Monday, November 11, 2019

How Matt Bevin Lost Kentucky

Our daughter went to college in Kentucky, but I can't claim any great knowledge of the state, nor do I follow its politics. As I result I didn't know exactly what to think when the GOP trounced the Dems in every statewide office, but had their governor (Bevin) run out. Not exactly, although I had some recollection of Bevin from the time he tried to challenge Mitch McConnell in the GOP senate primary.

Today at The Federalist, Willis L. Krumholz explains what happened in an excellent article that's important for understanding where the GOP needs to be "going forward," as people say now:

Ron DeSantis Proves Matt Bevin’s Conservatism Wasn’t His Albatross
Matt Bevin’s loss doesn’t have anything to do with Trump, and it’s not about ‘conservatives’ versus ‘moderates,’ either. Conservatism embodies middle-class and working-class values. Why not embrace that?

Here's a brief excerpt from the much longer, but very readable, article:

Was Bevin problematic because he was too Trumpian? Not at all. Bevin “governed as a classic libertarian chamber of commerce type Republican.” In Enjeti’s words he was a “typical slash and burn corporatist governor in a solidly white working class state.” According to Enjeti, Bevin had actually “betrayed [working class voters] and the Trump agenda.” That’s because “Simply putting on a MAGA hat and yelling Drain the Swamp isn’t enough, you actually have to walk the walk.” 
Even Bevin’s rhetoric was consistently disconnected from working-class concerns. In one example, Bevin made a video trying to tie his Democrat opponent to Bernie Sanders, who was visiting the state. The video comes off like he made it because his consultants told him to. 
Bevin also sounds like Mitt Romney, talking about the virtues of the job creators as opposed to the people who work to “varying degrees” and want free stuff. “The American dream is a real thing if we the people take it seriously,” he said. He never focused on what conservativism could do for working people. 
A lot of Bevin’s policies weren’t bad. For example, he fought hard to restrict abortion in the state. But he dogmatically pursued Republican Party and supply-side orthodoxy above pragmatism. In one example, he wanted Kentucky to raise its sales taxes and cut income taxes, which would disproportionately affect the poor and working class. He also repeatedly advocated for zeroing out Kentucky’s corporate tax, and had previously called for a 10 percent federal corporate tax and an end to minimum wage laws. 
To top it off, Bevin was rough around the edges. One of his signature policy moves was to cut Kentucky’s hugely underwater teacher pensions to make them more sustainable. When teachers went on strike in response, he blamed the striking teachers for the shooting death of a nine-year-old girl, rather than taking on the unions directly like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, did quite successfully. 
He also said that children staying at home due to the strikes would face sexual abuse: “Children were harmed—some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time—because they were vulnerable and left alone.” In another example, Bevin once said he was surprised there was a chess club in a majority-black school located in a poor area. 
Given the working-class family is completely broken, and median American wages have been roughly flat for about 30 years, Trump’s emergence isn’t shocking. What’s shocking is how few Republican politicians get what’s going on. 
Here’s to hoping the Republican Party of the future is a lot more like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley—another conservative with a working-class focus—and DeSantis. Any future conservative party must be nationalist, espouse Middle Class Capitalism, and pursue policies that will actually help families. The alternative is the dustbin of history.


  1. I gained a lot of insight from Krumholz’s article. Like so many I (knowing zero about Kentucky’s politics) thought “OMG, the Republican lost!” Now it seems that Bevin was no great shakes - probably better than the average Dem; but like many Uniparty types, not much.

    When I realize how much I and others learn from our reading at sites like yours, Mark, and at other quality sites, I fear what is going on in the minds of those who watch CNN and MSN and read the MSM state newspapers…

    Glad you’re here.

    1. Tx. It beats the alternative, all things considered.

  2. I basically grew up in Kentucky- both my parents were born there and they returned there from Chicago when I was three.

    The state is solidly Republican at the national level, and has been since I was a college student voting in my first election there in 1984- the election in which Mitch McConnell was first elected Senator, and I voted for both McConnell and Reagan. However, the state has pretty regularly voted for Democrats for governor over the last 35, and in particular, Democrats named Beshear.

    Krumholz is correct- Bevin ran over 100,000 votes behind the Republican who won the AG position. I haven't followed politics in the state all that closely over the last 20 years, but that fact alone tells me that the problem had nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with Bevin himself. I do know that he trailed in every poll I saw by double digits, and still almost won.

    1. Right. The "almost won" was probably due to support for Trump.

  3. I'm all for making things in the USA; not necessarily pro-union or anti-union. I do support right-to-work laws. I have a lot of respect for the trades and those who manually labor.

    I detest the way CEOs pay themselves and their cronies exorbitant amounts of money. Many of them run the companies into the ground, or at least into the shoals.

    I don't support minimum wage laws. I generally oppose mergers of large corporations. I hate the way sports team play cities against each other. A pox on the owners and the players, I say.

    I used to be a chamber of commerce, National Review type Republican. But never would I describe myself as a RINO or a country club Republican.

    I believe that as a Christian I have an obligation to my fellow man but don't support social justice, at least, the way that the Catholic Church does. I've never read Jesus' words telling me to support a tax increase.

    As regards many who are 'poor' in this country, I have a hard time understanding not being able to pay an electric bill or feed your children, but being able to afford a tattoo, cigarettes, expensive clothes, or gold chains. I'm not condemning the people who do this. I have no idea how they were raised. It seems that they were not blessed to have parents who taught them the value of hard work, saving money, etc.

    Just my two cents.