The Democrats who run Kentucky's House of Representatives are deathly afraid that the public is going to finally hold them accountable for the party's long legacy of failed liberal policies. They are therefore willing to do almost anything to avoid this day of reckoning. That includes avoiding votes that would expose their true Democratic colors.
Republicans recently filed a raft of amendments to the state budget bill that would have put the Democrats on record for or against Obamacare and their party's other unpopular policies. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo resorted to parliamentary stunts to shut down debate and dodge difficult votes on the amendments.
Republicans resisted. Rep. Joe Fischer of Fort Thomas moved to suspend the rules to get a vote on defunding Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's expansion of Medicaid and establishment of a health insurance exchange under Obamacare. Rather than risk going on record for or against their party's signature accomplishment, 29 Democrats did not vote.
Even more Democrats headed for the hills when Republican Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington offered a measure arising from Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway's refusal to appeal the recent federal ruling striking down Kentucky's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Beshear decided to hire private counsel to do Conway's job for him, but Lee wanted to pay the costs of that outside lawyer from Conway's office budget.
Forty-four Democrats did not vote. A comparable number of Democrats went missing in action on a procedural vote to bring an abortion bill to the House floor. Many of these mush-for-spine Democrats probably claim that John F. Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage inspired them to enter public service.
It is easy to understand why Kentucky's Democrats have become such fraidy cats. Republicans need a net gain of only five seats in November to end the Democrats' long domination of the House that has left the state at the wrong end of so many measures of prosperity and well-being.
By running for political cover instead of taking political positions, these cowering Kentucky Democrats are merely following the example of their party's leader, President Obama. When Obama was a state senator in Illinois he voted "present" nearly 130 times, often to avoid hard votes.
Kentucky Democrats are rightly desperate to disassociate themselves from their party's Obamacare debacle. Beshear may have produced a working Obamacare website, but a recent analysis by Deutsche Bank warns of "deteriorating demographic trends" in his much-ballyhooed state exchange.
Unlike some in the Democrat-friendly state political press corps, the bank's analysts did not just uncritically parrot the Beshear administration's upbeat pronouncements. These objective professionals concluded that Kentucky is an "odd state to highlight as a national model of exchange success given the state's low exchange enrollment levels, high mix of older sign-ups, and much higher mix of Platinum plans relative to the national average."
House members afraid of losing power this November after nearly a century of dominance are not the only Democrats going to great lengths to conceal their real positions. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has elevated evasion to an art form.
Her statements on issues like climate change, court-ordered gay marriage, and Obamacare are Orwellian examples of doublespeak. By babbling contradictory buzz words Grimes tries to fool voters into believing that she strongly supports both sides of every issue.
Grimes gets a pass for mealy-mouthing these controversial topics because some state editors and reporters are emotionally invested in beating her opponent, incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell. He has cast thousands of hard votes and suffered savagely hostile media scrutiny.
Kentuckians know where McConnell stands. Grimes does not respect voters enough to talk straight to them about her views.
For example, when asked whether she supported the recent talk-a-thon on climate change by Democratic senators, Grimes simply regurgitated the same non-committal cant she spouted last September. But an environmental activist recently told Louisville's WFPL radio that a Grimes aide promised the candidate "would be more forthright on legislative steps to combat pollutants once McConnell was defeated in the fall."
Democrats realize that lots of people do not like their party's anti-coal, big government, liberal agenda. So they cynically seek to obscure their connection to it in hopes of winning elections that will let them impose still more of it. It has taken far too long, but Kentuckians are belatedly wising up.
Kentucky's lily-livered "Fraidycrats" can run, but they cannot hide. This fall's elections will finally expose them for what they are and reward Republicans, who at least have the courage of their convictions.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com.
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