Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign website unveiled its “issues” page today, which quite a few liberal Kentuckians might, in fact, take issue with.
The page lead off with energy, and to the surprise of few, it is all about taking on Obama’s so-called “War on Coal”:
“I strongly oppose President Obama’s attack on Kentucky’s energy industry. This Administration has taken direct aim at Kentucky’s coal industry, crippling our state’s largest source of domestic energy and threatening thousands of jobs. Washington Democrats and Republicans need to be realistic about what powers our nation and recognize that developing Kentucky’s supplies of coal is crucial.”
In the world of reality, it’s actually the plummeting price of natural gas and the free market that’s doing the heavy lifting on the coal industry’s decline. But hey, we’re dealing with Kentucky Democrats here, so to them I say…
Many Kentucky liberals were expecting this from Grimes on coal, but hoping they’d be able to hold their nose on this issue while continuing to proudly support Grimes because she’ll have a liberal stance on most other issues. While Grimes comes out against the Paul Ryan Medicare plan and privatization schemes for this and Social Security, the next section, “cutting spending,” will raise some eyebrows:
“I believe that there is a responsible path to balancing the budget. We need to start by going line-by-line through the budget to cut waste, fraud and abuse and we must ensure that tax dollars are being used smartly and efficiently. Nearly 680 renewable energy initiatives across 23 federal agencies and their 130 sub-agencies costing taxpayers $15 billion is certainly not an efficient use of taxpayer dollars.  I also believe that we can make our Medicare and Medicaid programs more efficient without slashing coverage. Medicare spending is unsustainable. But rather than pushing for privatization, or vouchers, or shifting costs to seniors – supported by Mitch McConnell – we should be looking for ways to spend smarter on our entire health care system. And to ensure our country never goes into debt again, I will fight in the U.S. Senate to pass a balanced budget amendment.“
A balanced budget amendment remains possibly — as Ezra Klein called it — “the worst idea in Washington.” Or, as Reagan economic adviser Bruce Bartlett called it, “quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment I think I have ever seen. It looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin.” It all sounds so lovely — and maybe Grimes will come up with one of those half-baked, Blue Dog Democrat alternative “balanced budget amendments” that isn’t as bad but still makes zero sense — but it’s simply horrible policy. Maybe Grimes will fill us in on where the massive cuts in the federal budget will come from in order to balance the budget this quickly, or maybe she’ll just go the whole nine yards and endorse cut, cap and balance. Or maybe it’s just a campaign platitude that sounds good to conservative Democrats and means absolutely nothing.
As for the liberal policy stances on this page… well, there aren’t any that I can see. There’s no defense of any particular part of the Affordable Care Act, and no talk of regulating Wall Street. In fact, regulation is only mentioned in terms of eliminating it to create jobs. And opposing the privatization of Social Security and Medicare isn’t liberal… that’s completely mainstream common sense.
I’m sure Grimes will espouse some liberal positions during the campaign — she’s already come out for the Violence Against Women Act and equal pay protections, though those are also very mainstream — but what we’re seeing here is the very public attempt to separate herself from President Obama and position herself in Kentucky’s political center. Highlighting plans like a balanced budget amendment and vilifying regulation may accomplish this in theory, unless 1) conservative voters don’t buy it and are convinced by the millions of dollars worth of TV ads attacking her as a commie/Obama liberal, and 2) enough Kentucky liberals totally check out from the race and sit at home next November and drag away thousands of potential votes in Louisville and Lexington to affect the outcome in a close race.
But I’d guess that most liberals will be completely disgusted by this, yet vote for Grimes anyway because of three words: Addison Mitchell McConnell. Only time will tell…