Kentucky Fried Trickin’

Sure, Bernie Sanders could score an upset victory over Hillary Clinton in this Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Kentucky–but will it matter?

If Clinton loses to Sanders, it will certainly trigger the same sort of “He’s not dead yet!” coverage we saw after his victories in Indiana and West Virginia; however, as the Louisville Courier-Journal recently observed, Sanders would be a most unlikely beneficiary of anti-Clinton sentiment in the Bluegrass State:

There was a time when the Clinton name was golden in Kentucky.

Bill Clinton won the state in 1992 and in 1996, making him the last Democrat to win Kentucky in a presidential election.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton absolutely crushed Barack Obama in Kentucky even though he was cruising toward the presidential nomination.

But that was then.

Eight years later and 24 years after Bill Clinton first won the White House by building on a coalition of centrist Democrats and independents, Clinton fatigue may have finally set in in Kentucky…

Clinton’s problems also lie elsewhere in the state, particularly the coalfields where Obama performed so poorly and where Republicans have blamed him for conducting a “war on coal,” while conveniently forgetting the market and geological forces that have made it so expensive to dig up carbon in Kentucky.

Having served in the Obama administration, she already had what is clearly a taint of his presidency in the region…[but the] irony here is that Sanders is no friend of the coal industry and has proposed banning mountaintop removal mining, which is practiced in Appalachia.

Because Kentucky is a closed-primary state, Sanders and his supporters will likely take advantage of a win here to promote the idea that there are still plenty of Democrats who aren’t comfortable with Clinton, and that the “Democratic establishment” should agree to all of his demands at the Democratic convention even if he ultimately fails to win the nomination. I’m still not convinced that the “Democratic establishment” will, or should, make any concessions to someone who isn’t actually a Democrat, but Sanders may have some luck making his case.

If Kentucky goes Republican again in the 2016 general election, it will mark the fifth consecutive time that the state has rejected a climate-hawk Democratic candidate (after Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama twice), suggesting that a majority of the state’s voters simply prefer to live in the past on energy. You’d figure that at some point, the state would realize that coal is never coming back, and would give fair consideration to a candidate who says that there is a way to seamlessly transition from coal to clean energy, creating more jobs and more prosperity in the process, as opposed to a candidate who pledges to reanimate coal’s corpse. Kentucky Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must privately regard a majority of their state’s voters as chumps: after all, how could they possibly fall for the coal industry’s con in Presidential election after Presidential election?

Earlier this month, Sanders called upon the Democratic Party to finance an alternative to Fox, presumably one that will focus on policy-based news coverage as opposed to the empty-calorie content right-wing media entities are known for. If Sanders’s idea became a reality, would such a network really made a difference in such states as Kentucky? The answer may be the same as the answer to the question of whether a Democrat will win the Bluegrass State on November 8.

UPDATE: More from the Louisville Courier-Journal.

SECOND UPDATE: More from Joy Reid.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.