As a general rule, I try to refrain from commenting about Kentucky Democratic politics. The most important reason for this rule is that Kentucky folk are psycho about their politics. They will engage in remarkably vicious knife-fights over the merits of candidates who seem, to the outside observer, very nearly indistinguishable. My most common responses when asked to comment on a primary campaign are a)”I don’t pay attention to politics,” b)”You should just feel free to assume that I strongly support your candidate or cause,” and the always reliable c)”I’m Canadian.”
Unfortunately, US Senate candidate and current Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo has managed to penetrate my Shroud of Indifference and irritate me. Here’s the problem:
“It’s no surprise [Senate candidate] Jack Conway has significant financial support from his east-end Louisville neighbors and friends in New York and Los Angeles,” [Mongiardo advisor Kim] Geveden said.
Now, I can certainly understand why good Kentucky folk should resent outside interference from places like New York, Los Angeles, and Louisville. Why can’t these out-of-staters mind their own business, and just pay attention to New York, California, and…. uh…… oh.
There are a couple of things worth noting here. First, Conway’s greatest strength is in Louisville, so it’s not surprising that he’s ahead in fundraising in Jefferson county. And yes, Louisville is and always has been viewed with some suspicion by the rest of the state of Kentucky; it’s racial balance is considerably different than the state as a whole, and it has a strong bohemian streak. However, Louisville is also the largest city in Kentucky, and votes reliably Democratic. Democrats cannot win a Senate seat without winning Louisville by a large margin; Bruce Lunsford beat Mitch McConnell by eleven points in Jefferson County in 2008, and Dan Mongiardo beat Jim Bunning by 19 points in Jefferson County in 2004. In other words, it is extraordinarily important for a Democratic Senate candidate to do well in Louisville, which isn’t surprising given the aforementioned fact that Louisville is the largest city in the state. Now, you can certainly argue that Mongiardo’s strong showing in 2004 demonstrates that he can win big in Louisville, and accordingly that the focus ought to be on the rest of the state, but it’s generally not sensible for a candidate to insult the largest city in his state by comparing it to (shudder) New York and Los Angeles.
Apart for the electoral stupidity, the notion that Louisville isn’t the “real Kentucky” rankles in the same way as Sarah Palin’s assertions about “Real America.” Dividing the country between the pure heartland and the decadent urban cesspools has been a Republican electoral tactic since at least the 1960s, and it still carries a heavy stench of exclusion. One out of every six citizens of Kentucky lives in Louisville, and they’re just as real as anyone else in the state. More importantly, their votes count just as much; there is no Electoral College for the US Senate in Kentucky. I detest the notion that rural voters are somehow more authentic than urban voters, and this seems to be what the Mongiardo folks are pushing in order to explain away a weak fundraising quarter.