One of the big questions heading into the general election of Kentucky’s giant Senate race is whether Sen. Mitch McConnell will start pivoting to the ideological center, now that he has successfully avoided becoming the next Dick Lugar by voting with the Tea Party over the past few years. This morning in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, McConnell had a quote that caught my eye, referring to America’s “shared responsibility for the weak.”
Wait, we have a “shared responsibility” for the downtrodden? I’m used to McConnell throwing out the phrase “Nanny State” to describe such sentiments, so who exactly is he referring to?
Is McConnell referring to the 31,000 Kentuckians — or the 200,000 veterans nationally — who have lost their unemployment insurance benefits because Congressional Republicans have blocked its extension? That number is set to grow to over 53,000 in Kentucky by the end of the year if Congress takes no action, so I’m curious to know if McConnell believes there is any shared responsibility to help them, or if he agrees with Rand Paul that these benefits are a disservice to them.
Or maybe McConnell is referring to the nearly 900,000 Kentuckians who’ve had their SNAP benefits cut and now face a more difficult struggle to feed their family and pay their bills? The largest portion of those folks are in eastern Kentucky, which has seen large scale layoffs in the coal industry, and includes the roughly 28,000 veterans who depend on food stamps through SNAP. Do we have a shared responsibility to them, besides cutting the capital gains tax and gutting regulations on the financial services industry?
Or perhaps McConnell is referring to the people who now finally have access to affordable insurance through Kynect because of the Affordable Care Act? This would include the over 300,000 low-income Kentuckians who now have Medicaid coverage, as well as those who were able to purchase private insurance at a reduced rate because of federal subsidies, most of which did not previously have insurance because they were denied coverage or couldn’t afford it. McConnell has repeatedly called for repealing the Affordable Care Act in its entirely, which would strip nearly all of these people from their new coverage, so does this “shared responsibility” extend to them, as well?
Or was McConnell referring to the over 300,000 Kentuckians whose wages would be raised by increasing the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour? McConnell has said in the past that this is “the last thing we want to do,” and his campaign manager called such a move “class warfare” against the rich. So do we have a shared responsibility to help these full-time workers support their families with something resembling a living wage, or is this just Nanny State tyranny of corporate citizens like Walmart?
Immigration reform, funding for VA hospitals, equal pay for women, domestic violence protections under the Violence Against Women Act… I could go on and on with such questions.
So is McConnell — free from his supposed Tea Party shackles and Dick Lugar nightmares — now ready to pivot to the center and begin to meet halfway with Democrats on these issues so that his struggling constituents in Kentucky can get a hand up? Or is this just hollow rhetoric in an election year to make a man with horrid approval and favorable ratings seem like a caring human being with blood in his veins, while he doesn’t change his behavior on the Senate floor the slightest bit.
I have my guesses, but we should soon find out.