There are situations in life that raise questions that are so fundamentally outrageous that at some point in your adult life all you can do is look quizzically and say “But why…?”
There have been a lot of those questions in the last four years. And a lot of them for me have centered on Kentucky.
Voters in Kentucky have elected Mitch McConnell to the U.S. Senate 7 times including the 2020 election. That means if he serves out the term he will be sworn into in January 2021, McConnell will have been a Senator for Kentucky for 42 years.
Think about that for a minute. What does it take to hold the same job for an entire lifetime? Despite being vastly disliked, McConnell has been especially effective at building himself up and campaigning.
My in-law family lives in Louisville, which is a blue spot in the sea of deep red that is the Commonwealth. None of them are especially fond of Mitch and yet, even though the Democrats ran a war veteran, Marine fighter pilot moderate who at one point actually endorsed Donald Trump, against him, she couldn’t get any traction with them either.
Kentuckians seem to consistently vote against their own best interests if you just look at the facts.
In 2018, US News & World Report ranked Kentucky overall 40th based on quality metrics in 8 categories
- health care (#44)
- education (#38)
- economy (#39)
- infrastructure (#26)
- opportunity (#20)
- fiscal stability (#45)
- crime & corrections (#11)
- natural environment (#12)
That Kentucky ranks 26th in infrastructure doesn’t surprise me. Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell’s wife, is secretary of transportation. Draw your own conclusions. Though according to this commenter on Quora, Kentucky gets a D grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers for its infrastructure.
With these stats you would think that voters in Kentucky would look at their federal representation and make changes. But they don’t. And they don’t consistently.
Go ahead…ask “But why…” now. I’ll wait.
There are a lot of those “But why…” questions floating around in the world.
- Why despite his apparent, flaming misogyny, did 52% of white women vote for Donald Trump in 2016?
- Why did 56% of them do it again in 2020?
- Why in 2016 did 28% of Latinos vote for Trump? Perhaps they liked being called rapists and criminals.
- Why did 32% of them doing it again in 2020?
We can write off some of the increase in numbers from 2016 to 2020 simply to increased voter turnout. More people = higher percentage in every category.
But that increased voter turnout doesn’t explain the existence of those numbers to begin with in the face of the actual words coming out of the candidate’s mouth.
At our house, one long boozy afternoon this summer, we decided those “But why…?” questions come down to any one or a combination of the following reasons:
“Because people…” – Fill in whatever reason you like here: Because people are lazy, short-sighted, emotional, contrary, unable to see systems. Because, as James Cameron so aptly wrote in 1991: It is in our nature to destroy ourselves.
White supremacy – This one should be pretty obvious. Racism and white supremacy are woven in the fabric of American culture at so basic a level getting them out is going to be like untying the Gordian Knot.
The patriarchy – This one is holding the hand of the previous one in that fabric of American culture. Black political activists, at least those in the circles I observe, tend to say that white women vote the same as white men. The almost total failure of second wave feminism shores up this arguement.
The next time you have one of thos “But why…” questions come up pause and see if any of these answers apply. I’m betting they will.