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How Democrats Win the Senate Next Year in Kentucky

by Ben Carter in

It started innocently enough. After reading that Rand Paul’s new book had only sold 500 copies and frustrated with the recent defeats of the Kentucky Democratic Party’s candidates, I tweeted a couple weeks ago: 

After sending the tweet, the idea sort of stuck around, though. I started thinking, “You know, it’s not the craziest idea ever. I mean, it’s not crazy like balancing the budget on the backs of poor people.”

A young person, running with a populist message, hellbent on inspiring and organizing Kentucky’s Democratic base to vote and encourage others to vote—that might just work. Matt Bevin may just ruin the Republican brand in time for the November election. Hillary at the top of the ticket and more people voting in 2016 helps the Democratic candidate, as well. And, the longer Rand Paul stays in this crazy Republican primary, the longer he is ignoring Kentucky and saying unhelpful, callous things in a futile effort to stay competitive. 

So, I thought about it. I talked with some people about it. The more I thought about it and the more I talked about it, the more two things became clear: 1) this race is winnable by the right candidate and 2) the timing just couldn’t be worse for me to run. 

I have a number of reasons for wanting to run. But, I have three excellent reasons not to. 


Ultimately, the people I talked with who knew best were able to get through my thick skull something I didn’t want to but needed to hear: running would mean being a candidate first and a father, husband, and lawyer second. That’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make. 

But, I did get far enough in the process to write an announcement speech last Saturday morning. I am sharing it with you because I hope we can create the space in Kentucky for a candidate to say these kinds of things and run this kind of campaign. I think it’s the only kind of campaign that has a chance of winning because to win we must honor the Democratic Party’s roots in the hard, frustrating work of organizing and speak authentically on the core issues that motivate Democrats to organize and vote. 

Thank you for joining me this morning. I’m launching my campaign for United States Senate today because I believe Kentucky deserves a Senator whose primary mission is improving the financial security of Kentucky’s working families. As an attorney, I work every day with poor and struggling middle class families. Homeowners facing foreclosure, tenants facing eviction, debtors facing abusive debt collectors, moms and dads facing bankruptcy because of medical bills, young people wondering how they’re going to get to a job interview because the lemon a car dealer just sold them won’t start. College graduates wondering what to do about student loan debt. 

Everywhere, everyday, too many Kentuckians are wondering how they're going to make it to the next payday, whether today is the day that it all falls apart. 

This wasn’t my reality growing up. I hit the lottery: two loving parents in a financially secure home. My mom stayed at home with my sister and me and helped us every step of our journey. My dad is still the hardest-working person I know despite the fact that he recently retired from a job helping to run a coal business. Growing up, I had every single opportunity that love or money could buy. In many ways, the fact that we talk about “hitting the lottery” when talking about what families we’re born into is why I’m running: opportunity in America shouldn’t be available only to the lucky kids. It’s our responsibility as Americans to create systems and programs that ensure that every kid has the same chance to succeed. That’s what living in a meritocracy is. 

For many of us, ensuring that every child grows up safe and with an opportunity to succeed is motivated by our faith. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists all agree: caring for the poor, insisting on compassionate treatment of all people, protecting the elderly, the vulnerable, standing in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed, welcoming the outsider—these are compelled by our faith. You don’t have to have faith for these to be your values, but if you do have faith, I don’t understand how they’re not your values. 

If I’m in town, I’m in the pews of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church. My faith is part of who I am and without a doubt informs the work I do and the work I will do as a Senator. I don’t begrudge anyone whose politics is influenced by their faith. Religions help us understand and negotiate how we live in community with one another, about how we live out our shared commitments to each other. And, as a government by the people, our government is how we live out those commitments to one another. 

So, it is natural that our religious beliefs and worldviews should inform our politics. But, it’s not enough to simply have faith. In America in 2015, you’ve got to have facts, too. You can’t say, “I don’t believe in climate change because I’m not a scientist and God said after the flood that he’d never destroy the world again.” The facts suggest that human pollution is altering the climate of our planet. And, I believe being good stewards of our land, air, and water is a Biblical imperative.  

If you want to know where I stand on issues, ask yourself what would help working families, poor kids, vulnerable senior citizens, the downtrodden, and the forgotten. It is our responsibility to provide basic health care for all people. To insure that people have the opportunity to work safely and for a wages that allow them to provide the basic needs to their families. To build affordable housing for every person and every family. To build an affordable educational system accessible to every young person. To protect refugees and welcome immigrants. To ensure that people can age with dignity. 

On these issues, Democrats have a lot to be proud of. We have created 8.3 million new jobs during the Obama administration. Under Bush, the economy lost 463,000 jobs in eight years. Unemployment has declined from reduced unemployment from 10% to 5%. Together, Democrats in Kentucky like Steve Beshear and in Washington have expanded affordable health care access to more than 500,000 Kentuckians. All while being fought every step of the way by a know-nothing, do-nothing Republican Congress. 

Did I vote for Obama? Hell yes, I did. Twice. And, I’d do it a third time if I could. 

Nevertheless, the election results earlier this month demonstrate that Democrats have a real problem in Kentucky. The motivating theory of this campaign is that Democrats have a lot of work to do in living rooms, fellowship halls, coffee shops, bars, and on doorsteps across the Commonwealth to listen, persuade, and motivate. Now is not the time to rest. Now is the time to organize. Our odds are long and our time is short, but the stakes for Kentucky’s working families are too high to not do the work. Our campaign will build an organization—rooted in every single county in Kentucky—with one goal: training and empowering our friends, neighbors, and family to get their friends, neighbors, and families to the polls on November 8th, 2016. If we can’t energize the people who didn’t vote in this last election to vote for us in 2016, we won’t win. We need them to vote. To vote for a future that is possible, but only if we organize for it, work for it, and insist upon it.

When Democrats get to work, people get to work. When Democrats tell their story, the stories of working families have better endings. Please go to my website: sign up, donate, and share this with your friends. The work begins today. Right now. 

Obviously, my work on a Senate campaign does not begin today. I'm a little sad that I don't get to give this speech and run this campaign—we would have had a lot of fun in this fight. It's easy to not be too sad, though, knowing I made the right decision for my family and my law practice. 

But, I hope to get to work on a campaign that shares the values articulated in this speech and that will speak unapologetically to Kentucky's voters about the Democratic Party's unparalleled record of creating economic security for Kentucky's families and representing the best of human nature: compassion, courage, generosity, and empathy. 

Spiritual Revolution

by Ben Carter

On a Sunday, I'm going to talk about spiritual revolution.

Political reform? Yes. We need to stop electing representatives from gerrymandered districts. We need to make it easier, not harder, for everyone to vote.


We also need to work on ourselves. On our spirits. The best, fairest election processes will only elect representatives that accurately reflect the citizens voting.

What do those citizens want? Do they go to the ballot filled with fear and anger? Or, do they go to the ballot courageously, generously, compassionately?

We are covered with scales. We are suspicious of those around us. We believe they are "getting away with something". With what? We're not sure. But, they are not to be trusted and are not deserving.

We need a spiritual revolution. The greatness of my generation will be measured by how well we translate our ability to generate remarkable wealth into a guarantee that everyone in America can live in basic dignity.

We only get that kind of politics when citizens come to terms individually with the fact that—no matter what—we will die and come to believe that our unavoidable, impending deaths is not a call to grab everything while we can, but to let everything go with as much grace and love we can muster. For me, that's a spiritual revolution. It's why I sit in the pews of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church most Sundays praying for the courage to let go of the things I love and the things I despise.

"Poverty is not natural. It is manmade, and it can be eradicated by the actions of human beings." What Mandela calls for in this video requires a spiritual revolution. Bob Marley was praying for a spiritual revolution in "Redemption Song": emancipation from mental slavery.

I pray today that we can each find spiritual homes and spiritual guides that will help us dedicate ourselves to the unglorious work that history will most certainly forget of loving each other well.

A Declaration of Interdependence

by Ben Carter

Each year when I sign my tax returns, I remind myself that I am signing a Declaration of Interdependence. That's what taxes are: an acknowledgment that we live together and are responsible to share the costs of living in a civil, clean, efficient, and overwhelmingly safe society. We are dependent and interdependent on one another, no matter how much we might wish it to be different. 

Yesterday's bombings at the Boston Marathon are a stark reminder of the precariousness of our own security and the randomness with which tragedy can strike. We can never know when or how we might need the help of our neighbors, whether it's a student loan to go to college, an unemployment check to help stave off poverty after a layoff, an EMT to apply a tourniquet to a leg, or an FBI to track down the bastard(s) that bombed a marathon.

So, to everyone who pays taxes (and everyone pays taxes), thank you.

My Perfect Breakfast

by Ben Carter

I am here to announce that after 34 years, I have created the most perfect weekday breakfast. It is easy to prepare and pack to the office and delicious: Trader Joe's gluten-free granola with yogurt and a banana and three slices of bacon prepared over the weekend using the Bacon Method

You're welcome.


Exclamation Points Don't Cost Extra

by Ben Carter

Everyone knows that each American gets one exclamation point to use at the beginning of each year. These exclamation points carry over, so if you are an especially droll person, you might enter middle age with twenty-five or thirty in the bank. Most people find a need to use their yearly allotment each year.

What is less well known is that certain classes of people get special dispensation to use more than one exclamation point each year. This includes Spanish-speakers (they get an extra to invert and place at the beginning of their one exclaimed sentence each year), LOLCAT creators, people with Tourette's, and cake decorators. 

Come on, Dairy Queen. Try a little.

Gunther So Far

by Ben Carter

So, it occurs to me that some people on this planet may not yet know about my legendary nephew, Gunther.