Jed Lewison has posted McConnell's latest lie on the ACA. And it has sparked some debate and acrimony on Grimes political strategy here on Daily Kos. I am not privy to the Grimes campaign thinking, but I can hazard a guess on her latest moves, especially with regards to the ACA and kynect. It all comes down to playing to the disaffected and unaligned voters in Kentucky and NOT energizing Republican voters in the process.
Let me try to explain. Bear with me while I try to get across the inherent social conservatism and racism present among Kentucky voters. It's not as simple as you think.
Before the passage of civil rights legislation, Kentucky was typical of many Southern and Border states. Approximately 68% of the electorate was registered as Democrats, and Kentucky usually voted for Democratic candidates, with the exception of Kennedy in 1960, on the national and state level. However, with the passage of civil right legislation and the embrace of the issue among national Democrats, the number of registered Democrats has been declining in Kentucky.
The number of registered Democrats in Kentucky is now in the mid fifties, while the number of Republicans and independents has grown. There are a number of social issues that have driven this movement from the Democratic Party to unaligned status or the Republican Party, but one underlying and strong social issue is that of race.
Finding hard statistical data on racism among white Kentucky voters is difficult to find. Most voters with bigoted attitudes won't go on the record with social scientists. All I can tell you is anecdotal evidence of people that I have known here in Kentucky, and some of it is ugly with regards to race. Politics for these people was reduced to who supported white people versus blacks.
And because white Democratic politicians are associated with support for civil rights and acceptance of African American voters as part of their voting coalition, some racist white voters got the message and left the Democratic Party. However, not all left in Kentucky. Some, either because it is too much trouble or they are too lazy, have not bothered to switch their party affiliation. You know those folks as DINOs.
Think I'm making that last bit up? One bit of data that I do have is from the 2008 Democratic primary. Obama was on the ballot with no challengers, but 42% of the Democrats in the primary did not vote for Obama. Now, not every vote in that 42% was from a bigoted voter. Some was clearly a protest vote against Obama by Democrats dissatisfied with his rightward shift in governance, but not all of it was. Some of it was probably DINOs who don't like a biracial man in the White House.
It is the DINOs who make the difference for Republican politicians in Kentucky, with the exception of Congressman Hal Rogers who has a mind boggling number of Republicans in his district. But if you are a Republican and want to win statewide, you need the DINOs and the Republican voters to vote for you. This political dynamic brings us back to Grimes, McConnell and the ACA.
Grimes had decided to basically dodge the question of the ACA. While she has supported some provisions of the ACA - kids being on their parents plans until age 26 for one, Grimes has hedged and said she wants to fix parts of the ACA that affect small businesses. And it is a dodge. No doubt about it. And it is not accidental.
As pointed out by Congressman John Yarmuth, Grimes is not going to discuss the ACA or kynect, unless she absolutely has to. The thinking is that Republicans have made the ACA so toxic with all their lies that Grimes can't touch this issue until Kentuckians realize that the world has not ended with its passage. And there is some truth to what Yarmuth says. We have a rumor running around Kentucky that those who sign up for health care through kynect have to have an electronic chip implanted in their arm. I'm not making that up. This rumor is also being promulgated in West Virginia too.
Anyway, Beshear is going to defend kynect for Grimes. Beshear is popular, and he will take any of the heat over the dreaded ACA. This became obvious from two interviews that Beshear did with Ed Schultz. Ed asked him several times if Grimes would go out and talk up the good things about the ACA, and Beshear did not answer the question.
Will this act of political courage by Grimes inspire the Democratic base? Of course not. But the purpose of this strategy is not to fire up the Democratic base in Kentucky. It is to ensure that Republicans and DINOs don't get fired up to vote against Obama by supporting McConnell.
McConnell knows that he is as popular as coal ash with Kentucky voters, so his only means for reelection is to link Grimes to the Obama. A vote for McConnell becomes another way for bigots in the state to punch Obama in the face. How else do you think that Rand Paul got elected in 2010? Voting Republican meant hurting Obama, and McConnell needs to recapture that magical moment in 2014.
It is why Grimes is going all out to remind Kentucky voters she is not Obama. However, Grimes has to remind voters that they are not in love with McConnell. It is why she wrote that open letter to the crazy Bevin supporters. It cost her nothing to do it, but she reminded Republicans that McConnell is a prick. None of those crazy bastards will vote for her, but they may just sit out the election, which is fine with Grimes.
Do I approve of this political strategy? It is not a profile in courage, and it is a cynical ploy. I would love to see some left wing populist tear McConnell a new one, but the Kentucky Democratic Party has maybe one of those. And he is not running for statewide office. But I have resigned myself to you get what you get through the primary process.
Is Grimes strategy doomed to failure? I don't know. I've seen others in the political arena walk tightropes that got them elected, and the Kentucky electorate is one hell of pit to fall into.