Obamacare Is Winning in Kentucky, Thanks to Steve Beshear

The RP’s column this week for The Daily Beast was his most popular ever, blowing up the Internets.  Here’s an excerpt:

Politics in my old Kentucky home has, for centuries, been awash in irreconcilable contradictions.

We stuck with the Union in favor of our favorite son, Lincoln, but then joined in common cause with the Confederacy after the Civil War had ended. A century later, we boasted some of the nation’s most progressive civil rights laws; yet, to this date, we still feature many of America’s most segregated societies. And while Kentucky’s been one of the largest beneficiaries of the New Deal/Great Society welfare state, the dominant strain in our politics remains a fierce anti-government, anti-tax worldview.

Kentucky’s perplexing and hypocritical aversion to big government has been exploited brilliantly by our senior senator Mitch McConnell, who’s capitalized on our cultural resentment of elite interference to transform the Bluegrass State into a deep-red citadel in federal elections. More recently, our junior senator Rand Paul catapulted McConnell’s vision much further than Mitch intended, placing Kentucky in the crosshairs of the Tea Party revolution. But while these two political icons and their surrogates clash over the depth of government slashing, they’ve been steadfastly united behind one common vision:  the defeat, and, more recently, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

It’s no coincidence then that Obamacare is beginning to expose the political fault line that divides the two Kentuckys. The GOP’s effective—and quite misleading—messaging plays into the anti-establishment populace’s greatest fears about out-of-control outside interference:  the myth of a government-run-health-care system, engineered by a President with socialist tendencies (and whose skin pigmentation and exotic name frankly heighten popular anxiety in some of the nation’s least educated counties).  And yet, when you wade through the propaganda and understand the law’s true impact, Kentucky needs the Affordable Care Act…desperately. It’s a state consistently ranked near the bottom of nearly every national health survey, where one out of every six citizens remains uninsured.

With our long-standing tradition of timid politicians fearful of incurring the wrath of the anti-government mobs, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Kentucky join much of Red America and reject both Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion to the working poor, as well as its option of establishing a state-run health benefit exchange to provide affordable health care to the remaining uninsured.

But in a delicious irony, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul’s home state may ultimately serve as the proving ground of Obamacare’s success. That’s due to the political chutzpah of one man: Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.

Click here to read the full column.


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