DYCHE | Kim Davis sideshow obscuring real issues in Kentucky - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | Kim Davis sideshow obscuring real issues in Kentucky

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By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

Kentucky confronts several huge challenges.

State pensions have huge unfunded liabilities that negatively affect our government’s credit rating. Fixing this will take lots of money over a long time.

The tax code is outdated and overdue for overhaul. The unemployment rate is deceptively decent, but fundamentals from wages to workforce participation are not.

Medicaid consumes an ever-increasing share of state resources, crowding out other priorities. This will get worse when the federal subsidy for expanded Medicaid under Obamacare shrinks.

We are unhealthy. Our rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are among the nation’s worst.

The coal industry is sick, dying, or dead, depending on where you look. There no short-term solution for hard-hit Eastern Kentucky.

Education needs a boost at every level. So do social services.

We should elect our next governor based on who is best qualified to lead on these issues. Kentucky needs a bold leader who will try to do difficult things.

It looks like we may instead base that big decision on a sideshow about something that will soon be a non-issue. We appear poised to pick someone based on his supporting role in the recent reality show-cum-tent revival about Kim Davis, the Democrat and Rowan County clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.

This is unfortunately the sort of thing we so often do here in the Bluegrass State. It exemplifies why we have been stuck at the wrong end of so many state rankings for so long. 

The upcoming General Assembly will almost certainly change the law regarding marriage licenses to make reasonable accommodations for Davis and perhaps a small few clerks like her whose selective religiosity compels them to violate a solemn oath before God to execute their office according to law.

Breaking an oath seems a form of bearing false witness, and issuing the licenses does not go against anything Jesus is recorded to have taught. But Davis, who gets a nice taxpayer-funded salary, understandably prefers simultaneously serving God and mammon to resigning on principle.   

Governor Steve Beshear chose not to call an expensive special legislative session costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to change the licensing law a few months earlier than it otherwise will be. Perhaps he could have acted by executive order -- he has expansively construed such powers in other contexts -- but doing so was not his duty.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin is the big beneficiary of the Davis brouhaha. The Davis affair was a blessing to his campaign which was struggling due to his serial evasions and shape-shifting on the big issues listed above.

Bevin elbowed his way into the media spotlight from which GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was casting a large shadow. By doing so Bevin boosted his political fortunes and protected the substantial two-year investment of his private fortune he has devoted to winning some public office.

When future generations look back on the 2105 race for governor with bemusement, curiosity, or shame, the defining image will be a picture Bevin tweeted after federal judge David Bunning released Davis release from jail. In it, Bevin stands beaming between Davis and her bib overall-and-sun hat-clad husband.

This memorable photo is available here: https://twitter.com/MattBevin/status/641322639454269440/photo/1

It is a contemporary Kentucky version of Grant Wood’s iconic painting American Gothic. The only thing missing is a pitchfork.

Perhaps Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who never stops poking his party’s leadership, brought one. He is in the background, beady-eyed, inadvertently photobombing the Kentucky trinity.

Bevin’s tweet said, “Honored to have Kim Davis and her husband ask for me to visit them in the Carter County jail today … #WeAreKY.”

Did you note that all you national and international businesses? If so, please try to forget it when you are thinking about expanding or investing here and asking your executives to make Kentucky their new home.

To paraphrase Pontius Pilate, “Behold Kentucky!”  Decades of effort at dispelling certain stereotypes of our state went down the drain with this single click of Bevin’s Twitter account.

Bursting with self-satisfaction at his grandstanding success, Bevin soon declared, “The odds are I’m gonna be your next governor. It’s up to you to decide, but the odds are increasingly high.”

High odds, of course, indicate a longshot, not a favorite. The fact that this man who wants to be governor of the world’s horse racing capital does not understand how odds work may be unsettling, but it is relatively low on a long list of serious concerns about a Bevin administration.

There is still a chance the major issues will matter.  Tonight’s debate, in which Bevin will face Democrat Jack Conway and independent Drew Curtis, could help it happen.

But don’t bet on it. The odds against it really are high.

Why? Because #WeAreKY!

(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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