With the occasional riot in the street, a march, or tiki torches being flown, one could assume that there would be resistance everywhere and anywhere during President Trump’s tenure. Yet what about in Tipton County, Tennessee? Where the campaigns for the United States Senate seat for Tennessee is up for grabs?
Not at all, and I know this because I have a front row seat. I am an intern for Bill Haggerty who is one of the front runners for said seat. I have only met Bill once actually, and it was the same meeting where I got to see him and his two opponents speak to a crowd of poor to wealthy Tennesseans from about the county and state about their upbringings, ideas, and differences. So what kind of resistance do these Republican men have here? Little to none I say. In fact it felt like there was only one key difference between the three, one had the support of the President.
Lets go over some numbers very quickly. Tipton county has a population of over sixty-one thousand according to ballotpedia.com and according to politico.com, Tipton county voted seventy-two point three percent in favor of Donald Trump with about twenty-five percent voting for Hillary Clinton and the rest going to third parties in the 2016 Presidential Election. Needless to say, Tipton county can be considered a deep red county in Tennessee.
Why do I bring this up? Because the man I work for, Bill Haggerty, received a presidential endorsement from Donald Trump, and he uses it as a main driving force toward his legitimacy. We can’t forget that he also served as the Ambassador to Japan under President Trump’s administration as well and stepped down when the seat opened. So what about his opponents. I will only cover one of them since this one is the only one who poses a main threat toward Mr. Haggerty and that is Dr. Manny Sethi who is a former orthopedic trauma surgeon. What does a surgeon have to do with politics? I don’t know, ask Dr. Ben Carson, it would seem that politics is not for lifetime politicians anymore.
Now the event itself was very semi-formal, I say this because I was overdressed. The event was the annual Reagan Day Dinner held on February 20th, which is an event celebrated in eight states and it is also one of the primary fundraising events for republican candidates and can also solidify a platform. I was there with other interns for Bill to participate and also gather information like names and numbers which I would be tasked to call later and solidify support. Outside the venue was covered in campaign signs including some that I had put up myself for Mr. Haggerty and when everyone got settled into the ballroom, we started with the pledge of allegiance, then to a local singer belting the national anthem, then finally to the prayer before the guests started eating, which we interns did not. A few local representatives from the Tipton county republican clubs made their announcements until then the candidates got to take their stands.
Mr. Haggerty went first. It was a run of the mill speech to clueless voters. Just a general who I am, where I am from, what I am running for, etc. nothing special within the first five minutes. The same goes for Dr. Sethi, both men are from rural Tennessee, both have lived lives of service, both are running for the same seat but what is the difference? The backing. Mr. Haggerty has the support of the President and former UN Ambassador NIkki Haley, Dr. Sethi has the support of a local minister. Something sort of struck me while watching both of them speak, Mr. Haggerty seemed like he was reading from a script that he had rehearsed beforehand and knew exactly what to say to the crowd and had said before. He felt generic with the only real difference being the endorsements. Dr. Sethi was more radical in his speech and spoke with fire behind him, the appeal he was making was that of naturalized citizens with him being born in America to immigrant, Indian born parents who fell in love with the American dream. Hell, I even started to pull for him when in an impassioned move he yelled “Lets fight the establishment! Lets fuck the establishment!” which was shocking given that the age demographic in the room ranged from toddlers to seniors. Yet this begs the question, does Tipton county want the average american for the senate or the impassioned son of immigrants?
I do not think that Dr. Sethi is fighting the establishment that he thinks he is fighting. Mr. Haggerty is trying to get the seat, not turn over the nation which is what I got from Dr. Sethi’s speech. Using President Trump’s endorsement as a trump card (I laughed at this so now you have to) is a smart move by Mr. Haggerty given the voting habits of the area, the only resistance he has, are never-trumpers which are republicans that oppose President Trump and his policies which there practically are not any in the state of Tennessee let alone Tipton county. They both have different resistance except I think that Mr. Haggerty’s is more based in reality, because he isn’t trying to fight an invisible foe in a county where they do not exist. There were no riots or protests during the event. A cell phone went off , but it would be more than a stretch to think that it was sabotage and not accidental, and a baby cried too. Nothing substantial happened that night in Tennessee because no one outside of Tennessee cared that it was going on.
On a further note, with the completion of my phone banking which took opinions from registered voters, three out of the twenty-four calls that I made knew about the race, and those were Tennessee phone numbers. Understanding your voters and opposition is important, yet with a growing want for normalcy, is there room for a fight against resistance? No, and I think witnessing this event was an indicator of that.
Your observation of both of these candidates is very interesting. The way you describe both Bill Haggerty and Dr. Sethi are so traditionally opposite, that it really highlights the struggle for voters to vote outside of their norm. Bill Haggerty is the Republican poster candidate and it shows in the way that you described his bland and unmotivated approach to speaking to the crowd. Not to mention that you work for him and have only met him on a handful of occasions. Whereas Dr. Sethi is viewed as the radical and unconventional candidate. It helps to highlight how there will always be typical things to expect from voters and candidates.