[dc]“K[/dc]entucky counties with highest Medicaid rates backed Matt Bevin, who plans to cut Medicaid,” read the headline on John Cheves’ Lexington Herald-Leader story online.
So here I go again: “You’d think convincing people to vote against their own best interests would be mission impossible. But it was mission accomplished for the Republicans.”
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve written that about a GOP winner in a Kentucky election.
Once more, the social issues – what one of my union buddies calls “the three Gs – God, guns and gays”– have helped elect a reactionary union-buster in my home state.
Cheves quoted Cale Turner, Owsley County’s Democratic judge-executive on Gov.-elect Bevin’s victory: "To be honest with you, a lot of folks in Owsley County went to the polls and voted against gay marriage and abortion, and as a result, I'm afraid they voted away their health insurance. Which was their right to do, I guess. But it's sad. Many people here signed up with Kyne
ct, and it's helped them, it's been an absolute blessing."
It was hardly a secret that Bevin, as Cheves pointed out, “pledged to cut the state's Medicaid program and close the state-run Kynect health insurance exchange.”
Cheves said the local paper in Owsley County, The Three Forks Tradition, barely mentioned Kynect during the election campaign. “Instead, its editorials roasted Obama and Hillary Clinton, gay marriage, Islam, ‘liberal race peddlers,’ ‘liberal media,’ ‘black criminals’ and "the radical Black Lives Matter movement.’"
For his story, Cheves interviewed Andrea Malji, a Transylvania University political scientist, who “said she has crunched state data and found a ‘99 percent confidence level’ between the counties' Medicaid enrollment levels and their gubernatorial choices. The larger the Medicaid numbers, the more likely they were to back Bevin, she said. The lower the Medicaid numbers, the more likely they were to favor the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jack Conway.”
Cheves’ story put me in mind of Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Published in 2004, it’s as timely as ever and could be rewritten and re-titled What’s the Matter with Kentucky? How Conservatives Won the Heart of the Bluegrass State.
“Strip today's Kansans of their job security (or Kentuckians of their health insurance), and they head out to become registered Republicans,” Frank wrote.
“Push them off their land, and next thing you know they're protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there's a good chance they'll join the John Birch Society (Bevin’s a Bircher booster.). But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.”
Frank recalled that Kansas was once home to militant farmer-populists who “would have responded to the current situation by making the bastards pay. This would have been a political certainty, as predictable as what happens when you touch a match to a puddle of gasoline. When business screwed the farmers and the workers – when it implemented monopoly strategies invasive beyond the Populists' furthest imaginings – when it ripped off shareholders and casually tossed thousands out of work – you could be damned sure about what would follow.”
Bevin's plan would screw a lot of Kentuckians out of their health insurance, but they voted for him anyway.
Time was, most Kentucky farmers and workers rejected plutocratic Republican politicians (Bevin’s a millionaire.) who did the bidding of the folks President Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed “economic royalists” – today’s “one percent.”
FDR and the New Deal were hugely popular in Kentucky. He carried the Bluegrass State in landslides all four times he ran and won. FDR believed government had a broad responsibility to help people who needed help. Bevin the Social Darwinist doesn’t.
Sadly, Cheves’ article is more proof that a lot of people who need government aid vote for well-heeled politicians like Bevin who make no bones about taking away that aid. But, hey, Bevin's heroes are Kim Davis, Kentucky Right to Life and the NRA.
Bevin’s triumph reminds me of the motto of Jim Pence’s feisty Hillbilly Report blog: "Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much."