While Andy Beshear’s victory in Kentucky on Tuesday was seen as a great victory for the Resistance – the governorship flipping in a state where Donald Trump won by 30% in 2016, the Republicans didn’t take the news so well. Rather than concede when he fell behind by just over 5,000 votes, Matt Bevin demanded a recanvass of the entire election – insisting that there were irregularities affecting the vote, ones he didn’t quite elaborate on, but he probably had the same racist imagery in his mind as Trump did back in 2016, or Roy Moore when he refused to concede the 2017 special election for Senate – undocumented immigrants being bussed in to vote Democrat or some other such nonsense.
It’s easy to simply dismiss Bevin as being a sore loser because things didn’t go his way, but unlike with Moore in Alabama, the state legislature in Kentucky appeared to sympathize with Bevin. Because Beshear’s victory over Bevin was less than one percent and both houses of Kentucky’s legislature deal with contested elections according to state law, Senate President Robert Stivers openly threatened to overturn the election results, rather than simply do a recanvass of the vote totals. Let that sink in for a minute – Stivers wanted to use what resources he had in order to change the outcome of the election.
On Friday, he changed course and asked Bevin to concede, probably due to the flood of phone calls he received over his threat and because Bevin is a historically unpopular governor. What happened there is hardly an isolated incident. We’ve already seen Republicans strip the governor’s powers in Wisconsin and North Carolina and right-wing organizations like the John Birch Society have talked about accumulating power through state governments.
Stivers hasn’t yet ruled out legislative action, though it would be hard for him to get far – but his threat was actually a trial balloon, seeing how far his party could go without being called out on it. If the governor was a bit more likable than Bevin, and the people of Kentucky were a bit more receptive to the possibility of nullifying an election, he just might have gone through with it. If this election has demonstrated anything, it’s not just that defeating Republicans in every branch of government is important – but so is beating them by the widest margins possible if much is to change in 2020.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making