Is there a larger message in Tuesday’s special election results in Bullitt County’s 49th House district?
Democrat Linda Belcher, who was unseated in 2016 by Republican preacher Dan Johnson as the district voted heavily for President Donald Trump, easily won back her seat against Johnson’s widow, Rebecca.
The special election was needed because Johnson killed himself Dec. 13 after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a devastating, well-reported expose of the colorful preacher’s shady behavior, including that police investigated allegations he molested a 17-year-old girl at his home in 2012.
The state Democratic Party hailed Belcher’s victory as a harbinger of backlash against Trump, Gov. Matt Bevin and Republican legislative policies. State Republican Party Tres Watson dismissed the special election as “anything but normal from the beginning and offers little resemblance to what we should expect in November.”
Johnson’s reaction was to claim voter fraud, even though election officials say they received no complaints.
“I’ve heard from and about people all day long saying they went to vote for me at the correct polling place and were refused the opportunity to vote,” she said. “It’s like we’re in a third world country.”
Good grief. If only Trump hadn’t disbanded his fraudulent voter fraud commission last month, Johnson could have found a job there.
I suspect both Democrats and Republicans were engaging in a lot of wishful thinking Tuesday night. My optimistic view is that if there is a larger message in this special election it is that voters are waking up to the fact that blind partisanship and one-party government is a road to disaster.
Hillary Clinton turned off many voters who considered her dishonest. Yet, Trump has shown himself to be flagrantly dishonest. He is a compulsive liar, his administration is a daily circus of scandal and his plutocratic policies target the working-class Americans who voted for him, even as he claims otherwise.
Could it be that voters are finally realizing that facts matter, honesty matters and transparency matters? Politics is more than a sport where you root for your team no matter what; it has real consequences.
What does it say about politicians when they repeatedly lie? When their statements and actions are so hypocritical as to make your head spin?
What does it mean when politicians break tradition and refuse to make their tax returns public so voters can judge their potential conflicts of interest? Or when they hide from a questioning news media and only communicate through tweets, videos and scripted “public” events?
What does it say, for example, when one party develops sweeping public employee pension “reform” legislation in secret with no input from public employees?
Politics isn’t show biz; it’s real life. And real life will only get better if voters start holding politicians accountable for their words and deeds. Without checks and balances, Democracy perishes, no matter who’s in charge.