This experiment was hardly necessary — I think by now we all know what the results would be. But here it is nonetheless:
The question: Which presidential campaign better tolerates dissent?
The experiment: A college professor wears a Kerry-Edwards shirt to a rally for President Bush, then a Bush for President shirt to a John Kerry rally.
Result: Bush people make the subject remove his shirt, then give him the boot. The Kerry people don’t make a peep.
John Prather, a mild-mannered math prof at Ohio University’s Eastern Campus, says he carried out this one-man study a couple of weeks ago, attending both rallies in one day. “It really was to satisfy my own curiosity,” Prather, 38, told us. “It’s been my opinion that George Bush has stifled dissent . . . I think John Kerry doesn’t. In neither event was I a threat to anyone.” Yet, he says, at the Bush rally, “I was tailed the whole time.”
It turns out the Bush-Cheney campaign acts preemptively against what it regards as suspicious attendees. Spokesman Terry Holt told us yesterday: “Unfortunately, there have been a number of people who have sought to be disruptive, and unfortunately a small disruptive presence can ruin an event for the rest of the people who go to see the president and participate in the event.”
Prather, who lives in Wheeling, W.Va., calls himself a “moderate Democrat” who voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had a ticket to an afternoon Bush rally July 31 in Cambridge, Ohio. At the first ring of security, Prather says he was told to turn his Kerry shirt inside out. He did. At the second ring, he was told to remove the shirt. He did, then donned a soccer T-shirt. “I was in for 10 or 15 minutes,” he recalls, when security escorted him out. It was before the president arrived. “I was so far away I couldn’t have even heckled him,” Prather notes.
A few hours later, he entered the Kerry rally, in Wheeling, wearing his Bush shirt. “Nobody said anything to me. I took the Bush shirt off after it was clear no one was watching me, and put on the Kerry shirt.”
The professor realizes that this limited sample does not provide a sturdy conclusion, and offers an assignment: “I would encourage other people to carry out the experiment.”
Civics class dismissed.