Several political pundits have recently asked, when Republicans slash social programs, does this give the Democrats a real political edge. Well, one of the odd-year elations on November 5, 2019 gives us something of an answer.
On Tuesday voters in Kentucky elected Andy Beshear as governor. Beshear is a liberal democrat in a very Republican state. In 2016 Kentucky voted for Donald Trump by thirty percentage points. It looks like Beshear won because his opponent, the previous governor, Matt Bevin, viciously slashed social programs in health care and education when he was in office.
As an article in the New York Times on November 6 points out, Mr Bevin was a very unfriendly opponent to many popular social programs:
“It has been four long, brutal years since November 2015, when Kentuckians elected Mr. Bevin by a narrow margin that, in retrospect, can be seen as a harbinger for the election of Donald Trump. Since then, Mr. Bevin has sought to strip away health care from hundreds of thousands of people statewide. Reproductive rights have been steadily eroded, until only one clinic is left to serve the entire state. Kentucky’s state-funded universities and colleges have suffered draconian budget cuts. Teachers’ pensions, already paid by them into the system, have been under constant threat.
Then there are his statements. Mr. Bevin has insulted women, people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. Kentuckians, the poor and most infamously, teachers protesting his pension cuts, accusing them of aiding in the sexual assault of children by their absences from the classroom.
It seems that the people in one of the poorest states in American did not like being treated in this way. This leads us to the ask the question, what happens when Republicans slash social programs?
Well, it looks like when Republicans cut social programs, even in a solidly Republican state they don’t get reelected. Sometimes anyway. Atlantic Magazines Alex Waner said that “As it turns out, when the governor slashes social programs in one of the poorest states in America, voters don’t want to re-elect him. Even if the president tells them to.”
This is a strategy that we have seen before. In the 2018 midterms Democrats won a lot of elections by pointing out that Republicans cut social programs that many people depend on. As it turns out many people in poor states like Kentucky like their Obama Care and Medicaid. And when these programs get cut, they toss out the cutters.
This is a point that was made by Robert Kuttner in his book The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy. Kuttner says in this book that Democrats can beat Republicans by showing voters that Democrats can be good for their wallets and pocketbooks. And he describes quite a few Democrats who have actually done this in the past.
But Democrats shouldn’t not get to excited about this yet. In the national elections on November fifth, not all of the Democrats running in Republican states won. Like in Mississippi for example. And many pundits are saying that Beshear’s win was an anomaly something like that of Senator Doug Jones’s in the 2017 election in Alabama.
It looks like some pocketbook issues may convince some Republicans some of the time to vote for liberal democratic social issues. But there are other times when this clearly does not work, at least not yet. For instance Elizasbeth Warren is proposing what must be the largest social plan in all of history to the American middle class. Yet polls are saying she will lose to Trump in the most important battle states of the election.
I can only hope that Warren will be able to explain to the voters that what she is proposing will indeed be a huge boon to their pocketbooks and to their lives in general.
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