Kentucky Politics & Government: Do We Stand United?

By Penny M. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Political Parties and Interest Groups

Most Kentuckians would agree that "the politics of Kentucky is unique--its politicians more flamboyant, its courthouse gangs more powerful, and its scandals more scandalous than anywhere else in the country."1Kentucky's traditionalistic political culture, especially its distrust of politicians, has tended to weaken party organizations. The recent era of Kentucky parties and factions has nonetheless witnessed Democratic domination of local and state politics (with some exceptions), and a consistency in the partisan attachments of Kentuckians, combined with a plethora of organized interests that work through and against parties to affect policy. The recent period also reflects the industrialization, urbanization, migration, candidate-oriented campaigns, and political events that have contributed to the demise of Democratic factionalism and to increased Republican strength in national elections.2


KENTUCKY'S HISTORY OF DEMOCRATIC FACTIONALISM

From the 1930s through the 1960s, Kentucky's Democratic politics was bi- factional.3 All of Kentucky's divisions organized themselves for elections and much of Kentucky goverance in two informal but powerful political organizations. As noted in chapter 2, the two personalistic factions were readily identifiable by the names of their leaders--A.B. "Happy" Chandler and Earle Clements. Most counties had their own miniature versions of the statewide division. The in-faction of the day sought to succeed itself with a new (or recycled) candidate; the out-faction played on the promise of patronage and the natural dissatisfaction of outsiders to rally its supporters behind a new (or recycled) hope. Usually there were only two serious candidates in the primary, and the winner seldom had much more than half of the

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