Op-Ed

Larry Dale Keeling: Expect same results from new world order

Larry Clark
Larry Clark Lexington Herald-Leader

FRANKFORT — This and that as we await the advent of the latest new world order:

Thing is, though, the results we can expect from the incoming new world order in the nation's capital won't be remarkably different from the results we got under the outgoing old world order.

Yes, Republicans will control both houses of Congress come January. And yes, Kentucky's own Sen. Mitch McConnell will achieve the goal of his political life by becoming Senate majority leader.

But under the chamber's weird rules, Senate Democrats still have enough votes to make it difficult for the Republican majority to check off a lot of items on its to-do list. And even if Republicans get around those weird rules and start getting some of the to-do list items out of the Senate, they are way short of having the votes needed to override vetoes by President Barack Obama.

Gridlock is gridlock, no matter what world order is in place. We're trading gridlock between a Republican House and a Democratic president backed by a Democratic Senate for gridlock between a Republican Congress and a Democratic president who has demonstrated a willingness to use his executive powers and whose veto pen definitely is mightier than a slim red majority in the Senate.

Our national political pendulum swung a bit further right Nov. 4, but not far enough for Republicans to celebrate wildly or for Democrats to mourn the end of the world. Congress will spend another two years doing not much of anything big or controversial, and we'll see which set of rascals voters throw out in 2016.

At the state level, Kentucky's old world order remained largely intact after Nov. 4. Democrats' singular achievement in the election was keeping their 54-46 House majority afloat while a red tide was carrying McConnell to a 15-point win over Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republicans were adding votes to their Senate majority.

Grimes helped by keeping McConnell preoccupied with his own re-election. But House Democratic leaders, aided by Gov. Steve Beshear, also raised a ton of money and used it not only to help incumbents hold onto their seats but also to field well-financed candidates who forced Republicans to play defense in districts they didn't expect to have to defend, thus keeping the GOP from concentrating on taking out a few vulnerable Democrats.

Continued Democratic control of the House likely will expand the field in the party's 2015 gubernatorial primary. Some potential challengers to Attorney General Jack Conway, the only Democrat in the race now, might have been dissuaded by the thought of having to deal with two hostile General Assembly chambers if elected. With that potential deterrent out of the way for now, I expect Conway to soon be facing some primary opposition.

Had she lost the U.S. Senate race to McConnell by a significantly smaller margin, Grimes' name might have been in the 2015 mix as a running mate for a gubernatorial candidate (she's way young to lead a ticket). Now, her best course would be to win re-election as secretary of state, continue to build her resume and bide her time.

Despite the magnitude of her loss, which defied any of the pre-election polling, Grimes proved herself as a formidable, tireless campaigner who can raise major bucks. She earned the gratitude of Democrats for taking on a challenge more seasoned party veterans ducked, a chit she can cash in at her own leisure.

With this race, Grimes established her creds as a serious player in the future of Kentucky Democratic politics. I fully expect her to aim for something far higher than secretary of state again, perhaps in the not too distant future. But in 2015, she would be wise to hold onto what's she got.

And when she does aim higher again, she would be wise to bring more pros into her campaign.

Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark's decision not to seek re-election to that post amps up interest in House Democrats' leadership races leading up to the General Assembly's January organizational session. On the other side of the aisle, you have to wonder if Republicans disappointed by their party's failure to capture the House in a very red election year in Kentucky will be prompted to make some changes in their leadership.

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