Today I’ll be riding a Harley at the Sturgis Biker Rally in South Dakota—with the very same bad-asses who helped reinvigorate my dad’s campaign when it needed it most.
So many memories of my father’s political career, especially the two times he ran for president, include bikers. There is something about bikers and biker rallies that makes me feel particularly patriotic and—dare I say it?—Republican.
Let me start from the beginning. I have been going to political rallies since I was a young child. If you delve far enough into the depths of Google—and look at pictures scattered throughout my parents’ house in Phoenix—there is photographic evidence of this. At many rallies, I can remember bikers being in the parking lot and at events outside. One of my favorite things about my father’s political rallies is when bikers show up and my dad asks them to rev their engines—it gets the crowd and my father pumped. You can’t understand it unless you’ve been there. The sound of a Harley’s engine revving just makes me feel so… American.
My dad got on stage and made a speech in front of 150,000 screaming bikers, which I still think is much cooler than 250,000 screaming Germans.
I don’t know if all Republicans feel this way, but I give credit to bikers for a lot of my father’s success as a candidate, especially in the dog days before the Republican primaries. If you recall, there was a point a few summers ago when the odds of my father becoming the nominee were grim, and as a result, what was left of the campaign put together the “No Surrender Tour.” Joining the tour was a biker group called Rolling Thunder, an organization of bikers that rides in honor of veterans, specifically to bring awareness to POW-MIA soldiers. I remember thinking that even if the campaign was soon going to be under, what a way to go out: with bad-ass American bikers following the bus to every stop. I could tell the sound of the Harleys was energizing my father. I still love the Rolling Thunder, and they were active and present throughout the rest of the campaign.
The organization Bikers for McCain ended up being one of our most successful supporters and, I admit it, my favorite. During the election, there was a time when then-candidate Obama went overseas for a European tour. I remember watching him speaking in front of 250,000 screaming Germans. It was not a good moment: the now-president and his campaign acting as if he had already won, and the feeling was felt on the road. After Obama’s speech, our next big event was at the Sturgis Biker Rally in South Dakota. It became my favorite memory from the general election, and my favorite campaign stop of all time. My dad got on stage and made a speech in front of 150,000 screaming bikers, which I still think is much cooler than 250,000 screaming Germans. Everyone felt invigorated again, pumped. It felt much more relevant and, yes, more American to stand and give a stump speech in front of a crowd of bikers. Later, when I went on my own small bus tour through Ohio, my favorite events were attended by—you guessed it—Bikers for McCain.
After the election—in fact, I believe it was the very next day—I vowed that I would go back to Sturgis, and that is just what I will be doing: riding for veterans and speaking on behalf of my family, our military legacy, and our love for the biker community. I couldn’t be more proud and excited. I am honored to be continuing my family’s relationship with the bikers of America. And I still think it’s more bad-ass than speaking in front of a political group.
Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com.