We’ve made great strides in American politics over the past decade. Voter turnout models are amazingly accurate and putting together a first class ground game can elect even the most unappealing candidate.
At the same time, we’ve gone backwards in an enormous way that is downright embarrassing.
Over the past week, Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes who seeks to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is providing a textbook example of the latter phenomenon.
Her attempt to do what she deems is politically “smart” is making her look incredibly stupid.
Not once, but twice, when asked who she voted for in the last presidential election, Grimes refuses to say. She claims her silence is a “matter of principle” and that her respect for the constitutional right to a secret ballot forces her to adopt this stance.
In a televised debate last night, Grimes stuck to her guns and said, “I’m not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or members of the media.”
No, she’d rather look like a moron.
Despite her steadfast desire to fall on her sword for this “constitutional right” she’s more than happy to tell the world that she is a Clinton Democrat. Naturally, this begs the question of whether or not she actually voted for Hillary Clinton in her earlier presidential bid. Evidently, using Grimes’ logic, even if folks back then saw her driving around with a Hillary bumper sticker on her car, we can’t automatically assume when she voted that’s who she chose. Perhaps when she entered the voting booth, in a weak moment, she changed her mind. According to Grimes, we’ll never know and it’s none of our business anyway.
Also, she served as a delegate to the Democrat National Convention in 2012. It’s amazing that she’d take the time to participate in that highly partisan charged activity and then secretly vote for Mitt Romney in the election, but now she’s leaving us to wonder.
And guess what? We have a constitutional right to speculate who she voted for as much as she does not to tell us.
Clearly, she’s now left it open to speculation that it’s actually possible that she voted for Romney and just doesn’t want to say so. I highly doubt it, but that’s about the only conclusion one can draw from her steadfast refusal to state what should be the obvious.
As Kentucky’s chief election officer, she claims it’s important that she maintains this silence. Perhaps she should read a little about her own state’s history. Kentucky was, in fact, the last state in the union to adopt the secret ballot. Until 1891, Kentuckians voted by oral ballot. Back then, only the fact that women weren’t allowed to vote could have permitted her to keep the public guessing about who she preferred.
How Grimes got herself in this pickle probably has a lot to do with the regressive aspect of American politics today. Politicians now live and die by polls and focus groups to the point that every word they utter is carefully scripted and followed down to the letter. It’s presumed that deviating from the precisely formulated script could prove disastrous.
Recent history shows that there is indeed some truth to this. Candidates who’ve strayed from the script oftentimes find themselves sounding utterly ridiculous and losing elections. Still, candidates who fear simply stating the truth or sharing what they really think no matter what can sound like Grimes . . . stupid.
I have lots of relatives in Kentucky, and I’ve spent a lot of time there. I know that not everyone loves Mitch McConnell and that Democrats see an opportunity to pick off a Republican seat and a GOP leader no less. Still, I’m very confident that even the most McConnell weary voter in Kentucky isn’t going to trade him in for someone who either isn’t very smart or isn’t very honest.
Given the overwhelming number of Kentuckians who voted for Romney over Obama, it’s no wonder Grimes wants to distance herself. In order to have any hope of winning, however, she is going to need diehard Obama fans (and believe it or not there still are some) to come out and support her. Doubtful they’ll bother if she can’t even step up and say she voted for their guy.
It’s not too late. Grimes could make news and confess that she actually voted for Romney or put this entire story to bed and admit she voted for Obama.
Sticking to this ridiculous tactic of not saying anything, however, will almost assure that fewer and fewer Kentuckians will bother to vote for her at all and if they do they’ll certainly be afraid to admit it themselves later.