Kentucky Government, Politics, and Public Policy

Kentucky Government, Politics, and Public Policy

Kentucky Government, Politics, and Public Policy

Kentucky Government, Politics, and Public Policy

Excerpt

Kentucky politics has been a source of amusement for residents of the Commonwealth for generations, as illustrated by the famous Kentucky orator Judge James Hillary Mulligan, who wrote in his often quoted poem “In Kentucky” for the legislature in 1902, “The landscape is the grandest—and politics—the damnedest …. In Kentucky.” Citizens of other states, who only occasionally hear of the goings-on in Frankfort or in the city halls and county courthouses of the Bluegrass State, also seem to be somewhat entertained by the colorful, often scandalous, and rarely dull escapades of Kentucky politicians, partisans, and interest-group leaders. Those who teach Kentucky politics, either in high schools or in colleges and universities, often regale students with humorous and outrageous anecdotes about the Commonwealth’s government. Some of these stories are true. Nevertheless, it is the premise of this book that Kentucky politics should be taken seriously. Anecdotes, storytelling, or folklore can sometimes be entertaining, but they are not appropriate for serious students of politics. Systematic political science scholarship can and should inform citizens about the nature of their government, the consequences of their policy choices, and the implications of their political processes. As such, this book is intended to investigate the core institutions of Kentucky government and also to examine a number of particular political topics and policy issues of interest to Kentuckians and citizens of other states. The core task of this book is explanation, with explanatory political science that is broad in scope, ambitious in purpose, grounded in history, and theoretically informed. This is a book that seeks to explain trends, patterns, and the direction of political and policy change. The issues, institutions, and policy problems covered here are not likely to go away. The personalities and power brokers may change from one decade to the next, but the topics addressed herein will still remain with us. Many of these topics are not unique to Kentucky but are faced in other states throughout the nation. The comparative approach is used throughout the book to contextualize Kentucky government within the laboratory of federalism and to assess comparatively the issues addressed by political institutions.

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