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.
Some of the crowd at Veterans for Barr Rally held Aug. 29 at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.

I wasn’t an Amy McGrath fan during the primaries. I preferred Reggie Thomas or Jim Gray, because McGrath’s views seemed conservative to me.

When she won the 6th District congressional primary, I realized how the “Bernie or Bust” folks must have felt after the presidential primary. I was annoyed that people didn’t accept a binary system, and that the stakes were too high not to vote for the better candidate. So I had to suck it up.

Recently, someone asked me to do something that I wouldn’t normally do, something I should do more often: I decided to go to the Veterans for Barr Rally at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky. I thought it would be good to hear his side of the issues firsthand.

I had low expectations, but I did expect to hear about issues. I also expected distinguished veterans to be respectful of all veterans, including McGrath.

Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr contrasts himself with Democratic opponent Amy McGrath at the Republican Party of Kentucky's Lincoln Dinner in Lexington.

And I didn’t realize beforehand that I had to pretend to be Republican just to get in. They made you fill out a card that had personal info and a commitment to vote and get others to vote for Rep. Andy Barr reminder. Then someone not at the sign-up table looked over your info before you were allowed to go into the hanger area to the event.

A friend of mine came later, just as the speakers started. But within minutes, a Barr staffer went to the museum staff and they asked my friend to leave. He told them he thought it was an open rally, but they insisted he leave. He did.

Several flag-worshipping activities were used as an opportunity to bash those who kneel during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality toward African-American men. They made disgusting comments like, “They should take a knee on the interstate,” and the crowd applauded. I didn’t expect that.

Out of 15 decorated vets who spoke, all but three took cheap shots at McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel. Some did not say her name, but referred to her in derogatory terms; others called her by name and made fun of her ads about her military service. One lie that many repeated was that she claimed to be the first “lady” to ever serve in combat instead of including the qualifier that she was the first woman Marine to fly in an F-18 in combat.

One speaker mentioned the issues, exaggerating them to make her look more liberal than she is. These were distinguished veterans, at a rally for Barr, who is not a veteran, speaking to other veterans, bragging about their service to our country, while bashing a fellow veteran’s service. I didn’t expect this level of hypocrisy. The female vet who spoke said she was married, and felt the need to point out that her husband was a male. The crowd roared.

This rally was held Aug. 29, four days after Sen. John McCain died, while he was lying in state, being mourned by the country he served. I truly expected them to pay tribute to their fellow veteran, or at least to have a moment of silence. But they did not even mention his name. Not once. I wonder why.

There are plenty of issues affecting Kentucky. Why can’t candidates work on solving them, rather than engaging in personal attacks? It’s time to do our homework. Do we want Kentucky to move forward, or stay at the bottom of too many state rankings?

I expected a rally for Barr, but this was a choreographed McGrath-bashing event. My low expectations were far exceeded.

Sarah Moore Katzenmaier, Lexington native, is retired but still working as a consultant for IBM. Email her at: skatzenmaier@gmail.com

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