Travel Recap: Gatlinburg, Tennessee

As I stated in my post last week, I have been on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is a staple in the world of Mid-American vacation spots and it is fairly easy to see why. In addition to the countless tourist-oriented spots, Gatlinburg and the neighboring Pigeon Forge provide some breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as various hiking trails and other opportunities to admire the natural beauty of the area. Gatlinburg has all sorts of exciting experiences to offer and in this piece, I will be highlighting some of my favorites.

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Firstly, the food selection in Gatlinburg is absolutely phenomenal. Several premier eating destinations can be found throughout the area. My personal favorite, Pancake Pantry, is located in Downtown Gatlinburg. The Pancake Pantry offers a variety of breakfast and lunch dishes, highlighted by their superb pancakes. Out of the 15+ varieties of pancakes they offer, I recommend the Swiss chocolate chip option. As a firm believer in the idea that pancakes are far superior to their waffle counterpart, I fancy myself as somewhat of a pancake expert. I can say with absolute certainty that these were the very best pancakes I have ever had in my life. They also offer several sandwiches and side dishes that were of great quality. I highly recommend anyone in the area try the Pancake Pantry. Gatlinburg also offers a variety of dinner establishments, such as Paula Deen’s restaurant. I highly recommend it as well. It is worth mentioning, however, that eating out in Gatlinburg can be very pricy, as their taxes are somewhere around 12%. We found that a filet mignon steak dinner prepared at our cabin was more economical than eating at a moderate hamburger place. However, if you are prepared to spend a little more money, Gatlinburg offers a fine selection of eateries.

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A lovely waterfall in Gatlinburg

The natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains can’t be understated. I have a hard time believing there is a more gorgeous landscape to be found anywhere in the country. The Gatlinburg area offers all sorts of opportunities to connect with nature, such as hiking trails, chair lifts which provide excellent views, and guided nature tours. Seeing as how I am not exactly a fan of traditional hiking, I gravitated toward the motor trails offered. These are roads which take you through some of the most beautifully forested parts of the state, offer the chance to see magnificent wildlife, and do it all from the air conditioned comfort of your car. During one of our motor trail experiences, a small bear cub walked right up to our car. It was absolutely adorable and made the experience even more special. Along with the wildlife, several historical structures such as old churches, mills, and cemeteries can be found within walking distance of these trails. Experiences like this are part of what makes Gatlinburg such a great destination.

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The bear we saw on the motor trail
Probably my favorite part of Gatlinburg, the area offers some exemplary shopping destinations. Nearby Sevierville features a substantially sized outlet mall with all of the stores you could ask for, including Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Adidas, several food-oriented stores, Vans, American Eagle, and countless others. Downtown Gatlinburg features all kinds of tourist-targeted shops, such as a plethora of souvenir stores, moonshine and whisky shops, and, my favorite, a high-end clock store. I was dangerously close to buying a luxury mantel clock because it was so beautiful. There is also a shopping hub near Gatlinburg, known as The Island. It has virtually every kind of store imaginable: pop-culture themed stores, cigar shops, food places, a caricature store where my brother and I had a phenomenal caricature done (which can be seen on my Instagram page under the username BigRedAFerg), and much more. Aside from New York City, Gatlinburg offers the best shopping experience of anywhere I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.

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Some suspect hat options available in Gatlinburg shops

Overall, Gatlinburg is a sensational vacation spot and I urge everyone to travel there if presented with the chance. The sights, shopping, and food are just part of what makes Tennessee, and Gatlinburg in particular, such a great place to visit. The local amusement park, Dollywood, the Ripley’s Aquarium, the theatre dinner shows, and some of the desirable fishing spots are some more great options as well. This vacation was certainly memorable and I hope some of our readers get to experience it as well. Below are a few more pictures from my trip if you are interested. Thanks for reading and be sure to check out some of the other great content on Mid-American Culture.

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My Twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C

The Horrors of Traveling

At the time of this post going up, I am either preparing to, or I already have left for vacation. My journey is taking me to the mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Along with Myrtle Beach, I think Gatlinburg is the go-to travel destination for most Mid-Western families, particularly those from the Ohio-West Virginia-Kentucky tristate area. I, for one, absolutely love Tennessee. The landscape is stunning, the touristy spots are always a good time, the vast majority of the people are very pleasant, and there’s a ton of great shopping and eating destinations (shopping and eating are two of my favorite recreational activities).

However, traveling certainly has its drawbacks. People like myself, being the excessive procrastinator that I am, tend to put off packing until the day they leave for their trip. I absolutely waited until the day I leave to start. Those sharing my traits often tend to not realize they need to go to the store to get some essentials (or in my case, hair spray, pomade, and extra crispy cheez-its) until the very last minute. I have made one trip already and might have to make another one before I leave. Me and my fellow procrastinators also have a tendency to end up forgetting something of great importance when throwing together their luggage, which I almost certainly will. Perhaps worst of all, traveling paired with immense procrastination has prevented me from writing a quality, meaningful post for Mid-American Culture this week. With that being said, once I get back, I hope to detail the highs and lows of my trip in a relatively lengthy piece. Hopefully that makes up for the sub-par piece about all of the problems I have caused myself that you are reading right now. In the meantime, be sure to check out some of the other articles on the page from our awesome writers! See you guys next week. Thanks for reading!

Podcasts: My New Favorite Platform

Over the course of the last couple of weeks or so, I really discovered podcasts. I was familiar with the concept of podcasts before, but I didn’t ever really listen to or watch any until fairly recently. What I discovered when I did start listening was a platform that mixes entertainment with education in a beautiful way. Listening to a wide array of people discuss an even wider array of issues and topics is both fun and productive. In this sense, I think that podcasting is a truly revolutionary platform. I’d be amiss if I didn’t point out the fact that podcasting has been around for a relatively long time. My counterpoint to that being that the explosion in the popularity of podcasts occurred much more recently and more people are newly discovering them every day. Moving forward, I think podcasting could be the next great platform of entertainment.

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Musician Post Malone appearing on the H3 Podcast

 

 

To me, podcasts have two very valuable and practical applications. The first of such applications is their value as a form of entertainment. The first podcast I ever listened to with any form of regularity was Bruce Prichard’s Something to Wrestle With, which centers on various topics in the world of professional wrestling and features all sorts of stories from Prichard’s time as both a man behind the scene and as an on-screen personality with the WWE. I find such stories to be extremely enjoyable to hear, seeing as how I am a fairly big fan of professional wrestling. Another favorite podcast of mine for entertainment purposes is the H3 Podcast. This podcast features the team of Ethan and Hila Klein interviewing different personalities from various cultural fields such as the internet, music, and a wide variety of other areas. Their quirky, nerdy, and borderline weird personalities make them beyond entertaining to watch. Their interactions with musician Post Malone, who is a close personal friend of theirs, are my favorite segments from their podcast just because those are some very funny and laid-back personalities colliding to create a wholesomely entertaining and hilarious podcast. Purely from an entertainment standpoint, podcasts are a great medium, if done properly.

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Thumbnail image from Ben Shapiro’s appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience

 

Entertainment value alone does not push podcasting to the forefront of social platforms, however. In my eyes, what pushes them to that next level is their value from an educational standpoint. My favorite podcast to watch with the intention of learning new things about a particular topic is definitely The Joe Rogan Experience. Yes, that Joe Rogan. I’m talking about Joe Rogan, the MMA guy. I’m talking about Joe Rogan, the host of Fear Factor. I’m talking about Joe Rogan, the comedian. Joe Rogan is clearly not the first name most people would conjure up when they think about educational content on the internet. With that being said, Rogan is clearly an extremely intelligent man. He is very articulate and he pairs himself with a wide variety of guests from all sorts of different backgrounds and viewpoints. Some of my personal favorite episodes of his podcast have featured liberal pundit Kyle Kulinski, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Jordan Peterson, and, perhaps most surprisingly, conservative icon Ben Shapiro. Shapiro’s appearance was particularly enjoyable for me for some peculiar reason. I do not agree with hardly anything he has ever said about political issues or most of his personal beliefs about anything. But with that being said, there is something both very important and deceptively interesting about hearing people discuss viewpoints in opposition to your own. Knowing the other side is half of winning any argument. Shapiro is another very intelligent person and hearing him discuss his views certainly has educational value. Podcasts, in ways that very few (if any) other platforms do, allow for the introduction and understanding of oppositional views in non-hostile and truly interesting ways. Podcasts as educational tool have just as much value as podcasts as forms of entertainment do. I look forward to further exploring the world of podcasting and finding more great content on the platform.

Before I sign off on this article, I just want to point out that the words “Mid-American Culture Podcast” have a very nice ring to them. Just throwing that out there. Thanks for reading!

My twitter:@BigRedAFerg

M.A.C. Twitter:@M_American_C

 

Top 10 TV Series of All Time: Part II

Last week, I presented the first half of my top ten television series of all time. This week, I will be highlighting numbers 5 through 1 on my list. As I said before, this is my personal opinion only. First, I will present some honorable mentions.

  • Game of Thrones
  • Mad Men
  • The Wire
  • Dexter

Now, without further ado, here are what I consider to be the five best television series ever made.

5. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

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Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is a particularly unique entrant on this list. Firstly, I would argue that it is far and away the greatest spinoff in television history. Virtually every other spinoff I have ever seen has been frankly insulting to the original show from which it was spawned. However, SVU outshines the original Law and Order in ways that can’t be understated. The cast, the stories, the character development, everything about SVU is magnificent. The iconic status that this show has reached can be demonstrated very simply. Approach nearly anyone (particularly people ages 13-30) who watches television regularly and say the words “In the criminal justice system, sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous,” and there is an astronomical chance that they will be able to recite the remainder of the show’s introduction flawlessly. I generally find myself drawn more toward shows focusing on the other side of the law, but SVU is just so good that it has to be mentioned on this list. Even through all of the cast changes over the years, SVU is still the greatest police drama ever made and is more than deserving of a place on this list.

4. Friends 

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I don’t want to hear about The Office. I don’t want to hear about Seinfeld. I don’t want to hear about Arrested Development. Friends is the greatest comedy series ever made. The story of six friends in their mid to late 20’s trying to find their way in life in New York City is both compelling and hilarious. I think, to some extent, that every group of friends can relate to at least one of the show’s characters, as well as the group as a whole. That sense of relatability is part of what makes Friends so great. The show premiered 24 years ago and is arguably just as iconic now as it was back in 1994. Although there are a few storylines that do not age particularly well, Friends has maintained its popularity in ways that no other TV show ever has. It will continue to bring laughs and joy to more and more generations to come.

3. The Sopranos

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Before I start, I must confess that I have not watches all of The Sopranos like I have all of the other shows on this list. However, I am currently on the 4th season and I can say, with absolute certainty, that it is deserving of at least a top 3 spot. The impact of The Sopranos on television is unparalleled, in the sense that it started the popularity surge in the anti-hero. Tony Soprano is the original Walter White, Don Draper, Dexter Morgan, etc. What I love most about the ensemble of characters in the show are their complexities. Not a single character on this show is one-dimensional. They all have their own agendas, their own shortcomings, and their own sense of their own humanity. The Sopranos doesn’t glamorize mob life. Instead, it presents all sides of it: the violence, the money, the delicate balance between the Mafia family and the family at home. Everything about this show is great. I already know how it ends and I can definitively say that it is both terrible and brilliant. Watch the show and you will understand. It really is a must see.

2. The West Wing

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I spent more time than I care to admit deciding if The West Wing was going to be number one or number two. Ultimately, it just barely lost out. That does not, however, take anything away from the show’s greatness. As far as political dramas go, it will never get any better. The West Wing is hands down the best written television series of all time. The witty and genuine dialogue goes unmatched in the world of TV. The show is driven by the strong performances of both the main and secondary cast. The show’s driving plot lines center on real world issues and the people trying to solve these issues, making the show that much more compelling. For some reason, I have found that a lot of people have never seen this masterpiece of a show. I urge anyone who hasn’t yet seen it to find the time and watch it. You absolutely will not regret it.

1. Sons of Anarchy 

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If Tony Soprano was the original anti-hero, then Jax Teller is the ultimate anti-hero. The son of the founder of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Jax Teller is forced to balance out his role as a leader of a violent motorcycle gang with his role as a new father. The story of Sons of Anarchy draws heavy inspiration from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The show does an outstanding job of using subtle foreshadowing mixed with great, intense dialogue and heavy amounts of violence to create a story unlike any other ever put to television. The ending of Sons is what I consider the single most artistically beautiful ending to a television show ever. The deeps symbolism is the kind of thing someone like me, who loves to look for the deeper meaning in everything, lives for. Simply put, Sons of Anarchy is the greatest television series of all time.

Thanks for reading! If you haven’t read part one of the series yet, check it out here.

My twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C

Top 10 TV Series of All Time: Part I

A few weeks ago, I wrote a two part series on what I consider to be the 10 best movies of all time. Given how much I enjoyed writing that piece and the fair amount of success it had, I have decided to do a similar series on my 10 favorite television series of all time. Similar to my previous series, the first week will feature 10-6 on my list, as well as an honorable mention. Week two will feature numbers 5-1, as well as a list of other shows I felt could have been in contention. This list excludes shows like The Daily Show, mainly because they are not really TV series. Please note that all opinions in this piece are my own. Just because your favorite show isn’t on here, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad (although, it very well might be).

Honorable Mention: House of Cards

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If I had made this list a year ago, House of Cards would have been number one, without a shadow of a doubt. In my opinion, it is most likely the best story ever created for the small-screen. The complexity of the characters and the phenomenal writing create something that has never been, and very well may never be, replicated. I have seen the entire series to-date a total of 5 times. I absolutely love it. However, after the Kevin Spacey scandal, I feel that the show simply lost a lot of its appeal. I tried to re-watch the series again after the scandal and it just didn’t feel the same. The psychopathic tendencies of Spacey’s Frank Underwood just felt all too real to have any legitimate entertainment value. With that being said, the show itself is amazing and deserves mention on any list of this nature.

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Although it is probably the least recognizable show on this list, Burn Notice was spectacular during the entirety of its 7 season run. The show is centered around a blacklisted spy who attempts to reassemble his life by connecting with old friends, as well as old enemies, from his past. Interesting characters and witty dialogue, as well as over the top action sequences make this show truly memorable. The series finale holds a place among the all time greats and I feel that Burn Notice is more than deserving of a place among the most underrated television series of all time.

9. Friday Night Lights

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I cant say enough about this show. Friday Night Lights is the best sports-based TV drama of all time. However, it is also so much more than that. The show provides a deep look into the trials and tribulations of adolescence, particularly in small-town America. FNL took a concept that could have grown very repetitive very quickly and turned it into a show that always felt fresh and new. If you exclude the god-awful murder storyline (I seriously have no idea what the hell that was), the show absolutely never misses its mark. The relatability of a show about growing up in a small, high school football crazed town makes the show truly appealing and I think that is what makes the show so popular. It is definitely something to add to your list if you’ve never seen it.

8. 24

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Growing up, I thought 24 was the absolute best that television had to offer. Now, in my early 20’s, I still think that it is definitely up there. Each season of this thriller takes place in a single day (hence the name 24) of the life of government agent Jack Bauer. I have to say, this man has some eventful days. Kiefer Sutherland is one of my absolute favorite actors and he does a masterful job of portraying the immensely patriotic, heavily flawed, and extremely lethal Bauer. Sutherland is supported by an ensemble of very interesting secondary characters and an always interesting array of storylines that keep the show interesting. 24 is a must watch for any fan of thrilling drama series.

7. Breaking Bad

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I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably something along the lines of “how could you put Breaking Bad so low on the list? It should be number 1!”. I have to confess something. I didn’t like Breaking Bad as much as everyone else seemingly did. At some point in the future, I will detail all of the issues I have with the show. For the purposes of this list, I will instead focus on the good. The early seasons of the show are some of the best television ever produced. The character development is indescribably good and the tension some of the show’s scenes create is unparalleled. Breaking Bad absolutely deserves a place among the giants of television. Its merit can not be questioned. Number 7 is a fitting place, in my opinion.

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender 

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Avatar: The Last Airbender is the absolute high-point of Nickelodeon. SpongeBob couldn’t hold a candle to this masterpiece. Growing up, Avatar was my favorite show. I think a lot of the beauty of the show is its wide appeal. I remember my mom being genuinely invested in the show and even enjoying it almost as much as I did. A few years ago, I re-watched the entire series again and found it to be just as enjoyable as it was when I was a kid. Watching Aang, the show’s protagonist, slowly develop into his immensely important role in the show’s universe is incredible to watch and the story is told flawlessly. I will almost certainly go to my grave pondering the fate of  Zuko’s mother. A show has to have a real impact to create a mental dilemma like that. Although it is an animated series with a much younger target audience than the other shows on this list, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an epic series that anyone, regardless of age, can enjoy.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to come back to Mid-American Culture next Wednesday to see Part II of the series. In the meantime, check out some of the other great content from our writers!

My twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C

A Must Read Children’s Book

Do you have kids? Do you know a kid? If so, I’ve got the perfect book for you!

Okay, excuse the corny infomercial intro that I just used. In all seriousness though, i had to take the opportunity to talk about this wonderful book. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo was written by Jill Twiss, with the help of comedian and television host John Oliver. On his TV show, Oliver did a piece on Vice President Mike Pence, in which he highlighted Pence’s despicably homophobic views, among other glaring character flaws of the Vice President. Coincidentally, on the week that Oliver aired his piece on Pence, Charlotte Pence, the Vice President’s daughter, was having a children’s book published. This book was titled A Day in the Life of the Vice President, and focused on the Pence’s pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo. Never missing an opportunity for a good laugh, Oliver helped to publish his own children’s book about Marlon Bundo on the day before Pence’s was set to release. The big difference, however, being that in Twiss and Oliver’s book, Marlon Bundo falls in love with and marries another boy bunny. On the surface, this looks to be a blatant attempt at trolling the Vice President over his homophobia. Which, in all fairness, it is. But, also in all fairness, the book is much more than that. It tells a heartwarming story that encourages acceptance of all people, regardless of who they love. I think that is a beautiful message to send to children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being who you are. On his show, Oliver announced that all of the proceeds from the book are being donated to The Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, and AIDS United. These are two great causes and i would encourage everyone to help by purchasing a copy of this book.

I must confess, the book was actually published on March 18, 2018. However, as Oliver later stated on his show, they were flooded with so many orders, that there were immense delays in shipping. In fact, the book was the #1 selling book on Amazon for weeks after its publication. It still holds the #1 spot in Political Fiction, as of the writing of this article. I ordered the book two days after it was initially published. It arrived a little over one week ago. Now that it is here and I have had the chance to read it, I can say with certainty that it was well worth the wait. In fact, I intend to purchase several more copies with the intention of donating them to some sort of local charity dealing with children. Everyone should have the chance to read this fantastic book.

You can buy the buy the book here.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out some of the other content on Mid-American Culture.

My twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C

How To Not Win An Election

Yesterday, May 8th, was election day in several states, including West Virginia. Being the political junkie that I am, I followed a lot of the local races closely. None of the races were more intriguing to me, however, than the Republican Primary for West Virginia’s Senate seat. The Republican race was an intense contest to decide who would challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who won his respective primary by a much thinner margin than I had initially anticipated. The most noteworthy and legitimate candidates in the Republican primary were West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins. The candidate who drew the most buzz, however, was former coal executive Don Blankenship. You might remember him from his trial and subsequent conviction for his role in the death of 29 miners in one of his mines. I could go on and on about the subject, but suffice it to say that Don Blankenship is an absolutely despicable human being in every sense of the word. With that being said, his campaign did result in the world now having the perfect example of what an awful political ad really is. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to write about it.

I will now, in chronological order, break down everything wrong with this ad. The very first part of the ad is Don Blankenship stating his name, as well as the fact that he approves the following message. This is pretty standard stuff, but there is an immediate cut to him talking. The redundancy of saying you approve of a message you are literally delivering yourself is simply too ridiculous not to point out. The actual substance of the ad begins when Blankenship attacks Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Generally speaking, I don’t think calling one of the de facto leaders of the party whose nomination you’re seeking a “swamp captain” is a very good idea. Blankenship then proceeds to say that McConnell has created a significant amount of jobs for “Chinapeople”. This was the cause of great controversy because of its racially inciting nature. At the very least, the term had negative racial undertones and should have immediately disqualified his candidacy. Blankenship throws in a nice little rhyme after that, in what I can only imagine was a horrible attempt to mask his racism. No matter how good of a ring “Mitch has gotten rich” has to it, rhyming has never been a successful camouflage for bigotry. Blankenship continues to attack McConnell, whom it is important to remember, has a wife of Chinese descent, for taking large contributions from his “China Family”. Furthermore, Blankenship points out that negative ads are being run against him. In what should come as a shock to absolutely no one, Blankenship blames McConnell for this as well. What really surprised me what that Blankenship literally repeats every criticism of him that these ads portray. All that does is draw attention to what people think is wrong with you. I can’t even begin to explain how bad of an idea this is politically. It’s literally Politics 101. I would love to meet whoever his advisors were that thought this was a good idea.  He then, while still maintaining the cold and emotionless demeanor he has portrayed throughout the whole ad, declares a “war” to “drain the swamp” and create jobs for “West Virginia people”. Channeling Trump with the swamp reference makes sense, seeing as how Blankenship has already exposed himself as a Trump-like candidate. I also feel that the phrase “West Virginia people” says a lot about Blankenship. The wording gives a sense of Blankenship not seeing West Virginians as “his” people, in the sense that he doesn’t see himself as an actual West Virginian. This is actually fitting, considering Blankenship resides in a Las Vegas mansion for a large amount of the year. Not identifying with those you aim to represent isn’t a part of any sensible political strategy I’ve ever heard of. Blankenship closes the ad with a scene of him holding two children, which I presume to be his own (although given his still emotionless demeanor, I’m absolutely not confident in saying they aren’t two random children). Blankenship finishes by declaring that he will “beat Joe Manchin and ditch Cocaine Mitch for the sake of the children”.

Clearly, he should have spent more time worrying about the other Republicans in the primary instead of Joe Manchin, as Blankenship finished third and will not have the opportunity to face Manchin. As someone who avidly follows politics, I am confident in saying that this is the absolute worst campaign ad from a serious factor in any election that I have ever seen. This ad certainly had a negative effect on Blankenship’s candidacy. I will finish this piece by pointing out one shocking fact. After the airing of this ad, and despite all of these fallacies, Don Blankenship still received 27,153 votes. 20% of voters in the Republican Primary voted for a convicted criminal who was, at the very least, partially responsible for the death of 29 miners. That is the saddest part of everything I just pointed out. Let that disheartening fact sit in the back of your mind the next time you’re deciding who to vote for.

Thanks for reading and make sure to check out some of the other content from the staff at Mid-American Culture.

My Twitter: @BigRedAFerg

Mid-American Culture Twitter: @M_American_C