The internet's obsession with Ken Bone feels like a degrading, one-sided joke about 'average Americans' in 2016

Major media outlets immediately declared him the sole winner of Sunday’s debate, Snoop Dogg invited Ken for a toke, a porn site offered him $100,000

Nash Riggins
Wednesday 12 October 2016 14:13 BST
Kenneth Bone
Kenneth Bone (CNN)

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: Sunday night’s second presidential debate was pretty ugly. Over the course of 90 gruelling minutes, we all looked on in horror as an increasingly desperate acolyte of the creepy clown movement did his absolute damnedest to drag a sensible career politician into a cesspool of juvenile name-calling and mudslinging.

It’s difficult to say whether he succeeded, but most of us came away feeling totally disillusioned and in need of a quick shower. If nothing else, the debate seemed to prove that America’s middle ground is rapidly caving into oblivion. This election is a choice between good and evil, and there’s no room at the inn for a level-headed John Everyman.

That’s the way a lot of Americans seem to be feeling, anyway – and it’s also why the Internet has kick-started a whirlwind romance with a walking, talking teddy bear named Kenneth Bone.

In case you missed it, Ken Bone is a decidedly average guy who stood up on Sunday night and asked two of the most disliked presidential candidates in modern history a decidedly average question about energy policy. Totally unexceptional.

There was no pretence to the question. It wasn’t a loaded, partisan query designed to make one candidate stumble – and in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t even that interesting. It was just a typical Midwest power plant worker asking politicians about something he thought was important.

In any other election cycle, that would be a “never mind” moment. But as we enter the home stretch of the most strenuous and xenophobic political marathon in living memory, hearing ordinary Ken Bone ask his ordinary question felt like breaking a 30-day fast with a fat slice of red velvet cake.

People love a guy called Kenneth Bone at the presidential debate

Twitter started punting out memes within seconds, and it wasn’t difficult. Ken’s huge red jumper, defined moustache and clear love for disposable cameras made for the ultimate dad stereotype. It was a much-needed exercise in comedic relief, and it inadvertently thrust the most average middle-aged man in America into the grimy political spotlight.

Major media outlets immediately declared him the sole winner of Sunday’s debate, Snoop Dogg invited Ken for a toke and journalists were in a frenzy to suss out whether Ken’s wife was the true mastermind behind his slightly unfashionable red jumper. Three days on, porn site CamSoda has even offered Ken $100,000 and 25 throw-away cameras to participate in a live broadcast about heaven knows what. Meanwhile, nobody's even asked who's ahead in the polls.

And despite Ken’s kind-natured ability to laugh with us, you can’t deny the Internet’s 15-minute obsession with this guy feels like some sort of degrading, one-sided joke about the nature of what it means to be average in 21st century America.

Then again, it also says a lot about the country’s political temperament.

No matter what happens on November 8, we’re all ready for this to end. For over a year now, we’ve read about nothing but shock accusations, embarrassing soundbites and horrible name-calling. The average American can’t tell you a single thing about how Donald Trump would reform our tax system, but you can bet your bottom dollar they know all about how he likes to grab women “by the pussy”.

It’s little wonder so many voters are dragging their feet. After the muck we’ve endured, taking part in Election Day is going to feel like shoving candyfloss down a fussy toddler’s throat just to get five seconds of silence. We’re being forced to choose between two polar opposites, and there are a whole lot of people out there who have spent this entire election cycle desperately hunting for some sort of middle ground. Internet memes aside, Ken Bone is now the unwilling personification of that fruitless search.

Unfortunately, that mythical land of rational thinking has got no place in this particular election. America abandoned both rhyme and reason over 12 months ago – which is why, with just 26 days to go until the big day, we'd all rather tweet about lame red jumpers than take part in consequential political discourse.

What a time to be alive, right?

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