Continuing Traditions and Fundamental Challenges
We saw in the first chapter of this book that there was no way to communicate the richness of Kentucky politics, or the diversity of its institutions and its people, without traveling around the state. Indeed, any tour misses too much. How can one understand the politics of Western Kentucky, for example, without considering the crosscurrents of Hopkinsville (Christian County) or the longstanding and continuing political power of Daviess County Democrats? Without traveling to Paducah, how can one penetrate Bill Clinton's decision to spend the waning moments of his 1992 presidential campaign at the McCracken County airport, creating a wave of energy among Western Kentucky Democrats, thereby converting a "tossup" state into a modest but substantial victory?1 How can one know Eastern Kentucky without spending more time in the regional center of Ashland, or understand small, but complicated, Rowan County? How can one leave the towns of Hardin County and their neighbor Fort Knox out of a tour of southcentral Kentucky, or leave Woodford County, the home of so many Kentucky governors, out of a tour of Central Kentucky politics?
What is seen everywhere in Kentucky, though, is just that--its enormous diversity. Across the state there is a dominant, traditionalistic political culture; but there is, at the same time, whether naturally or because of compelling financial needs, new people and new institutions, the onset of the individualistic urge toward greater and broader economic development. Still dominant is Kentucky's powerful history, its distinctive migration patterns, its deep divisions, the lingering effects of the Civil War, and its curse (along with the colorful patterns) of regionalism. Still in place are Kentucky's fundamental political institutions, the 1891 Constitution, a conserving legislature, a strong governor, and overburdened courts, each still responsive to