Last weekend, a funny thing happened at Fancy Farm, the festive annual Kentucky political tradition, where leading candidates from both parties roast their opposition in the most scathing, entertaining ways possible. This year was different. Matt Bevin, the GOP's nominee for governor, gave an unusual speech in which he slammed the event for being too political, and too mean-spirited. "We are celebrating our divisions, and we are doing it in a childish way that frankly does not resolve any of the issues that we face," Bevin said, amid boos from the Democratic party faithful.
Bevin's off-key speech was, predictably, panned by the statewide political press—and mocked by his Democratic opposition. But in reality, Bevin may have been more in line with the current political moment than many realize. His rants against the political class are in sync with today's sour public mood, with voters distrusting career politicians, canned talking points, and homey traditions at a time of slow economic growth and growing threats abroad. It's a boom time for authentic politicians who tell it like it is and don't play by the old political rules.
How else can you explain the meteoric rise of Donald Trump, whose appeal comes from his acid attacks against Washington and lifelong politicians? Or the appeal of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose rambling kickoff speech and unscripted responses to media questions have nonetheless propelled him onto the debate stage, and into the top tier in New Hampshire? Or the sudden interest that Joe Biden, the most authentic vice president in modern history, is showing towards a presidential campaign as Hillary Clinton's cautious, calculating approach is backfiring with many voters?