I’m grateful and pleased that Amy McGrath has decided to challenge Senator Mitch McConnell in 2020. To be honest, I was convinced that McConnell would get a pass for next year. Before Amy McGrath came along, there was literally no one with the balls to take on McConnell, even if he is unpopular in KY. When McConnell was re-elected in a landslide in 2014, Democrats who wanted to win higher statewide office looked elsewhere for better prospects. No matter how this turns out, I want to thank Amy McGrath for stepping up.
But I am not going to kid myself. McGrath is doing the equivalent of scaling a cliff and attacking an enemy entrenched in some damn bunker.
A major plus for McGrath is that she is one hard campaigner. She set up campaign headquarters in many counties that had not seen a Democrat in a coon’s age. And she actively campaigned in rural areas.
The minus was that McGrath had to build up this GOTV apparatus on her own. Literally. The state Democratic Party should be charged with political malpractice and neglect for allowing the GOTV efforts to fall into ruin. This is what happens when you place political hacks in charge of the state party apparatus who just show up to collect their paychecks.
As for McGrath’s opening salvo against McConnell, I am on the fence about it.
Yes, I am a progressive, and I am not thrilled with her stance on Medicare For All. I’m not a fan of private insurance, and in fact, the profit motive has been responsible for making healthcare unaffordable and out of reach for many. And I don’t think denying undocumented immigrants coverage does any good for both moral and public health reasons.
But I understand why she is taking those positions.
Kentucky is full of racists who love Trump. And this is one of the few states were Trump is in double digits with regards to his public approval ratings. Kentuckians are still buying into MAGA, and I don’t think Kentuckians will ever admit to being conned and turn on Trump. But part of the appeal of MAGA was keeping America white. More than a few Kentuckians backed Republicans as a way to get back at Obama who was the Great Satan in Kentucky. And if you are a Democrat saying that you want to cover undocumented immigrants with healthcare insurance, the Republicans will run around saying that Democrats are taking away healthcare from white Americans.
Ugly, but this is how the Republicans are going to attack Democrats on healthcare.
However, McGrath is trying to use Trump’s campaign lies against McConnell, which might actually be a clever idea. She’s claiming that the Master of Dysfunction is actually blocking things that Trump promised like lower prescription drug prices. It looks like McGrath is going to try and hold Trump to his campaign promises, and she is fixing all the failures for delivery of those promises on McConnell.
You know something. I can’t see Trump attacking McGrath on that line. We know that nothing is ever Trump’s fault. And McGrath is playing to Trump’s narcissism and ego.
Unfortunately, I can see that this line of attack by McGrath could backfire.
Senator Donnelly in IN tried this same line during the 2018 Election, and he was defeated. Donnelly tried to use ads where he was close to Trump on some issues, and he tried to say he was an independent voice. And Donnelly criticized his fellow Democrats.
Did I mention that Donnelly lost?
And you don’t need to go to IN to see how a centrist campaign that attacks national Democrats fails. Alison Lundergan-Grimes did this in 2014. Lundergan-Grimes tried to out redneck McConnell, and she turned off base Democrats and handed a landslide victory to McConnell. His first landslide victory, by the way.
And she was not the first Democrat to run an uninspired centrist campaign against Republicans in Kentucky. A guy by the name of Conway did that twice. It’s why we have Senator Rand Paul and Governor Matt Bevin today.
So that is my fear with McGrath. She may try to hug Trump so much and bash her fellow Democrats enough that it turns off base Democratic voters. And I know there are some so called centrists on Daily Kos who think that is a grand strategy. It’s a proven failed political strategy.
I would suggest to McGrath that she not try to out redneck McConnell. She needs to go out and engage voters who have stopped voting. Democrats need to expand the pool of available Democratic voters, and they need to step up registration efforts.
Many of the Democrats who have voted Republican over the last 30 odd years are DINOs. And their identity is now wrapped up with the Republican Party. And when you are talking identity, we are into political tribalism. And the 2018 Election results demonstrated that Republican voters will vote for anyone with an R next to their name. If you don’t believe me, look at how both progressives and centrists did statewide in IN, FL, GA, MO, ND, TN, and TX.
I hope that McGrath will focus her efforts on voter outreach to possible Democrats and not try to convince tribal Republican voters to switch.