This is more musing than insight but the Roll Call article on Senator Mitch McConnell’s senatorial opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes causes me to reflect on Kentucky politics. For some reason Democrats convinced themselves that only a woman could beat McConnell. They first flirted with Ashley Judd, then former Miss America Heather French Henry before settling for a non celebrity. Grimes does at least have a political background and would not subject the voters to pithy insights she gleaned in drug rehab. Now for the dirty little secret about Grimes. She is probably the only credible candidate of either gender that could run a competitive race against McConnell and I doubt if it will be all that competitive. Yes, you say, but the present Governor Steve Beshear is immensely popular. Been there and done that. He pulled less than 43% of the vote against McConnell when he ran for senate in 1996. Wild horses could not have pulled Beshear into this race.
The New Deal coalition that brought the Democrats to power feels it has been sold out. The loyal tobacco farmers in central and western Kentucky and the strongest ally the Democrats ever had, the United Miner Workers, in eastern Kentucky feel justifiably betrayed. One might date the Democrat’s decline in Kentucky with Hillarycare. In order to pay for that monstrosity the Democrats hit on a wonderful idea namely higher tobacco taxes. Speaking of getting the voters’ attention, it was so contentious that none other than the dear first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton was burned in effigy at a rally in Owensboro, Kentucky.
The benefits of tobacco accrued not only to tobacco farmers but to the small army of temporary workers it took to harvest it. Harvesting tobacco is very labor intensive. The leaves must be hand picked, then stuck on long sticks and hung in barns to cure. The harvest created thousands of short term cash jobs and those jobs paid surprisingly well. Hard working factory workers would spend their vacations picking tobacco. Construction workers between jobs liked to work the tobacco harvest too. Much of that work is long gone as are the days when the non smoking section in the local McDonalds was in the back of the restaurant.
If nothing else Kentucky politics is colorful. It’s mildly corrupt although I would not rate it with the axis of evil-Illinois, Louisiana, and New Jersey. Corruption is natural in non contested races so one might argue that Kentucky is less corrupt than it was when the Democrats controlled the state outright. Grime is a legacy politician; the daughter of a former Democratic Party state chairman and while that may play well in Democrat circles it may not serve her well in a low voter turnout election. Roll Call provides some of her pedigree;
Grimes enters the race with the support of many key Kentucky Democratic Party leaders. Her parents are prominent Kentucky Democratic Party leaders. Her father Jerry Lundergan is a former Kentucky Democratic Party State Chairman. He has also been the Kentucky point person for former President Bill Clinton and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her mother Charlotte is the DNC National Committeewoman for the Kentucky Democratic Party. She is married to Andrew Grimes and they reside in Lexington.
So much for the tobacco farmers’ vote. What about the coal miners?
Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, noted that Grimes last year “stood proudly at the Democratic National Convention to nominate Barack Obama, who has followed through on his promise to destroy the coal industry; in essence declared a war on the state of Kentucky and the middle-class families who call it home.”
In the 2012 primary Obama lost 40% of the Democratic vote to “non committed”. Are Kentuckians apt to turn McConnell out in favor of an Obama rubber stamp rookie? I doubt it.
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