Alan Zendell, April 15, 2018
In the last few years, two trends in Republican politics which on one hand seem nearly contradictory, now seem to be coming together in Kentucky. It’s a union made in Hell, and if it’s allowed to succeed, the message for our nation’s future is extremely dire.
The first is the unprecedented infusion of money into local elections, most notably by the billionaires who make up the Koch network. In case it’s not clear what this is about, let me explain. In recent decades, as the middle class grew in number and financial power, racial inequalities began to ease, and immigration, primarily of Hispanics portended the end of white majority rule, warning bells went off in the councils of the wealthy. For the first time in our history, the exclusively white billionaires sensed their grip on power beginning to slip away, and with it the prospect of eventually having to share some of their wealth with everyone else.
That remained under most people’s radar until Koch money fueled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assault on “entitlement” spending and public employee unions, pensions, and income. He succeeded by catching the opposition completely unaware and acting with uncompromising ruthlessness. It was no secret that the Koch brothers viewed his success as a stepping stone to the White House, where they would have the perfect clone doing their bidding.
Trend number two was the rise of Trumpism, which was not aligned with the conservative billionaires’ goal of preserving their wealth and power, because Trump has no ideology except his own ego and power. And while puppets like Scott Walker say, “How high,” whenever the Koch money men say, “Jump,” Trump can’t be controlled that way. Additionally, while Walker’s meanness and venality are expressed in an urbane, if not terribly articulate manner, Trump’s come out in vitriol, insults, name-calling, and an audacious willingness to invent his own facts.
Regardless of the horror with which the majority of Americans (Trump’s approval rating is down to 39% as of today) react to his immoral lack of integrity, it got him elected, and still cows those in his own party who might otherwise speak out if they didn’t fear his angry base. If you want to lose sleep, try contemplating a future in which a Trump-wannabe strikes a Walker-like deal with the Koch Network. That’s exactly what we may be witnessing in Kentucky.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has the same ambitions, untempered by scruples, that drive Walker. Backed by a legislature that was voted in on the coattails of Trump’s massive victory in Kentucky, he mounted the same kind of campaign Walker did in Wisconsin. The difference is that he’s been incorporating Trump-like campaign tactics and they seem to be winning for him.
He’s more subtle than Trump, but equally dangerous. Consider his response to the Marshall County school shooting last January 23rd. Governor Bevin proclaimed Sunday, January 27th a day of prayer “for God’s comfort upon the victims and their families, God’s healing for those injured and God’s solace…” But on that very Sunday, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that instead of consoling mourners in Benton, Kentucky, Bevin was a featured guest speaker at the exclusive weekend retreat near Palm Springs, California, sponsored by the Koch network. If that wasn’t enough evidence of his disingenuousness, he never even mentioned the shootings in Palm Springs. Instead, he declared to the conservative billionaires, “Let’s protect our culture,” which in their terms meant preserving their wealth and power.
The controversy which has brought Bevin the public attention he craved involves a budget bill recently passed by the legislature. Kentucky, like several other states, is facing a financial crisis due to pension benefits for public employees which have not been adequately funded in the decades since they were enacted into law. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility, Bevin has decided that the way to fix the problem in Kentucky is to do it on the backs of teachers and other public employees, and to reduce funding to public education.
While having their pension systems curtailed upset teachers and their unions, the cuts to public school funding were the final straw for educators who had dedicated their lives to their students. Their outrage was so intense that several school districts canceled classes last Friday to enable teachers and school administrators to attend protests at the state capital. And here is where Bevin pulled out the Trump playbook.
Instead of addressing the public schools’ concerns, he tweeted: “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them. I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them [and] some were introduced to drugs for the first time because they were vulnerable and left alone.”
At least he stopped short of calling teachers murderers and rapists. Are you still wondering why people like Matt Bevin cause me to lose sleep?