Clayton Stoess, Jr.
Kentucky Governor, Andy Beshear, has an approval rating well over 50%, which in most instances would all but guarantee winning re-election. However, being right on policy does not guarantee a vote in November.
I am reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, who said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Right now, just reminding people of your achievements does not create the connection that comes from the political sophistry practiced by the likes of Donald Trump and many other Trump acolytes, like Daniel Cameron, who is Beshear’s Republican opponent. Even if voters appreciate what has been accomplished by Beshear, that doesn’t guarantee a vote. The goal must be to help voters “feel” the positive effects of the job that Beshear has done and help voters “feel” the hope for a more positive future for all Kentuckians. It is all about Beshear’s message making a personal, emotional connection with voters so they “feel” his personal concern for the things that are important to them.
We must remember that Beshear only beat Bevin, the most unpopular Kentucky governor ever, by about 5,000 votes and every other constitutional race gave Republicans victories with many more votes. The Beshear campaign must never ignore just how inherently red Kentucky has become, and Beshear’s positive record must be messaged in a way that makes a very personal connection with the voters that have benefited and will benefit from Beshear’s re-election.
Connecting with older voters is a challenge for Gov. Beshear
Another challenge for Beshear will be connecting with older voters. Full disclosure, I am well over 50 years old, and I have been passionate to work with a progressive/Democratic campaign. To that end, I have participated in a number of webinars and chat groups about running progressive campaigns. During these webinars, a persistent point among the participants (all under 30) was how frustrating and difficult it was working with older volunteers and voters. It is more than ironic that most of this group of “woke” individuals who are rightly and vehemently averse to any prejudice against people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals seem quite comfortable with a prejudicial attitude against most anyone over 50. The over-50 voters are the most reliable group who will show up and vote on election day. The Beshear campaign, that is not immune to a young, progressive staff, must recognize the importance of identifying, reaching and connecting with this group of older Kentuckians.
Trouble connecting to rural voters
The other concern I have from interacting with progressive campaign “wokeness” is what seems to be a subliminal disdain by many young staffers for the average voter who isn’t as “woke” as they are. This helps explain the difficulty that many Democratic campaigns have had connecting with rural voters that comprise much of the electorate in Kentucky. Many Democratic campaigns seem to have lost sight of the fact that our democracy depends on gaining a winning number of voters (“woke” or “unwoke”) to show up and vote for their candidate. If one truly believes in the importance of our democracy, then one must have a deep and abiding faith in the ultimate wisdom of the entire electorate and work to include a very diverse group of voters throughout the entire state.
I truly want Beshear to win. I am greatly concerned about what an unrestrained, Republican, legislative super-majority might do without a Democratic governor to thwart or at least ameliorate the GOP attacks on voter rights, women’s and minority rights, benefits for children and the disabled, public education and teachers and the petty and pathetic focus on social issues like transgender children. In my opinion, Beshear and Democrats win on every issue for a majority of Kentuckians, but the question remains as to whether the Beshear campaign can effectively connect with voter feelings that will motivate a majority of voters to show up at the polls in support of his re-election.
Clayton Stoess, Jr. was born and raised in Kentucky. He was Phi Beta Kappa at Centre, then attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison for his Masters in Political Science. He has served as chairman of Oldham County Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustments for 12 years, chairman of the Democratic party through 4 election cycles, Mayor of Pewee Valley for 4 years and ran for state representative twice as a Democrat. His also worked in his family businesses in Crestwood that included Stoess Hardware, Stoess Manor, Crestwood Manor, HyPoint Development and Stoess Funeral Home.