Saturday, November 16, 2019
Tying Up Loose Ends: A Last Word on Three Stories
Let's start with Kentucky's Governor race. As we left it, it appeared the Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), son of former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, had narrowly defeated Governor Matt Bevin (R) by just over 5000 votes or a margin of 0.36%. However, Governor Bevin refused to concede, citing possible voting "irregularities".
As a result, Bevin called for a recanvassing. Speaking from personal experience, voting "irregularities" in Kentucky are more common than not, so I can't say I blame him. Nevertheless, if Bevin was expecting to see the gap needed to win close, he was mistaken. None of the areas in question (mainly in the sparsely populated counties of Eastern Kentucky) could account for the 5189 votes he needed to pull out a victory. On Thursday, November 14th, the recanvassing was completed and not much changed. Beshear had won and Matt Bevin was out.
Bevin had counted on President Trump's popularity to help him win. However, what he failed to take into consideration was that Trump had lost much of his popularity among Kentuckians since 2015. Since taking office, Trump's approval rating across Kentucky has declined by almost 25%. Still, he remains popular among large segments of the population, especially in rural Kentucky but not in the heavily populated urban centers like Louisville, Lexington, or even Bowling Green for instance.
Instead, his opponent, Andy Beshear, set the tone by making the race about Bevin's "abrasive" personality. Like it or not, politics is a popularity contest. If voters have a favorable opinion of someone, be it their appearance or personality (it's called "relatability"), they'll likely give them their vote. If not, they won't, no matter how positive their record is. Yeah, it's pretty shallow and no way to elect representatives, but that's the way it is. The average voter rarely takes time to research a candidate's position on issues or their political record. I guess that's why those who promise the most seem to the best.
Earlier we took a look at America's vanishing Middle Class. As just about all of know, it keeps getting harder to make ends meet. We seem to increasingly have "more month than money". The gap between the rich and everyone has steadily been increasing for decades. According to an article in the May edition of Forbes, the richest top 10% control 70% of the wealth just in America, an increase 10% over the last ten years. Meanwhile, the top 1% controls over 1/3 of all the wealth. The article went on to say that the bottom 50% saw a net zero gain over the last 30 years.
In another article, this one from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, pointed out that in 1989 the top 10% controlled 42% of the nation's wealth. The middle 50% - 90% had the same--42%---and the poorest segment about 15%. In 2016 that had changed. The top 10% had 50% of the total wealth while the middle 50% - 90% had just 37% and the poorest shrunk to 13%.
Here's an interesting aside to consider. As anyone who has run for office knows, it takes a lot of money to get elected. Money, after all, is what you need to buy name recognition and get your message out there. Without it, you might as well not exist. If you want to run for the U.S. Senate, you better have $10 million just to get in the game. Think a U.S. Representative may be a better way to go? Great. Count on coughing up at least $5 million. Hillary Clinton spent $1.4 billion in running for president and still lost.
Statewide elections can be just as expensive. In 2002, Texas millionaire Tony Sanchez ran to become the state's first Hispanic Governor. He spent $65 million dollars to unseat Governor Rick Perry...and lost. In the 2018 Illinois Governor race, Democrat Jay Bob ("J.B.") Pritzker raised $175.1 million dollars to his opponent, Bruce Rauner's $79.7 million.
In Florida's 2018 Governor's race, Republican Rick DeSantis raised just under $59,000,000.00. His opponent in the race, Democrat Andrew Gillum, raised $55,062,506.84. Many political consultants will tell you that unless you can raise at least $20 million dollars, stay away from the top jobs. Even the down ticket offices are going to set you back a pretty penny.
As you may have noticed, we haven't heard anything recently about the Kurds. When I last wrote about them in October, there was a ceasefire in place. The U.S. had withdrawn a small contingent of troops from Northern Syria in order to allow Turkish troops to freely invade the area and push back our allies, the Kurds, from the area. There was a real concern that prisons holding ISIS fighters and guarded by the Kurds, would be left unguarded, thus allowing thousands of dangerous ISIS fighters the opportunity to escape (which indeed happened at two locations). Also, pro-Turkish fighters were able to assassinate a popular Kurdish diplomat and peace advocate, Hevrin Khalaf, along with eight others in a ambush.
Nevertheless, the situation did create a unique opportunity for the U.S. military. With the pullback of the American troops and announcement by President Trump of a pending American withdrawal of troops, the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, came out of hiding...albeit briefly. He had been long targeted by U.S. Special Forces who, it would appear, were just waiting for the right opportunity. That opportunity came on the evening of October 27th when members of the super secret Delta Force chased the ISIS leader into a cave outside of Syrian town of Barisha where, using a suicide vest, he blew himself up along with three of his children.
As for the Kurds, U.S. intelligence agencies (principally the CIA's Special Activities Division), confirmed that the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) provided essential intelligence information as to the movement of key ISIS leaders, including that of al-Baghdadi, as well as information regarding his compound and security. The U.S. State Department added that the attack was delayed briefly after President Trump announced the troop pullback ahead of the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria.
As a brief aside, it should be noted that Turkey's President Erdogan has repeatedly stated that he considers Kurdish nationalism to be a greater threat to Turkey and the region than that of ISIS and a Islamic Caliphate. We need to bear this in mind given that Turkey, which is 98% Muslim, is a major player in NATO and a key economic trading partner with the European Union.
The Kurds having been living in the same area---northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, northern Syria and southeastern Turkey--- for nearly 5000 years. The majority belong to the Shafi'i sect of Sunni Islam, there are also enclaves of Christians, Shia Islamists, Yazidisms, Zoroastrianists, Alevists and Yarsamists. They have been the victims of countless purges, exiles, and genocide. However, I should point out that part of the land they've long claimed also contains some of the richest oil and gas reserves in the region, so this is much more than about mere "nationalism" or a homeland for a persecuted people.
So that, as Paul Harvey so often said, is the rest of the story. As a writer, I felt it was necessary to put a final statement on each of these stories, which had been left open do to the ongoing nature of events at the time. You, the reader, deserve nothing less than the full story.
Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin concedes to Dem Andy Beshear in reelection bid
America's Humongous Wealth Gap is Widening Further
What Wealth Inequality in America Looks Like: Key Facts and Figures
Kurdish informant provided key intel in operation that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi