Price on Politics: Charles Booker has a shot

Megan+Fisher

Megan Fisher

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

On March 2, Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker held an event at WKU. The event was organized by the WKU College Democrats and the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter on campus.

At the event, Booker spoke about his plans for Kentucky. His “Kentucky New Deal” is his flagship proposal, covering issues from climate change to generational poverty to creating new jobs in renewable energy.

Booker also spoke about how his campaign was not just about him. This seems like a cliché, but it was the sincerity with which Booker spoke that struck me the most. Most of his remarks were not about him but about how everyday Kentuckians are struggling around the Commonwealth.

Booker’s campaign has been built around the face-to-face interactions that he has had with these Kentuckians during the campaign. At the event, he said, “I’m not here to tell you what’s right for you, I’d rather listen and lift up your voice, and go to Washington and fight for that and ask that you hold me accountable.”

He described the process of going door-to-door in all areas of Kentucky, not just those that would support him in the election. He spoke about how his proposals have made sense to people he has spoken with on both sides of the aisle.

This grassroots campaign style is not something that has been seen in Kentucky outside of local politics. Booker is on the road, shaking hands and holding events all across Kentucky. Before stopping at WKU, he held events in Elizabethtown and Glasgow. After his event on campus, Booker headed to a rally in Franklin.

Booker’s campaign is one that promotes hope and togetherness. Yes, every campaign does this, but Booker’s seems to do this in a genuine way. Instead of campaigning in other states for other candidates or promoting division on cable news, Booker is on the road connecting with real people.

Booker is on the ground putting in work early. This is important if he is to have a shot at defeating Rand Paul in November. Polls still place Kentucky in the Solid Republican category. Making these connections with Kentuckians on each side of the aisle early will help to change minds.

As I was at the event, I couldn’t help but think, “where is Rand Paul?” I understand that Kentucky is a state that is reliably Republican in most elections. I understand that the primary elections don’t take place for another two months.

Despite this, where is Rand Paul? As a senator, he should be making himself more available to his constituents. He should be more responsive to their requests. Instead, he is in Washington, preventing work from getting done. Instead, he is in Wyoming campaigning for other candidates that will stay reliably in the Republican camp and not speak out against former president Donald Trump.

The Booker Campaign is also overwhelmingly positive. At the event on March 2, Booker only said the name of his opponent once or twice, shifting the focus from a fight against two candidates to a battle of ideals. One that Booker could win.

Booker’s campaign marks the start of a new era in politics in Kentucky. For decades, any chance a Democrat would have at defeating an incumbent Republican would be by riding the line between liberal and conservative ideals. As the presumptive nominee for the Democratic ticket, Booker shows that new voices are being heard in Kentucky.

Instead of the same voices being heard, Booker is activating an untouched base of the Kentucky Democratic Party. Booker represents real change for Kentuckians that have been wanting it for too long.

Booker has a narrow shot, but it is achievable. He must keep on doing what he is doing. He has to connect to voters of all ages. It is young voters, however, that could be the most “in play.” 

Booker’s ideals appeal less to older Kentuckians than they do to young people. Statistically, these younger people are less likely to vote. If Booker can connect with even more of these young people and encourage them to register to vote, Paul’s lead will narrow significantly.

This isn’t to say that his ideals don’t appeal to some older people, however. There are some that have been longing for change. They have seen Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul in office and see that they do not get very much done. 

On top of all this, Booker’s campaign gives people hope. It shows that change is possible. Just a decade ago, a candidate with the policies Booker is running on would seem unthinkable. It shows young people that they are heard and that they can make a change. It shows older Kentuckians that the change they have been waiting on is coming soon.

Leaving the Booker event, I felt that the way Booker was running his campaign was perfect. I felt that the change he spoke about was possible in Kentucky, despite the divided political landscape of the state.

Booker hopes to create a Kentucky that will protect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens, not just the Republican majority. In doing this, he is attracting some Republican votes. He still has a long way to go, but he has a shot. As long as he stays true to his ideas and keeps working on the ground, he is bound to make connections to people and communities in a way Rand Paul has been unable to do.

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.