Kentucky's Real Lesson for Conservatives

The lesson Republicans and conservatives should take from the Kentucky gubernatorial race is not whether Trump showing up is a net positive or negative or whether the GOP put enough money or effort into the race or whether Bevin should have been the candidate in the first place or whether he was likable.  The true lesson lies in the overwhelming success of Kentucky's down-ballot election results for attorney general, agriculture commissioner, auditor, secretary of state, and treasurer, where Republican candidates demolished Democrat candidates by margins of 221,125; 276,319; 204,960; 64,562; and 300,935 votes, respectively.  (With the exception of the gubernatorial race, where the Libertarian candidate took 2% of the vote, the Libertarian candidates did not make a difference.) 

If Bevin is certified the loser, it will come down to the fact that tens or hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, who had no problem voting for other Republicans this year and Bevin four years ago, decided to stay home or cast their votes for Democrat Andy Beshear or the Libertarian candidate, John Hicks (who garnered 28,442 votes). 

They, not Matt Bevin, are the Kentuckians to blame for the election of Andy Beshear.  He hasn't changed.  He is the same rough-around-the-edges, somewhat obnoxious carpetbagger he was when he ran four years ago and remained during his tenure as governor of Kentucky and when he was put on the ballot to be re-elected.  He made enemies trying to fix the things he was elected to fix — things Republicans and conservatives find important like budgets and unfunded liabilities.  Like him or not, he was their guy.  As long as he was on the ballot and didn't commit a crime or reveal himself to be a RINO, they owed him their vote.  They owed it to the rest of the Republicans and conservatives in Kentucky.  They owed it to the rest of us in the country.

I do not know the actual number of Republicans and conservatives who defected to the Beshear or Hicks camps.  Even if that number is only a small percentage of the margins of victory laid out above, that would be enough to keep Bevin in office (except for the secretary of state, whose margin of victory was only 64,562 votes).  Whatever the actual numbers are of Republicans and conservatives who did not pull the lever for Bevin but voted for all of the other Republicans down ballot, the fact remains that these folks either don't know how to play the political game or just don't care — answering instead to some misguided higher sense of morality, purpose, or authenticity.

I will continue to repeat this until I am blue in the face: who cares if you like the guy, how he talks, where he is from, whether he has a carpetbag, if his policies matched yours 100%, or if he is even your candidate of choice?  Have you learned nothing from the election of and continued support for Donald Trump?  Your obligation as someone committed to conservative principles and governance is to suck it up and vote for the guy if for no other reason than to thwart any possibility of a Democrat taking that office, because...and I cannot believe I am still writing about this after 11 years already...

Because this is war by any other name, folks!  It is political war, and we have to make sacrifices in many battles in order to win the war.  Bevin should have been one of those battles Kentucky Republicans sacrificed your "principles" for or whatever it is they didn't like about the guy.  The one thing we Republicans have been able to fall back on  during our myriad defeats at the polls has been the overwhelming number of Republican governors running the states.  Any gubernatorial loss in a very red state is serious business.

We Republicans have been manipulated and burned by the Democrats for what seems like an eternity in Hell.  We finally came to grips with the fact that every Democrat — whether you break bread with them, are related to them, or play golf with them — considers every one of us the enemy in the political arena.  Pay attention to what they do, not what they say!  In front of the cameras, they speak of respect and congeniality, while they drive in the knives.  The reality is that the Democrats declared war on a us a long time ago and started getting their hands dirty while we were hum-dee-dumming along, watching William F. Buckley on TV and subscribing to National Review.  We were cerebral while they would brawl.  Their focus has always been to fight for the party, promote its policies, and never let anything get in the way of that struggle.  They will shake your hand and stab you in the back while smiling, without so much as a scintilla of guilt.  Why?  Because they swear allegiance to do what is best for the party, no matter their conscience, no matter their morality, no matter their worries, no matter their agreement.  They will go to the ends of the Earth to vote with their party and support people who stand for the most heinous of viewpoints as long as their team wins.  They understand what pointy-headed, die-by-the seat-of-our-principles Republicans and conservatives are either too stupid, cocky, polite, or principled to understand: in politics, numbers count.  Numbers form majorities, and majorities make law, determine policy, write regulations, and dictate our lives.  If you wanna be the guy with the pen and the sword, you gotta get in and stay in office.  

They never flinch or hesitate to take us down to get what they want or need — they do not care if they destroy our reputations, our families, our finances, or our legacies.  Nor can they be placated by our entreaties.  They are not moved by anything we say, do, or promise unless it is absolute agreement with their terms.  Like assassins, they take whatever shots they must; quietly slip away; and move on with their lives, enriched by their recent kills. 

As long as we keep practicing a more genteel form of politics — with gentlemen's agreements, compromise, tailored suits, a polished vocabulary, carefully manicured speeches, and impressive degrees — and expect to be treated with the same dignity and respect with which we treat Democrats, we will continue to lose in red states, red counties, and red towns where we should always succeed.  It is this kind of stupidity that cost us the handful of congressional seats we still had in lost causes like New Jersey and California.  It will be this kind of stubborn pride that will lose us electoral votes in 2020 in key states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and North Carolina.  It is this kind of clingy devotion to a near extinct form of honorable political gamesmanship that, one day, will sadly upend electoral results in formerly dependable red states like Arizona and Texas. 

The time has passed to vote your conscience or in a way that sends a message to the GOP, or out of anger, frustration or spite with the GOP or the Republican candidate.  The only way to vote is for whichever Republican in on the ballot and to defeat whoever his Democrat opponent is.  

By allowing the Democrat enemy to win this race, not only did those turncoat voters hand Democrats control over the laws and policies of Kentucky, to the detriment of all Kentuckians, but they gave the bloody Democrats, the Democrat Media Complex, and the screwed up world of Democrat punditry yet another talking point, another kernel of propaganda they can spin to their benefit and to our detriment.  Thanks a lot.  

If you are listening out there, a word of advice: Figure out how to play the game now, or we will lose in 2020.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

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