Ky Dems Look to "Ditch Mitch" in Clean Sweep of Incumbent GOP

11/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Voters on November 4, 2008, will be genuine Deciders, using the election not only to select a president but to clean house--to clear a path by getting the corrupt old political machines out of the way. By getting rid of people who have been in Congress far too long and picked up a dangerous level of bad habits, we can give our chosen president and representatives a realistic ability to act.

Up for November re-election in Kentucky, for example, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Addison. S. "Mitch" McConnell, is effectively the boss of the national Republican machine. In Congress since 1984, McConnell according to the Center for Responsive Politics has received most of his contributions from the business sector and much of that from outside of Kentucky. A "kingmaker," he is also able to funnel Republican money and support to U.S. Senate and House candidates, to say nothing of the Kentucky state and local races of his choosing. He gets support, some say obedience, from many other politicians in return. Who does that massive power serve? A careful listing of his overall voting record suggests that forced to choose between contributors and voters, he responds to contributors.

McConnell routinely protects the river of corporate money that swamps the U.S. Congress. True, senators McCain and Russell Dana "Russ" Feingold [D-WI] got a primitive, watered down campaign finance reform package through the Congress in spite of McConnell's best efforts to stop them. Undaunted, McConnell became the main plaintiff in a test suit before the U.S. Supreme Court, getting that weak law declared unconstitutional McConnell advertises his "perfect Conservative voting score," yet is apparently a state socialist when the interests of huge corporations are on the line. According to McClatchy Group newspapers, McConnell led the battle for the $700 billion bailout. That infuriates Conservatives. Progressives for their part can get queasy just thinking about McConnell's voting patterns. For a YouTube version of McConnell's stands, see Elephant Feathers.

Here's the good news. Though staggeringly powerful on the national and world stage, McConnell must plead with Kentucky's voters every six years to return him to Washington D.C., and this year, 2008, is an election year for him. True, so far only Kentucky groups headed by millionaires have successfully run against the well-heeled McConnell organization, but at least they are making headway. Based in Louisville, wealthy Democrat John Yarmuth in 2006 struck the first blow by taking a seat in the House of Representatives away from Ann Northup, who had been in Congress since 1997 and remains a prominent part of the McConnell network. Forewarned by that loss, McConnell threw three million dollars into his primary this year, downing a truck driver who ran against him. At that point however another Louisville millionaire backed by progressives and populists, Democrat Bruce Lunsford, popped up. Even many of those voters who do not admire Lunsford are eager to use him as a wedge to strike at the heart of one of the state's major political machines.

The November 4th McConnell-Lunsford race therefore promises to be close, and the Yarmuth race with Northup (who is fighting to regain "her" seat) should prove interesting as well. Arguably this is not party politics, but anti-party politics, as voters, who are hyper alert now, vote the machines out and keep a weather eye on the short term people they elect.As is true of every other state, voters in Kentucky have a lot to gain by throwing out those incumbents who have been in power during the drastically mismanaged last few decades.

Born in the American Revolution, Kentucky has extra reasons. Because of its natural wealth, Kentucky has been hit hard and relentlessly. When it was still reeling from the Civil War [in which Kentucky had been neutral and Louisville had sided with the North], Kentucky was slammed by megacorporations which beginning in the 1870s took over U.S. federal, state and local governments, bringing with them the political bosses. Kentuckians at first lead the Second American Revolution aimed at restoring popular control. They were however unable to pass initiative, direct referendum and reform, the tools of direct democracy enacted in 23 other states to shift control from corrupt legislatures to the people. The green land, shot through with mountains, rivers and streams, has as a result been raped for over a century by coal mining corporations, timber barons, modern multinationals and the politicians they buy. The money needed for education and health flows out of state, and for decades Kentuckians have survived, barely, by shifting funds from the prosperous cities of Louisville, Lexington and now Newport. That "solution" undercuts the cities. Politicians on the payroll of corporations are the problem, but have been hard to dislodge and while in office, have distorted our national and state laws so that their corruption is technically legal. Enough!

In the last few years, Kentuckians have canned an openly corrupt Democratic governor, then an openly corrupt Republican governor. Emblematic of the permanent politicians who skate just inside the lines that they themselves draw, Mitch McConnell is logically next.

Granted, the Kentucky Ditch Mitch/Pitch Mitch groups face an uphill battle in getting the word out to their fellow voters. In spite of coverage from the iconoclastic Lexington Herald Leader, a very supportive Mike Bailey of Daily Kos, and a tiny alternative rag, LEO Weekly, founded and once headed by Yarmuth, there is precious little mainstream media attention given to the critical importance of the McConnell race and to those like it in other states. Thanks however to the surge of young populist and progressive voters and the generalized disgust with Washington insiders, longstanding insiders like McConnell are suddenly, visibly--one hopes justifiably--concerned that they are on their way out.