Splendor in the bluegrass

Apr 30, 2015 at 2:07 pm
Splendor in the bluegrass

We are pregnant with anticipation of the best Derby ever. Unsettled by angry snows and heavy rains, the River City is swollen beyond its banks. The promise of a verdant springtime replete with new life excites us as we reunite with family and friends who will be fully present to seize every bloated moment. These are good ol’ days, but make no mistake; this isn’t your granddaddy’s Derby. We’ve changed. We’ve learned to celebrate the frenzied race at a sustainable pace. We’re finally in it to win it, slow and steady — like a marathon meal in Paris.

Welcome to a healthier Kentucky. All the stars are aligned for us to transcend our sick past. We embraced Obamacare and pulled ahead of the states whose leaders would dance and pee on the president’s grave. Demagogues and hatemongers, eat your words with our dust!

The man of the hour is Gov. Steve Beshear. He’ll appear on NBC live from the Winner’s Circle for the last time this Saturday as he presides, in his final months, over the most successful state health insurance marketplace in America. Bourbon is thriving amid a worldwide boom. The land of fast horses and gorgeous women has arrived. Now that men are sober enough to know the difference, storks are dropping babies in our laps — babies who must finish the vital work we’ve only just begun: saving us from our signature vices.

With multiple healthcare barriers eviscerated, earlier diagnosis and treatment will bless the newly insured. Our next governor may shoplift some credit for our presumptive retreat from disease, disability and death. But that could be complicated if a Republican wins amid a tone-deaf chorus for repeal that falls flatter with each repetition. Promises to replace it are absurdly fuzzy. They can dress a white elephant in surgical scrubs, but that pachyderm don’t heal.

GOP contenders are waging a dumbed-down campaign based on the cynical presumption that demonizing Obama is forever the path to the promised land. Our next governor’s four-year term will overlap with his final year in the White House. While the Republican candidates reach to the right to survive the primary, they are alienating the urban Democrats they would need in November to beat the presumptive Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jack Conway of Louisville, who has token primary opposition.

GOP frontrunner Hal Heiner, a Louisville developer, blasts “Obama’s outrageous mandates” as he pledges allegiance to drug testing for welfare recipients amid a heroin crisis indifferent to income. This fraudulent solution is a certified waste of money. States that have implemented it have detected relatively few users. Our moderate legislature has rejected proposals to enact this travesty as opponents have threatened to extend it to corporate welfare recipients — as if drug testing CEO’s seeking government grants is any more outrageous.

Enlightened candidates and leaders don’t advance stereotypes that stigmatize our downtrodden and destitute citizens. Louisville has earned accolades as a compassionate city. Slowly but surely, the state seems to be getting the message that we’ve wasted precious lives and treasures by scapegoating and incarcerating addicts in need of treatment. In recent years and with bipartisan support, our state has retreated from lengthy sentences for drug offenders. Comprehensive reforms of our criminal and juvenile justice codes acknowledge that we can’t punish mental illness and youthful indiscretion into submission.

Now that we’ve paid for our education, we’re saving tons of money. Important work remains undone. A few years ago, automating the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons seemed like a done deal. Even our junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul testified for the measure in committee. But when his GOP counterparts in the statehouse added obstacles including a five-year waiting period Paul recommended, the sponsor balked. This is how a rookie sabotages his photo op.

Paul wants to run for re-election and the presidency on the same ballot next year. But public sympathy seems as sparse as it would be for a man torn between his wife and his mistress.

My advice to Paul is to wait five years. He’s not ready for prime time and the field is too crowded this time around.

A crowded Derby field, by contrast, has many of us excited. It includes an extraordinarily tall horse trained by Bob Baffert. Another famous trainer, D. Wayne Lucas, says he’s never seen a more talented field.

As usual, my bets will be informed by LEO’s Derby expert Bill Doolittle. Deferring to his judgment has saved me time and won me money. It’s further proof that less is ?more.