Alison Lundergan Grimes vs. The Kentucky Newspaper Editorial Boards That Endorsed Her Today
Two major Kentucky newspapers have endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes for Senate over incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
The Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader both ran editorials Sunday in support of the Democrat, who currently serves as Kentucky’s Secretary of State.
In its endorsement, the Courier-Journal’s editorial board praised Grimes’ stance on issues like the minimum wage and early childhood education, while accusing McConnell of “lacking a vision for Kentucky.”
“[McConnell] lost his way to the point where he now is identified largely as the master of obstruction and gridlock in Washington,” reads the endorsement. “Kentucky needs a U.S. senator who sees a higher calling than personal ambition and a greater goal than self-aggrandizement.” …
The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s endorsement strongly rebukes McConnell, who the editorial board says has “repeatedly hurt the country to advance his political strategy.”
“The Senate may never recover from the bitter paralysis McConnell has inflicted through record filibusters that allow his minority to rule by obstruction,” reads the editorial. “He poses as a champion of the right to criticize the government, but it’s really his rich buddies’ right to buy the government that he champions.”
— Kentucky Newspapers Endorse Alison Lundergan Grimes, Mollie Reilly, Huffington Post, this morning
Two weeks ago, the big political story out of Kentucky was that Grimes refused to answer when a televised-debate monitor asked her whether she had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. So important was this, politically, that Chuck Todd reacted to it by saying (in)famously that Grimes had disqualified herself, and McConnell immediately began featuring Todd’s comment in an ad, and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee ended its ad buys in the state.
At the same debate, though, McConnell said that Kynect, Kentucky’s ACA-funded healthcare insurance exchange—through which Kentuckians can purchase independent-market policies that comply with the statute and apply the statute’s tax credits toward premium payments—actually is just a website that lists healthcare policies and allows sign-ups but has no financial benefit to purchasers of the insurance plans. This, too, was reported nationally and highlighted, apparently, in local news recaps of the debate, but it was presumed, I guess, that it wouldn’t matter. Although McConnell had made a vaguer but substantively similar statement earlier in the campaign, and although it was reported by national and Kentucky newspapers, its significance apparently hadn’t penetrated to much of the electorate, mainly because Grimes was perfectly happy to have Kentuckians think that the popular Kynect had nothing to do with the hated Obamacare—much less with Obama himself.
And, although by then consistently down by several points in the polls, and appearing to lose ground as the election neared, she didn’t blink in this. Asked about McConnell’s brazenly false claim about the nature and effect of Kynect, a spokeswoman for Grimes’ campaign responded with something like, “Alison Grimes will always choose Kentucky over Washington.” That’s right; Alison Grimes will vote to remove federal financial support for the website and, especially, end the federal tax subsidies for purchase of the policies.
It was a day or two later that the DSCC announces its removal of financial support for Grimes’ campaign. But then something apparently completely unexpected happened: A Bluegrass Poll showed Grimes suddenly trailing McConnell by a single point. And then last week Grimes, who dismayingly had failed to highlight in ads or appearances a video that surfaced a couple of weeks earlier showing McConnell outlining to a Koch brothers’ group his exciting plans as Senate Majority Leader, suddenly began running an ad showing a clip of the video. A day or two later, the DSCC restored its financial ad-buy support for Grimes’ campaign. Asked why, a spokesperson for the DSCC said that polls were showing that undecideds were moving toward Grimes.
And so they must be, because a day or two ago it as reported that McConnell had just committed $1.8 million of his own money for the campaign.
The problem with Grimes’ campaign—and with candidates like Grimes herself—can be seen in a nutshell in an article by Richard Eskow published on Huffington Post on Friday, discussing the specifics of McConnell’s comments to that Koch brothers crowd in August, captured on that video. McConnell promises not only to defund Obamacare but also the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to force a repeal not only of the CFPB but of the entire Dodd-Frank law that created that agency and that includes the financial-industry regulations enacted in the wake of 2008 economic collapse. But, of course, no one knows of the existence of the CFPC and no one knows that the Senate Republicans and candidates are pledging to repeal the post-2008 financial-industry regulations. Just as no one knows, or at least no one remembers—because the Democratic candidates apparently won’t be caught dead mentioning it—that among the new regulations enacted by the Democratic-controlled Congress during the first two years of the Obama presidency (and pushed entirely by Democrats such as Dick Durbin)—are ones ending the banking-industry practice of exorbitant overdraft fees for small, sometimes-momentary checking-account overdrafts, and the so-called “Durbin Amendment” that prohibits disproportionately high payments by retailers (including small ones) to Visa and Mastercard for customer purchases using those cards.
Look. If you want to run a Washington-vs.-our-state campaign as a Democrat, you need to make that campaign about the issue of who it is that determines specific Washington policy—in other words, about whether it’s the Kochs who effectively write legislation and dictate what legislation is filibustered or never brought to a vote, or instead small-business owners or ordinary individuals who play some meaningful role in this process. A campaign for Congress by a Democrat that amounts to a generic ideological “Washington vs. our state” is a campaign that is incoherent. Grimes’ campaign is Exhibit A, but it’s certainly not the only current Exhibit.
The Louisville Courier-Journal, in its endorsement editorial, points out that Grimes supports such policies as a raise in the federal minimum wage and federally sponsored universal access to preschool. But these are federal programs; she’s running for the United States Senate, not the Kentucky Senate. “Washington vs. our state” as a generic ideological precept precludes these. If Grimes’ ideology is really the same as Joni Ernst’s, then she should switch parties. If it’s not, then she should make that clear, and make clear why it’s not.
And if Grimes wins, it will be precisely because of why it’s not—and because McConnell, not Grimes, finally made that clear to Kentucky’s voters.
And next time someone like Ashley Judd wants to run for Senate in a state like Kentucky, the Democratic Establishment should not insist that she not run because, after all, a “centrist” would have a better chance. Judd would win this election comfortably, I’d bet.
Finally, though, the spot-on eloquence of the Courier-Journal’s and (especially) the Herald-Leader’s editorials should be noted for their courage, their emphatic directness and their specificity.
The Democratic establishment screwed local candidate by refusing to give them cover on the ACA — with commercials in 2010, 2012 and, if it had still been necessary, this year, explaining (1) exactly what the ACA is and does — especially that it means everyone will be able to get health insurance, even if a job and its benefits were to be lost and even if there were pre-existing conditions, (2) exactly what it does not do and why not (death panels and the like). Instead, they let the right-wing define the law for too many Americans, and Democrats like Grimes have been forced to struggle with how to handle the law in a campaign.
The Obama people made a terrible mistake by deliberately dissing progressives who were strongly committed to the public option — Rahm Emanuel’s “retards” and the like — and the result was a large chunk on the progressive side who were “opposed” to the law in polls. If half of those people could have been convinced that the ACA was the best we could get at the time, it would have changed the approve-disapprove calculus enough to prevent the McConnells from saying the American people hated the law. Even so, an information campaign — commercials based on the premise, “before you vote based on what you hear people telling you about ACA, make sure you know what it does for you and for the country” — would have helped with that.
Democrats like Grimes have been forced to struggle with how to handle the law in a campaign? Oh, please. The ACA has worked miracles for hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians. All Grimes had to do was point out that, yes, Kynect and the Medicaid expansion are part of the ACA–Obamacare.
That’s not to say that the underlying fault isn’t Obama’s; it is. I’m pretty sure that this country’s never before had a president who refuses to explain his key policies and policy proposals, or those enacted in his name, and refute disinformation about them. Or a president who refuses to explain the opposition’s key policies and policy positions. You have to be really, really dumb not to recognize the importance of these things, or bizarrely unconcerned about the result of public beliefs about the policies–yours and your opposition’s.
But that’s been the situation for nearly six years now. It shouldn’t fall to a Senate candidate challenging a big-name incombent to do that but, it’s been clear for a long time that it did fall to her. She’s really no different than Obama, in choosing to pretend that false information and false beliefs about key policies can and should be ignored, in favor of slogans and cliches.
What strikes me more than anything else about the Kentucky Senate campaign is how deeply demeaning of their fellow state citizens’ intelligence BOTH of these candidates are. It’s sickening.
The political scientist Suzanne Mettler has a great book, “The Submerged State” that discusses the fact that people are so unaware of some many government policies, their origins and how they help, or in some cases hurt, them.
Democrats do a terrible job of laying claim to their legacy for programs like Social Security, Medicare, and, yes, Obamacare. For some reason they are unable to articulate arguments for a government that levels the playing field and actually works for folks.
Worse, they seem unable to highlight how elites often capture the machinery of government and turn it towards their use, for example farm programs and much of what passes for financial regulation.
Too often Democrats like Grimes allow the Right to set the parameters of the discussion, making it between the straw man of big versus small government.
It should not have been up to Senate or House candidates to provide voters with basic education about the law, when the public has been served massive and relentless disinformation for four years without rebuttal. The low approval of the President, especially in a state like Kentucky, has been magnified by the lack of any national effort on behalf of ACA, and that has allowed Fox and the GOP to generate significant headwinds for candidates to overcome.
Of course, there are other things as well that the national Democrats should have been doing to turn “Republican” into a dirty word with middle-of-the-road voters and make the going easier in local races. They seem to have no concept of how to formulate a strategy and execute it, however. I suppose they think they have a strategy, but they don’t.
If democrats wanted to sell ACA (Obamacare); it should be as health insurance reform that prevented insurance companies from dumping their sick patience’s on Medicare and Medicaid.
“The same is true of health care ‘reform.’ The starting premise of the Obama administration was that ‘private’ interests would undermine any real effort at reform. Mr. Obama appointed industry and government ‘insiders’ to manage the process of getting an industry bill turned into law. But if private interests precede the public interest then in what way does promoting an industry bill not strengthen this relation? This entire approach to ‘public’ policy is radically undemocratic and its joint product is to put a ‘political’ wrapper on a health care industry give-away. As with the Wall Street bailouts, any actual benefit to the public is incidental. And this political wrapper proceeds from a neo-liberal conception of the public interest as the aggregation of individual ‘private’ interests.”
For anyone interested in the rest of article on difference in right and left, which is mostly dressing.