(Editor’s note: Terry Boyd and Brian Tucker contributed to this post.)
This past primary election, the vast majority of eligible voters were no-shows at the polls.
The official figure was 13.82 percent, according to Kentucky State Board of Election, and that’s inflated by all the people who voted multiple times in Eastern Kentucky.
It’s a percentage that seems to just keep going down: The primary voter turnout in Kentucky in 2004 was 14 percent, 18.2 percent in 1996.
Because whether we’re voting for American Idols or American Demagogues, we long for optimism, not the cynicism that comes out of being fed a steady diet of crap on the way to the polls.
Democrats have run the state since the 1930s, and for every one of those years, Kentucky has been next to last in everything (except basketball.) And as we can see with Richie Farmer, the Republicans are no better.
We can hear Steve Beshear, Jack Conway and Crit Luallen all pushing back: “We’ll, if it weren’t for us, we’d be fiftieth!” Not really something you want on your big memorial in front of the state capitol.
No matter who’s running, Kentuckians get bombarded every couple of years by an unbelievably unsophisticated bunch of career politicians and people who aspire to be career politicians. And the saddest elements of the democratic process in Kentucky are not the negative ads, spin or name calling. It’s imaging.
Kentuckians get to vote for the goofiest bunch of cornballs running campaigns that never fail to evoke Homer Stokes advocatin’ as Servant of the Little Man.
Our personal favorite of late is Morgan McGarvey, who ran for the state senate seat relinquished by Tim Shaughnessy. Every time you saw McGarvey, a wealthy scion of an old-money Louisville family, ol’Morgan had one more baby in his arms.
There are photos of him with one, two, three and four babies. The guy’s not that old, so we don’t know if he was getting all those babies lease-to-own … if he had a baby wrangler. We just don’t know the whole story.
What we do know is, this guy obviously is nuts about tiny humans.
What message are we voters supposed to take from that?
That he’s potent? Heterosexual? Virile? Caring?
We think it’s probably “reformed,” judging from the above 2004 photo by the McGarvey family photographer, Pam Spaulding, where he’s holding four beers instead of four babies.
Spaulding, a CJ shooter, did – get this – an entire book on the McGarveys, whom she presents as the Kennedys of Kentucky. (Hey, we thought the Conways are the Kennedys of Kentucky.)
And speaking of the Conways, gee, doesn’t Gentleman Jack take a fine picture!
Wait, Jack has a baby, too!
Say, is that the same baby Morgan has? Which would make sense because it would be a lot more efficient to have a baby stable in Frankfort – someplace where candidates could just check out adorable blonde, blue-eyed mammals as they need them for campaigns.
(Give the Bully of Burkesville credit … you ain’t gonna’ catch David Williams or any other Republican posing for a campaign photo holding no stinkin’ baby. Maybe deporting it if it’s an illegal alien baby or yanking away its KCHIP coverage. But GOP candidates don’t seem to have the same urges to pose with progeny.)
Of course, there are other ways to connect with the Hoi Polloi besides babies. Our second favorite campaign photo is titled, “Rich Democrat with Salt of the Earth.”
If you’re a Democrat, you take a photographer with you as you roll up the sleeves of your impossibly crisp dress shirt and talk down to underpaid workers in a minimum wage factory. If you’re a Republican, you take a picture of yourself in front of a flag with a veteran or senior citizen who is locked in a badly-managed nursing home.
These images are designed to make voters feel a connection to the often lifeless candidate, and most people understand the ruse. The photos are still popular, however, as political strategists struggle to define candidates who seem to be more and more unqualified.
When flyers adorned with these images hit mailboxes, the average voter takes them straight to the trash. But not before having a brief glance at the pictures. That three-second look is often burned into the minds of voters – most of whom are too busy surviving to worry about politics- and is sometimes the only resonating memory of the candidate when the polls open.
“Hey, that millionaire holding the baby is just … like … me!”
Here’s state auditor Adam Edelen smiling down on the little people, who he hangs out with every day of the year just because, well, it’s good for the soul.
That’s when Adam’s not out hunting pheasants out of the back of his pickup truck, just like you and me!
Oh, except he’s using a $5,000 custom-made Browning over-under, not so much like that field-grade Remington 870 pump that you and I bought at K-Mart back when they sold guns. (Wait, is that Richie Farmer with him?)
But when it comes to embracing The Little Man, there is no Democrat who connects like our mayor.
This is our favorite campaign photo of all time and we doubt we’ll live long enough to find a better shot than this: The Mayor just hangin’ around the barber shop with the brothers at one of the West End barber shops Greg Fischer so famously advocated during his mayoral campaign.)
And bro’, this wasn’t posed. You can see this live any day of the week, because the Mayor is MAN ENOUGH to go to 36th and Dumesnil any damn time the spirit moves him.
Which is multiple times each day.
Now, if he could just remember to take that damn baby ….