Throughout the day on Thursday, I found myself thinking about Manny Sethi and a day he once spent as a 10-year-old kid in central Tennessee. It was Little League baseball day in Hillsboro, which is right outside of Manchester, a town you know as halfway between Chattanooga and Nashville on I-75. For any energetic child, Little League Day is everything, because all the boys are assigned to summertime teams. Yet Manny and his brother were outsiders, this again over 30 years ago after his mom and dad, both physicians from India, left their native land to insure their children would grow up and live proudly in This Land of the Free.
The Doctors Sethi began a fledgling practice in rural Tennessee, this just after their boys were born on American soil.
Hillsboro and the surrounding farmlands were perfect for the Sethis. When you are hurt badly or sick, a patient could worry less about where the doctor is from; all that matters is that they are there and, in the gentle way Manny watched his parents treat the rural but proud Tennesseans, Manny's warmest childhood memory will forever be the way those from miles around returned his parents’ love and affection in the many years that followed.
Baseball was a little tougher; neither Sethi boys were picked to play. “It was pretty bad. I remember how badly it hurt,” he told me not long after he befriended me some three years ago. But according to more than several, that was when little Manny came alive. He heard about a man who lived not a long bicycle ride from the Sethi home and soon there came a day Manny arrived on the man’s porch alone and unannounced. The 10-year-old told the man what had happened and then came right out and said it: “Would you teach me to hit a baseball, and how to play?”
The man asked Manny to excuse himself, leaving the kid at the screen door, only to return with a couple of gloves, a fistful of bats, and a bucket of baseballs. “Why don’t we go to the back yard?” his newest friend said. One year later Manny Sethi “owned” every Little League fence for miles around and, that spring, was the first child chosen in the annual pick.
Last night Sethi was gathered with about 250 supporters in Manchester, awaiting the results of a bigger pick. At 9 p.m. last night, with 10 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, Bill Hagerty - the Republican Party’s pick since the early beginning - was leading the outsider Sethi by 15,000 votes. Understand, the polls in the Central Time Zone had just closed, and earlier in the day Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced it would probably not be until the wee hours on Friday morning before a tentative total could be reached.
But within an hour, Hagerty had outdistanced Sethi in such a convincing fashion, the Associated Press in Nashville called the race for Hagerty, who had nearly 52 percent of the vote with just under half of the precincts reporting. I don’t like it, but I understand it. While I personally have far less respect for Hagerty after he won “dirty,” I strongly believe that “we, the people” elected him and I have always felt our nation’s greatest strength is in our majority, so I will support him.
As Manny found out 30 years ago, “I remember how badly it hurt.” And this one probably hurt worse, because Sethi was so certain he could make a difference. One day he will. “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”
Hagerty’s whole campaign has been based on the fact he is a staunch Donald Trump disciple, with the president campaigning hard for the former Ambassador to Japan because Trump sorely needs a puppet in the Senate. Hagerty opened his run for the Senate with what was thought to be an invincible double-digit lead but as he saw Sethi’s work ethic, his warm personality, and his love for Tennessee emerge, Hagerty launched a deceitful ad campaign that was chock full of misstatements, innuendo and – quite truthfully - blatant lies about the highly-regarded Nashville trauma surgeon.
By winning this week’s primary, the November election for retiring Lamar Alexander’s seat will find Hagerty as a heavy favorite against any Democrat in this state that is heavily conservative. Many Sethi supporters undoubtedly wish Hagerty and his Republican “machine” continued success in November.
Another thing to remember: Hagerty is now 60 years old and Tennessee’s other Senator, Marsha Blackburn, is 68. Sethi is just 42. His first foray into politics will most assuredly not be his last and … who knows … in the short years to come he will have learned much more how to hit one over the fence. Blackburn must seek re-election four years from now and, while she hasn’t been a standout by any means after winning Bob Corker’s vacated seat, she’ll be 72 in 2024. Should Sethi choose to challenge Blackburn, he’ll have the experience of this year’s noble run and still be 26 years younger than her. That’s huge in the eyes of today’s voters who have grown weary with tired old people ruling the swamp.
So, with Manny Sethi having proven himself as a brilliant beacon in our future, the hope is Bill Hagerty will do what is best for all of Tennessee, for you, and for me. We must press on.