By Greg Markley
The town of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, recently “elected” a French bulldog as mayor, in its annual fundraiser. More than 22,000 votes were cast, and canine candidate Wilbur Beast won. But on Tuesday a real Kentucky candidate, with an unusual nickname, won election to the U.S. Senate for the seventh time.
Mitch McConnell is considered to be the most powerful Senate Majority Leader since Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s. Many Kentuckians and most conservatives admire him. But liberal funny-man Jon Stewart does not. “He is a slow-talking tortoise man,” said Stewart. “He is biologically a tortoise.” Graciously, the senator replied, “I love it. He didn’t hurt my feelings.”
I’m not a clairvoyant, but I usually add my own insights when predicting political results. This year, I again studied various factors (polls, finances, media skills, ideology, national and state issues, etc.) But for the presidential race, I knew his weak handling of the pandemic would hurt President Trump’s totals.
Many analysts posited Trump would get about 65%–66% due to his wide appeal in Alabama. I alone said that the virus would detract a wee bit from his vote percentage, giving him 62%, not the expected 65%. I was on-target as he garnered 62.3%. (Incidentally, George W. Bush’s win over John Kerry in 2004 is almost identical to Trump’s victory over Joe Biden, here in 2020.)
In 1984, asked if he would bet his house that President Reagan would defeat former VP Walter Mondale, the witty President Nixon said: “And I wouldn’t bet an outhouse that Mondale would win.” Similarly, U.S. Senator Doug Jones was on his way out unless a terrible scandal against his opponent surfaced.
Jones lost to political newcomer Tommy Tuberville by 20%. This is very bad news for any Democrat who takes on a U.S. Senate or gubernatorial campaign. Reason: Jones spent a decent amount of money, ran a race that had a strong message of conciliation and hope (One Alabama), and worked diligently to show he works well with Republicans, but he still lost by a wide margin.
In 2018, Walt Maddox would have benefited from more money and a more exciting approach, but he has been successful as a chief executive (Mayor of Tuscaloosa) and was a youthful 45 when defeated by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2018. I figured despite his liberal views on subjects dear to Alabamians, he would capture 42% and the well-funded Jones in his Senate race do that or a bit higher, 43%, against an inexperienced Republican.
It was a foregone conclusion that constitutional amendments to require proof of citizenship, establish longer appointed terms for judges, and recompile the 1901 Constitution, all received at least 65% percentage approval. But, with 98% of the vote tabulated, the proposed amendment to restructure the legal system was neck-and-neck. The closeness of the vote totals is not surprising.
This ballot issue had too much information in it and had more legalese than necessary. Many voters do not even stay at the polls to approve or deny down ballot Alabama Constitution changes. Why give these most responsible voters a laundry list to read when they are conscientious enough to look at the whole ballot? Still, the turnout was astounding and computer or human mistakes were not seen at the voting places.
I sensed a lot of “cognitive dissonance” in this election, as in other campaigns. For example, people said “I hate Trump’s divisive and cruel personality, but I will vote for him because of his business sense.” Or, “I am voting for Tuberville although he is a beginner at politics, because he will always back President Trump.”
Dr. Leon Festinger, a social psychologist, wrote that “cognitive dissonance occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs, ideas or values and is typically experienced as psychological stress when they participate in an action that goes against one or more of them … People do all in their power to change them until they become consistent.”
Kevin Bleyer, an Emmy Award winning writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, asks “Am I the only one who can’t seem to reconcile the grand canyon of cognitive dissonance I feel when people with much more important jobs than I have manage to score much lengthier times off?”
Maybe. But Mitch McConnell keeps quite busy as Senate Majority Leader. At age 78, he is still young. You see, tortoises are the longest-lived land animals. Most live to over a hundred. So McConnell can laugh at Stewart who called him a reptile.
Greg Markley has lived in Lee County for 20 of the last 24 years. An award-winning journalist, he has master’s degrees in education and history. He taught political science as an adjunct in Georgia and Alabama.