Tammy Duckworth is opposing Senator Mark Kirk in the race for his US Senate seat in Illinois. We’re all adults, we know how this kinda thing goes. Name calling, half-truths, and a kind of sour feeling in the pit of our stomachs as the sausage of democracy gets made before us. We accept that that’s just the way it is because what else can we do? But here’s a thing that’ll give you hope. Press play.
Senator Kirk’s attempt at an applause line, wherein he implied (incorrectly, I might add) that Tammy Duckworth was exaggerating about her family’s lengthy record of service due to her Thai-American heritage, fell flat. And that’s so important because applause is what the worst of our politicians are aiming for as they continue to raise the level of rancor while lowering the level of discourse. They’re trying to turn American politics into a rec center wrestling league with chair fights and crude attacks and they’re getting a lot of help from the media and audiences that are mid-tantrum and not as concerned with the line of decency as they should be, but not at the debate at the University of Illinois on Thursday night.
Maybe it’s because the remark (which has, unsurprisingly, been denounced by Democrats in the DSCC and Duckworth on social media) was delivered with a kind of prideful look that cries out that a bully thinks that he’s made a funny.
Maybe it’s because Duckworth had just finished referencing the fact that she is a double amputee who knows the true cost of war or because Mark Kirk isn’t doing very well in the polls.
Or maybe, just maybe the audience was hip to the fact that Senator Mark Kirk knows a whole lot about exaggerating about a record of military service since, in 2010, he embarrassingly had to admit that, no, he didn’t serve in Iraq during the Gulf War and that there were other issues in his boasts about his service. Maybe it’s a combination of all four. But with barely two weeks left before this stress-inducing election where hope is draining out of us like we have a crack in our collective tank, people in Illinois sure didn’t like it when a politician tried to drag them down in the mud with him for some a cheap shot.
UPDATE: Late Friday morning, Kirk felt the criticism coming from far and wide and extended an apology (in 140 characters or less) to Duckworth.