Want to see the future?
You had better pay attention to Tuesday’s votes in Ohio and Kentucky
The best way to explain electoral politics in America is to imagine a room filled with toddlers. The kids are in constant motion and their attention moves quickly from one toy to another. It takes something of overwhelming interest to compel the attention of the preschoolers. If you want the attention of that room, you had better bring a puppy.
Voters are busy people, and though politics is an interest, other things win more attention. American voters are notorious for focusing on an election—even a presidential election—later than you might think. Today’s off-year election doesn’t even rank attention in much of the country. It should.
On both sides of the aisle, the political class knows that off-year elections are consequential in themselves. More importantly, they often reveal the future. Count on both parties factoring the results of today’s voting into their 2024 strategies. So what is at stake?
I’ll be watching two statewide election results most closely.
First, Ohio’s Issue 1. This vote has to stand at the top of the list. The pro-life movement won a historic victory with the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022, but abortion rights activists and the Democratic Party quickly pivoted to defend abortion through Biden administration policies and by defeating pro-life candidates and initiatives. Abortion activists scored major victories in Kansas and Kentucky, defeating pro-life state measures at the ballot box. Leaders in the Democratic Party have seized upon abortion rights as an election issue, warning voters against “radical” pro-life candidates and measures. Of course, the abortion rights activists hide the truly radical character of their own position. The pro-abortion argument is increasingly presented as a demand that no abortion be denied and that all abortions be paid for by taxpayers or medical insurance.
If approved by voters, Issue 1 would put abortion rights into the state’s constitution, inserting a “right to reproductive freedom.” The opening statement of the proposed amendment sets the issues squarely: “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on: contraception; fertility treatment; continuing one’s own pregnancy; miscarriage care; and abortion.” In a subsequent paragraph, the amendment would allow for some restrictions on abortion after fetal viability, but Ohio’s existing legislation limiting abortion after detection of a heartbeat would be struck down. The adoption of Issue 1 would be a huge loss for the pro-life movement. That loss would also underline the fact that, if the measure is approved by Ohio voters, pro-lifers would be 0-3 in big state-wide votes since the reversal of Roe. That would be devastating, and the pro-abortion movement knows the importance of that score.
Next comes the election for Kentucky governor. Incumbent Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is running for a second term against the Republican nominee, current Attorney General Daniel Cameron. I can think of no election in Kentucky that has ever drawn this kind of national interest. Beshear is an anomaly in that he is a Democratic governor in a state that has not voted for a Democratic nominee for president since 1996. His father was a two-term governor and much of Andy Beshear’s political capital can be traced to simple name recognition. That was especially important in winning the governor’s mansion the first time, four years ago.
This time, his greatest asset is that voters tend to like him—even as they oppose many of his positions and policies. The bottom line is that Andy Beshear looks good on television and comes across like a personable fellow with a very attractive family. He speaks soothingly and appears unthreateningly, usually looking like he is ready for a round of golf. But his policies are radical on many issues, and he is way out of step with Kentucky voters on moral issues—if they are paying attention.
He is for abortion rights in a supposedly pro-life state. He vetoed a bill that would have protected minors from puberty-blockers and so-called “gender-affirming” surgery (his veto was overridden by the Republican-dominated legislature). He is a social liberal who paints himself as a Norman Rockwell figure and the epitome of family values. If his strategy works, count on lots of swing-state Democrats to follow his lead.
If Republican Daniel Cameron is elected, he would be Kentucky’s first black governor. He is a solid conservative who has championed the cause of the unborn and has used his office to take a stand for the conservative values that reflect the vast majority of Kentucky’s counties and communities. On the moral issues alone, Daniel Cameron is separated by light years from the social progressivism of Andy Beshear. The consequences of this election in the Bluegrass State will be huge. Conservative voters will also vote for Russell Coleman, a former U.S. attorney, as the next Kentucky attorney general. As Cameron has made clear, the attorney general role is vital, and Coleman is uniquely qualified by experience and conviction.
Voters in Ohio are not just considering an amendment to the state’s constitution. They are voting on a matter of life and death. Voters in Kentucky are voting for governor, not fraternity president. They had better vote accordingly. The advocates for abortion rights and LGBTQ activism know that Andy Beshear is their candidate—and that he has worked hard for them in his first term. Kentucky voters had better pay attention and vote their convictions. Attorney General Cameron has put himself on the line for these causes and many others. Voters need to move him into the governor’s office, and fast.
Count on this: The rest of the nation will be watching what happens today in Ohio and Kentucky. In these two votes, we will likely see the future of American politics taking shape.
These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.