For the past year I have been working with The Terry Roland Campaign for Shelby County Mayor, and my favorite event that we have done so far was Lincoln Days, a celebration hosted by the Shelby County Republicans. It was a really nice event held in the Holiday Inn near the U of M, and since this is an election anyone who is anyone in West Tennessee. The night started with everyone connecting and politicking before the dinner was served. This meant a room full of Republicans who are all running against one another for Primaries in one room, and it went about as one would think, AKA fake smiles and a river of gossip. As the night progressed people began to filter into the ball room finding their tables, and waiting for dinner to be served. It wasn’t until tables started getting mixed up did the fun really start; everyone’s name tag had a certain table number on them corresponding to whom they were there with. I was there with the Roland Campaign whom was sponsoring the event. All the Roland tables were all in the front of the room right by the stage, but some of the number didn’t match the name tags. My fellow Roland workers and I went ahead and sat down at the table that said Roland on them.
It wasn’t until I had finished my salad do I see notice some people at the table whom I didn’t recognize from our campaign. Naturally I introduce myself, and begin to covertly figure out whom these people are, and after a few leading questions I am able to determine that these people are with Randy Boyd’s campaign for Governor. These people had sat at the tables because the numbers matched their name tags. As I am beginning to process how we should handle this because there are several people who didn’t have a place to sit. The campaign manager and I begin to brainstorm ideas quickly, and just as we had figured out a solution, Randy Boyd’s manager walks over to us. She was mad, and she started in on how everyone of Roland’s people needed to move right this instant. Well everyone had started eating, and we weren’t about to start the great migration moments before the keynote speaker, Tim Scott, started. Boyd’s manager continued to make a fool of herself by demanding for everyone to move because she said so. Eventually realized that she wasn’t going to get her way, and then said and I quote, “Well we will remember this when Randy is governor”.
Tim Scott began to speak and he did a great job, but as he progressed throughout his speech he began to get further and further right. It started with a few jokes about how the Democratic party was wrong, and ended with how as republicans we have to fight everyday to combat the liberals, and take back our country. It was really interesting to see Tim’s interaction with the crowd, and anytime he slammed the Democrats there was thunderous applause, and the more shots he took the louder the room began to get. I was getting a first hand seat to a massive group polarization. I actually had to check my own thoughts several times because it was very easy to get swept up in the moment, and if I wasn’t careful I would be clapping for something I didn’t support. The event went on and after the event people began to filter out shaking every hand they could before they left. Overall, It was a great event, and I had fun meeting a lot of power players in west Tennessee politics, but it was so easy to just go along with the group think that was going on that you could find yourself halfway down a slippery slope without even noticing it. Which is why you have to be especially vigilant during events like these. I asked some people on my team a couple weeks after why they had been clapping for things they didn’t necessarily agree with; I kept getting the same type of answers: I was just caught up in the moment, I guess I really wasn’t thinking critically, or why am I being interrogated. These type of events are great for networking and finding useful people, but they aren’t great for figuring out where you should stand on issues.