By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

They are both rich, boast big but bumpy business backgrounds, and are seeking a top executive office in government. One has already beaten his better qualified Republican rivals. The other has a big lead over his.

The similarities between Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin and U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump do not stop there. They are alike in many other ways as well.

Bevin and Trump are – how shall I say this politely? – abrasive. Maybe confrontational. Perhaps pugnacious is a better word. You know what I mean so supply your own adjective. 

For example, Bevin just went to the Fancy Farm picnic – which is put on by a Catholic Church, mind you – and lectured Kentuckians about how the event showcased "the very worst elements of the political process."

"We are celebrating our divisions," the sanctimonious Bevin scolded, "and we are doing it in a childish way that frankly does not resolve any of the issues that we face."  This condescending self-righteousness comes from a man who went to a cockfighting rally last year and then lied about it.

Trump can be brusque and offensive, too. In the relatively short time since he entered the campaign he has accused Mexico of sending rapists to America, suggested that U.S. servicemen like Senator John McCain who get captured by the enemy are not heroes, and mocked the eyewear and intellect of former Texas governor Rick Perry.

This crudeness is apparently what attracts many voters. Many of those who would make Bevin governor and Trump president are supposedly fed up with political correctness and career politicians. The red meat rhetoric of Bevin and Trump seems to bypass the cerebrums and appeal directly to the brain stems of this alienated and disenchanted crowd.

While they are often direct, Bevin and Trump are at the same time slippery and elusive. To be both things simultaneously is an important part of their budding political talents.

The fact that Bevin and Trump are wildly inconsistent and absolutely unfettered by their past statements does not seem to bother those whose political instincts are akin to a sense of smell. They evidently don’t care that their candidate is saying something directly opposite of what he has said in the past as long as he is saying it in an aggressive, colorful way.

Sam Youngman of the Lexington Herald-Leader, who plays it as straight as anyone in the business, recently blistered Bevin for "reversing himself and blaming the media."  Bevin has, Youngman accurately stated, "been all over the map on health care, early childhood education, public-private partnerships for infrastructure, and his rocky past with Mitch McConnell. And that's not even a comprehensive list."

The Kentucky Democratic Party has produced a devastating web ad containing multiple examples of Bevin saying things and then later denying that he had. If Bevin’s condition is not "pathological" as U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign said it was last year and Democrats say now, it is nonetheless a quite remarkable phenomenon. 

Trump is likewise a man of many and often diametrically opposed positions. Campaign guru Karl Rove penned a tough piece for the Wall Street Journal wondering which Donald Trump would show up for the first GOP presidential debate.

Rove cited several specific examples of Trump being on both sides of most big issues, including single-payer health care, abortion, gun control, taxes, immigration, and support for liberal Democrats. 

Republicans rail about lies by Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but lots of these angry GOPers are apparently alright with deceit as long as it emanates from their side and is entertaining. And if it also happens to be offensive, well, so much the better.

In Kentucky’s recent Republican gubernatorial primary Bevin benefited from high name recognition left over from his failed Senate bid last year, a field of four dividing the low turnout vote, and what he successfully depicted as a food fight between the two morning line favorites, James Comer and Hal Heiner. 

Now Bevin is out there on his own representing the party.  Familiarity is breeding embarrassment, if not contempt, even among some Republicans ravenously hungry for a return to political power in Frankfort.

Trump also enjoys high name recognition as a television celebrity and benefits from a gigantic field of GOP presidential candidates. He has a long way to go, though, and sooner or later should have to get specific on policy instead of just dishing out insults and one-liners.

Perhaps by the time you read this that day will have already come, either in the first GOP presidential debate or after. The scary thing is that it might not make any difference at all.

America in 2015 may be past the point of political no return. If Bevin wins the governorship, Trump wins the presidential nomination, and then Trump picks Bevin as his vice-presidential running mate you will know that it is.

(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com.  His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com.  Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.)

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