2016 has been quite a momentous ride for Kentucky and the nation. A presidential election characterized by insults, scandals, allegations of corruption and a thoroughly discredited media ended with the surprise election of Donald Trump. Here in the commonwealth, a powerful and entrenched Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, Greg Stumbo, was ousted by the voters. Republicans won majority membership in the House and the new speaker will be Jeff Hoover of Jamestown.
What all this will mean in Washington and Frankfort in coming years depends on the performance of the winners. Can they deliver on their promises and commitments to change? Will they? The answer is not yet known, but it is clear that American voters and Kentucky voters chose change – a change from governing “with a pen and a telephone” without approval of the Congress, and a change in policies like Obamacare.
On major issues such as Obamacare, the debt, tax reform, illegal immigration and border security, school choice, sanctuary cities, regulatory excess, rebuilding our military, energy exploration and production, and myriad other issues, American voters and Kentucky voters came down on the side of President-elect Donald Trump. Kentucky also placed all three branches of state government in Republican hands for the first time in nearly a century.
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin now stands a better chance to get some of his reforms approved in the Kentucky House under Speaker Hoover. Bevin’s nemesis, Stumbo, had effectively blocked the governor’s major agenda proposals. The historic shift of power in Kentucky state government from Democrat to Republican seems to affirm voters’ appetite for change.
In the presidential election, candidate Donald Trump was a non-politician and a successful businessman who had to run not only against candidate Hillary Clinton but also against the mainstream media, which took sides against him and appeared to collude with his opponent. In addition, he ran without support, and in some cases, with opposition from the elite establishment in the Republican Party. His campaign was vastly outspent by his opponent’s, and he was universally dismissed and demeaned by pundits. The reaction of voters seemed to be a rejection of the pollsters, media pundits and consultants. Trump carried the previously “forgotten” middle class, the “outsiders” and especially those in “fly-over country.”
The losers were candidate Clinton and President Obama, who campaigned that his ideas were on the ballot. Other losers include Hollywood celebrities, the “establishment elites” in both major parties, and those college students, professors and administrators who have been unable to accept the outcome of the presidential election. The childishness displayed by many adult college students when learning the election results is stupefying: Students at Oberlin College complained of suffering breakdowns because school work was interfering with their political activism; a Yale professor responded to “heart-felt notes” from students “in shock” by making that day’s exam “optional”; at the University of Michigan distressed students were provided with Play Doh for comfort and distraction; Cornell had a “cry-in” with officials handing out tissues and hot chocolate; other reports on “therapy dogs,” students participating in a “primal scream” to express their frustration productively; and on and on. Is it any wonder that American business complains that an increasing number of college-graduate job applicants arrive unprepared to work and to take responsibility for their own lives?
In a letter to James Madison in 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” The 2016 presidential election and Kentucky’s legislative elections may reflect such rebellion. If the Trump and Bevin administrations cannot take steps to improve the nation’s and the commonwealth’s economy, their elections will have been a pointless gesture. But every opportunity exists to make 2017 a better year – maybe the best year yet. America’s can-do attitude is up to this job if good leadership and resolve guide our executive leaders. ■
Pat Freibert is a former Kentucky state representative from Lexington. She can be reached at [email protected]