McGrath got my vote at the debate

To everyone’s surprise, I’m voting for Amy McGrath, Marine and mom… plus, Mitch McConnell has been in the U.S. Senate for too long. That is how McConnell described McGrath’s strategy to unseat him. He quipped at the (one-and-only) Kentucky Senate debate, “I think her entire campaign is she’s a Marine, she’s a mom and I’ve been there too long.”

He was partially right, if only that one time during the debate. His remark was intended as a slight against McGrath, but it was really just disrespectful of Marines and moms. Of course, I was always going to vote against McConnell, even after McGrath’s misguided campaign launch. However, after McGrath’s masterful debate performance, I’m happy to vote for her — not just against him.

What sold me on McGrath? McConnell’s only argument for why he should be re-elected after 36 years in the Senate is his alleged ability to bring money and power to Kentucky. She took that argument, turned it around and beat him with it again and again for an entire hour. Her point was: If what we have in Kentucky now is the best McConnell can do with all that power, it ain’t good enough to rehire him.

“I allow Kentucky to punch above its weight.” McConnell said, multiple times.“Here in Kentucky, we know we feel like we’ve been sucker-punched,” McGrath responded. “We have the highest cancer rates in the country, highest rates of diabetes, highest rates of heart disease, some of the lowest wages in the country. Our economy hasn’t been this bad since The Great Depression.” I would love for this race to be about healthcare, COVID-19 relief, police reform, climate change or any other policy issue.

Because McConnell is Senate majority leader, he is responsible for the outcome of all of those issues — but he’s demonstrated he’s unwilling to address them unless it serves his own interests and reinforces his power. McGrath brought that message home to Kentucky on every issue. “We here in Kentucky know better,” she said.

“Sen. McConnell likes to talk about his clout and power. Meanwhile, copays are up. The price of prescription medication has gone up. The price of insurance has gone up. The cost of housing has gone up… Sen.McConnell’s clout is literally killing us in Kentucky.” McConnell’s response? “Let’s take coal for example …” he said (and blamed President Obama for coal’s decline). McGrath’s response? “Recognize that six years ago Sen. McConnell sat here and said, ‘You’ve gotta vote for me, all your coal jobs are going to come back.’ Meanwhile, in the last six years we’ve lost 60% of coal jobs. He has used you and our state to bicker with the other side, and he hasn’t planned for the future,” Then she listed the myriad ways in which she would invest in coal communities (not coal energy): Investment in infrastructure, like broadband and cell phone coverage, education and healthcare. All that power and McConnell could only blame Obama.

McGrath pointed out that the House passed a second COVID-19 relief package in May. Meanwhile in the Senate, McConnell said at the time there was no “urgency.” So, five months later, no relief bill. The Senate began hearings on the Supreme Court nomination less than four weeks after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.No urgency on COVID-19 relief for people but urgency to fi ll the Supreme Court seat with a Republican president’s nominee just weeks before the presidential election. All that power, but no solutions? McConnell just blamed House Democrats.“She thinks we’re the problem, I think they’re the problem, what we need is a solution. The way you get is a solution is the way… ”And, then, nothing. That was it. McConnell glitched at the idea of finding a solution. He just waited for the moderator to move the debate along.

I was not always enthusiastic about the McGrath campaign. She didn’t speak to my progressive approach on policies or my disdain for Trump. Her calm, non-aggressive ads didn’t match my highly charged feelings about this election. The truth is that none of that part of the McGrath campaign was directed toward me. It was meant to sway Republicans and independents, because that is what it will take to beat McConnell. But the McGrath I saw on TV during the debate showed she understands what is most needed now: a senator for Kentucky who will use their position to make our government function again — to work for people, not for partisan political power.

She demonstrated an understanding of the issues facing Kentucky and, most important, how she would vote if given the opportunity. And, while it remains true that the case against McConnell would always be stronger than the best argument made for his challenger (… Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Beyonce included), I’ll be happy to vote for Amy McGrath, mom, Marine… and she’s not McConnell.