Thursday, July 31, 2008

365. End of July Clearance

Temperature 90 degrees. No real change although there has been rain yesterday and overnight.


This will be the last entry for a few days while I’m on the road to Fancy Farm and other points West. For those of you who want up-to-the-minute live-blogging and other such late-breaking news for the next few days from out in the Purchase, you will have to seek it elsewhere. I’m not that technologically advanced, nor do I intend to be anytime soon. I am, however, trying to learn how to get the pictures out of my new phone and into the blog – if that makes any of you any happier.

Tomorrow marks several birthdays and I’d like to get those mentioned right away. Most importantly, tomorrow would have been my grandmother’s 96th birthday. Vivian “Tommie” Hockensmith, who raised me and my brother, died at the age of 59 in 1976. My middle name of Thomas is for both her and her husband, my grandfather, both of whom shared that as a middle name. The Thomas in his name came from his grandfather of the same name, Daniel Thomas Hockensmith – that in her name, oddly enough, came from her aunt Therese Thomas Lewis, whose married name I have forgotten. She lived in the Covington area and her husband, as I’ve been told, was a furniture salesman. The Thomas in my name lives on in my second oldest nephew, Kevin Thomas Noble, who is seven.

Tomorrow is also the birthday of two “Young Democrat” friends, both of whom, like me, are no longer Young Democrats. Mary-John Celletti celebrates tomorrow as does Dale Emmons. He is older than she, and both are older than me – if that really matters. I’ve written before of Mary-John, her car Winston, and perhaps of her son and his father, Chris, who was a friend of mine in Lexington back in the 1980s, who I most recently chatted with in Lexington at the Democratic Party State Convention. He was a delegate from Union County, his family’s home county to which he returned from Lexington and later Louisville. Dale Emmons, originally of Fleming County and now a Richmond resident, is one of Kentucky’s leading political advisers and I value his insight and interest in Kentucky and the Kentucky Democratic Party. Chances are I will see one or both of these birthday kids sometime this weekend at the events in the West.

There has been some talk that our presumptive Democratic nominee for president, United States Senator Barack Obama, may or may not drop in on the festivities at Fancy Farm. It would be the first presidential candidate visit to the picnic since George Wallace – quite a change I might add. Gore was there as the #2 guy in 1992. And it would be quite a challenge for both the Obama campaign to come into an area and a state where they fared poorly and are expected to fare poorly this fall. Go where they don’t expect you – maybe where you shouldn’t be, at least in some people’s minds.

I remember in 2000 when I was driving the Democratic Party’s 3rd Congressional District candidate Eleanor Jordan from one event to the next. She was Kentucky’s first African-American candidate for Congress to my knowledge. There was usually never any concern about where we were going or who we might see while trekking here and there across Jefferson County, in which all of the Third Congressional District of Kentucky might be found. I remember one such visit to a county park in the far extremes of the district where one might say she wouldn’t be expected – maybe where she shouldn’t be. Go we went nonetheless to this particular event, and upon arrival, rather than work the easy crowd, which wasn’t going to be easy anyway, instead she marched over to a group of motorcycle riders and made her plea of support. She surprised them and they surprised her, with questions and comments, and it turned into a memorable, and perhaps profitable afternoon. In the ensuing election that fall against then-Congresswoman Anne Northup, Eleanor Jordan managed to get within one vote of the incumbent in the district’s then-southwesternmost precinct, which I think was A131, not very far from the park where she made her entreaty with the bikers.

As it turns out, Senator Obama’s campaign has decided it would rather spend time with the estimated 10,000 conventioneers attending the National Urban League convention in Orlando, Florida than however many will be gathered at the Saint Jerome Catholic Picnic in the western Kentucky community of Fancy Farm in Graves County. As a side note, Senator McCain will also be in Orlando for the same event. Over on another blog (actually on two other blogs), a writer has posted an entry taking the Senator – that is our Senator Obama, not their Senator McCain - to task for choosing this obviously easier venue as part of his weekend’s itinerary. The blogs are Bluegrass Roots ( and Watching Those We Choose ( The entry is posted by Yellow Dog, a frequent contributor to Kentucky’s political blogs, although as far as I know, I do not know who Yellow Dog is.

The comments which follow Yellow Dog’s posting seems to be supportive of her/his disapproval of Senator Obama’s decision. One of those comments offers a different take – mine. Below I will print Yellow Dog’s original entry in its entirety, followed by my contrarion response. I’d be interested in what my readers think on these takes.

Obama in Kentucky: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, by Yellow Dog

For a minute, it looked like rising unemployment in Kentucky would give Barack Obama's presidential campaign a boost here, but by then he'd blown that opportunity by choosing a speech in Orlando over charming the Midwest at Fancy Farm.
Kentucky's unemployment rate rose to 6.3 percent in June, up from 6.2 percent in May. It's now almost a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 5.5 percent. More specifically, since June 2007, unemployment has gone up in 108 of Kentucky's 112 counties. The eight counties with the highest unemployment - 9.9 to 11.8 percent - are all in Eastern Kentucky, the exact region where Obama received the fewest votes in the May primary. Obama has a huge opportunity there to make an economic case for his candidacy.

Come to Kentucky, Barack. Look us in the eye and tell us that you're going to reverse the screw-the-middle-class policies of the last seven years. Tell us how you're going to wean us off our dependence on coal industry jobs while you wean the nation off its dependence on coal-burning energy. You say you've got a 50-state strategy. Kentucky is a state that's yours for the asking.

But you have to ask.

Here is my response:

I wouldn't go as far to say that Kentucky is Senator Obama's simply for the asking. It will be difficult for Senator Obama to carry Kentucky for a number of reasons - which isn't to say that me and you and a whole bunch of others wont be out there doing every thing we can to make sure he does. Still, it is a high hill to climb.
But we should attempt the climb nonetheless and I agree there are opportunities for Senator Obama here in the Commonwealth and sooner or later someone in his camp should take notice. Going to Fancy Farm seems like a nice idea - it is certainly important to those of us who are known to be state and local political hacks. But that may be the problem for Senator Obama in coming there.

Fancy Farm is the ideal place for Kentucky's candidates and their supporters to put some degrees of separation between them. The very geography of the place, so removed as everything in the Jackson Purchase seems to be from the rest of the state, makes the entire event (including all the other satellite functions) special, but special for Kentuckians, and really only special for those of us who make the trip or know someone who does.

You point out in your post the eight counties in the Commonwealth with the highest unemployment are all in the east. For these folks, a trip by Senator Obama to Fancy Farm - 400 miles away - means little. It is a showcase opportunity to be seen with other politicians, Democratic and Republican, the Lunsfords with the McConnells, the Ryans with the Whitfields, and all of it overshadowed by the busloads of people brought in just for the show and little more. No one, or very few, go to Fancy Farm to actually listen to the candidates with the idea that what they say might change their minds. We go because we are partisan supporters of our candidates - and the food is damn good if you aren't a vegetarian, which I am not.

I've written before on several different blogs, including my own, that if Senator Obama is to come to Kentucky, it is my belief he should make a trip along the eastern borders of Commonwealth. An ideal route would be US 23, through Boyd, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Letcher, and Pike counties. I hesitate to call it a "Poverty Tour" but that is what LBJ called it in 1964, and what Bobby Kennedy called it in 1968, and what John Edwards called it last year. With the unemployment stats you cited, Senator Obama's visit needs to be as far away from the festive and gluttonous activities associated with Fancy Farm if it is to have a real impact on him, so that he can have a real impact on the Commonwealth once he wins the presidency in November, which I am hoping, praying, and working to see that he does.

Senator Obama needs to see the real problems faced by real Americans - real Kentuckians, in places like Inez and Lick Branch, and Whitesburg and Hazard, not the bullhorns and placards which so dominate the Fancy Farm Picnic. I hope he takes the time to do so.


Let me know what you think.

See you in a few days. Stay out of the heat.

A final thought. The hit-counter is likely to go over the 20,000 mark in my absence during the next few days. I'll expound upon that when I return, but, in the interim, thank you for reading.

1 comment:

Olivia Anne said...

Well, Jeff, the ole counter indeed is well over 20,000. Hope the other 19,999 hits have enjoyed your site as much as I over the last few.

Fancy Farm was spectacular. It was good to see you there all over briefly, too. The partisans were "Hot" for their candidates and the food always is better than the best, especially that country ham, which I did not win, again. I got to meet Mr. Darryl Cunningham of 'mater fame and was introduced to him by his son, John, who is the County Attorney. Had it not been for the heat, Darryl gladly would have sent me home with bushels of the gorgeous red orbs.

It always charms me that we from the far reaches of our state are so excitedly welcomed to Graves County and all the festivities. Gerald Smith and Susan Hammond again had command central right by the drive lane and were their always gracious selves to our whole group. The parties were terrific. George Sales and his placards to Ditch Mitch were fabulous (and Bruce from the stage seemed truly excited by our efforts). Todd just keeps on getting better and better and Heather did herself proud. Carroll as the hometown guy got a particularly "warm" reception. But, wow, oh, wow! Did our own Steve really let that KDP kicking ass loose on the minions of the Mitch! That West Kentucky Guy just showed them how it's done. Can't wait for next year and the whole thing to start again!

So, how was your Fancy Farm 2008?

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.