Would it not be a delicious irony if the re-election prospects of liberal scourge and Obama opponent Mitch McConnell were to receive a boost from the success of the signature legislative achievement of Obama’s presidency, which McConnell has resisted at every turn? Yet so it seems in the Republican primary in Kentucky, my state of origin, where the Minority Leader, who used to be the most widely disliked Senator of them all until Ted Cruz left him in the dust, is engaged in a surprisingly interesting race. His opponent, Matt Bevin, is running as a challenger to the man Tea Partiers deride as a deal-maker and collaborator, and has parlayed McConnell’s role in avoiding default on the national debt into endorsements from groups representing what proponents call true conservatives. Of course the facts are opposite to that, and they are actually radicals, but there’s a little issue of reality testing standing between us.
Along with the Gun Owners of America, a group generally to the right of the NRA, Bevin has the support of the Senate Conservatives Fund, the group whose ads against sitting Republican Senators Ted Cruz supposedly refused to denounce. It is now running an ad attacking McConnell as an Obamacare-lover.
“Conservatives asked Mitch McConnell to lead the fight against Obamacare. He didn’t listen,” the voiceover in the ad, titled Kentucky, said. “Instead, McConnell helped Barack Obama and Harry Reid fund Obamacare. Now Kentucky families are paying the price. Premiums up, lost coverage, even lost jobs. When Kentucky needed Mitch McConnell the most, he let us down.”
Just the sort of attack you’d expect from a Tea Party challenger against a Senator whose very position in leadership evinces his utter lack of purity, ideological or otherwise. This should set up a fascinating confrontation between what most Kentuckians believe, which is some mixture of hard-scrabble individualism and more or less virulent racism which thus considers the Affordable Care Act an Obama-nation, and what most Kentuckians need, which is help, educational, financial, and medical. And here’s the irony: the Obama-nation is working and working well.
The Kentucky Kynect likely takes the award for most written-about Obamacare marketplace — and for good reason. It had one of the most flawless launches of any state marketplace, posting robust application numbers on Oct. 1. So far, the state reports that 26,174 people have enrolled in private insurance or Medicaid.
Kentucky is the only Southern state operating its own insurance marketplace and has had the strong backing of Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat.
So with the Kentucky exchange quite successful, will Bevin’s attack lose some of its sting? If so, McConnell could have slightly smoother sailing into the general election. Having to tack very publicly hard right to meet Bevin’s challenge could weaken McConnell against the first legitimate Democratic challenger he’s seen in many election cycles, Alison Lundergan Grimes. If the success of Obamacare in Kentucky helps to blunt a major attack against Mitch McConnell, will the Minority Leader be polite enough to write a thank-you note to the White House? I don’t know about you, but I doubt it.
More and more it seems the hard-core Republican states are trying to nullify not only federal law but the entire twenty-first century, in fact to hell with it, let’s just go for modernity as a whole. Even John Kasich thinks the GOP is prosecuting “a war on the poor”, equating poverty with laziness. “You know what?” he commented, “The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A.”
A guilty little part of me wants to let the red states decline health care and believe in creationism and thus fall irretrievably behind the rest of us and fade into history. But of course that’s a pipe dream; as their system fails they’ll be high-tailing it across the border, instant converts to the cause of immigrant rights.