Thursday, December 22, 2016

797. McConnell, Trump, and coal. Nixon goes to China.

Senator McConnell, recent Kentucky history, and a prediction on President Trump and the coal voters. 

Earlier today my high school friend, a conservative voter but one who'll vote a Third Party when pressed, explained to another high school friend, like me a Liberal Democrat, that one problem with Kentucky is we have a number of uninformed, ignorant, and one issue voters - her words, not mine. I couldn't agree more although we may disagree on which voters are which. But is this news? Is it news that we're finally showing up as a Red State? Neither is news. It must be said that Kentucky is a Red State and has been for some time even though we've just gotten around to electing a Republican governor last year and turned out our Democratic House this year. The truth is we've been Red since the 1990s. (Being Red appears to be popular right now in more ways than one.) The growth in voter identity (as opposed to registration) between 1996 and 2016 has almost entirely been in the GOP column.

If you look at the presidential numbers starting with Bill Clinton in 1992 and whoever the Republican has been, the Democrats have gotten about the same number of votes for 24 years, around the 700K mark, while the GOP candidates have increased up to about 1M. So that isn't an anti-Hillary or anti-Obama vote but is rather a change in values, or is it? The Democrats' last bit of strength in our state, outside of Louisville, Lexington, and sometimes Frankfort, was in coal country in Prestonsburg and Pikeville in the east and Owensboro and Henderson in the west. Only Henderson remains nominally Democratic, but it is both a natural gas town and a coal town. President Obama and Hillary Clinton's EPA policies, policies started by President Nixon I'll note, finally took their toll. But the voters believe coal is alive. It isn't. It is dying or dead, especially the type mined in eastern Kentucky.

The GOP has flat out lied about coal for about 15 years. I believe one of the good things which may come out of Mr. Trump's presidency is the truth about coal. The new president has surrounded himself with oil and gas proponents, not coal guys. I believe at some point President Trump will double-cross his eastern and western Kentucky coal voters by telling them the truth. It will be a "Nixon-goes-to-China" thing. It will take a Republican to tell them for them to believe it. Which gets us back to Senator McConnell and why he has been re-elected with relative ease since 1984.

He had his own "Nixon-goes-to-China" moment with tobacco in the mid-1980s, back when he still could tell the truth on matters. Democrats in Kentucky allowed him to own the issue of the tobacco buy-out program both in the '80s and the follow up provisions in 2004, which came to an end with the final payments of a $100B program paid in late 2014. He politically converted all the flat tobacco-growing land from D to R - the 1st, 2nd, and 6th congressional districts, with the tobacco buy-out. He has been rewarded and, perhaps, rightly so, giving tobacco farmers a way out with real money. They're now producing more corn and soybeans and even shrimp and catfish. Kentucky State University added an aquaculture program to train farmers to farm something else. But he hasn't done it with coal, that last remnant of Democratic voters.

Why? Because other than eco-tourism, there is little you can do with empty and topless mountains. So, they've continued to lie and promise a light at the end of the tunnel. To be sure, many Kentucky Democrats have joined in the charade. But it is only a false light and President Trump's gas and oil men, the original GOP in the GOP (gas, oil, and petrol) will, I believe, put an end to it. They'll make sure no more money is wasted on a product in competition with their own. It is possible then, when the GOP lie about coal is revealed and admitted to, that some of those former Democratic-voting Kentuckians may become Democrats once again in the voting booths and then, perhaps, we'll have a more balanced state politically. But it will take 20 years to get back to a good place and we'll all be older and ready to leave the future to someone else at that point, if not sooner.

Nil Desperandum.

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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.