Gatewood Galbraith comes out against mountain top removal and takes major step toward winning the Governor’s Office.
The geopolitics of 2011 Kentucky race for governor just went to a place never seen before in modern Kentucky history. It went into the realm of green politics.
Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith, independent candidate for Kentucky Governor, on February 22, 2011, announced his opposition to the concept of strip mining coal reserves by removing mountain tops and dumping the waste by-products into mountain valleys and streams. Gatewood said that “the practice of mountain top removal has caused unsurpassed environmental damage in Appalachia and should not be permitted to continue.”
Long a friend of Kentucky’s land and water reserves, Galbraith is seizing the political high ground of protecting the environment while rebuilding Kentucky’s economic future.
He intends to be the only candidate running for Kentucky’s governor to stand on the side of people who want to protect the environment. This policy stance will be in direct opposition to the incumbent Steve Beshear, and David Williams, President of the Kentucky Senate, who are both running for governor.
Beshear and Williams are moving to become pawns of big corporate coal, standing against the environment for the sake of big coal interests. Recently, Governor Beshear called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ease or pull back regulations that are hampering the mining method of mountain top removal.
Big Coal and the Tea Party Stand
In this super charged election year cycle, Governor Beshear has done what few Kentucky governors ever thought possible. He has put the office of Governor for sale to a very high bidder, big corporate coal in a spectacular fashion. Beshear has adopted a scorched earth state federal intergovernmental policy over the issue of states’ rights vs. federal rights and laws. Governor Beshear has become a champion of the Tea Party’s argument for the 10th amendment (reserving power to the states) as the most important in the U.S. Constitution.
The governor went so far as to direct the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to join with the Kentucky Coal Association in a law suit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency established policy stand on key environmental issues. The law suit against the federal government challenges the EPA arbitrary rules, guidance and oversight regarding coal mining permits under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Wendell Berry and Friends Seize the Governor’s Office
Against the backdrop of big corporate coal buying and selling of political influence within the legislature, there now is the developing story of how an old coalition is morphing into a new 21st public relations political force.
After five years of intense debates, going to public hearings, and do all the expected civil ways of trying to stop mountain top removal, Wendell Berry became angry with the progress of stopping blowing up mountains for more coal. At every turn in the political and court process, lobbyists, friends of big coal, and even state legislators made it very clear there never would be any compromise or retreat from their support of the process known as mountain top removal.
On February 11, 2011, at age 76, Wendell Berry evolved from famous writer, farmer, and voice for the environment into a green warrior. With this one act of moral desperation, Berry led 14 others into the Governor’s Office of Kentucky and refused to leave until the Governor changed his policy. Wendell Berry led a citizen take over and set in of the Governor’s Office. Berry wanted to bring attention to his cause.
Wendell Berry, thinker and naturalist now became Wendell Barry action leader and fighter for a new dialogue over strip mining and preservation of Kentucky’s great mountains. Berry had raised the mountain top removal to new heights of awareness. Media from around the world covered the event.
Berry successfully merged the passion of the 1960’s political legacy of non violent civil disobedience into the raw political in fighting of 21st century general assembly power politics.
The Green Movement Frames 2011 Kentucky’s Governor’s Race
Political muscle in modern Kentucky gubernatorial history has always rested with how well the incumbent governor delivered on the demands of big corporate special interests. Usually whatever big coal, big timber, or big utilities wanted, they got. Of course this approach meant that the average end user of the utility or resource had to pay for all the back room deal making and policy drafting.
Rigging public policy for the rich and powerful has become a very expensive process. Thus, many of the utility companies are moving to charge double digital increases in their delivery of product or services in order to recapture more profit.
The political battlefield called Frankfort, has for years been the safe haven for big corporate money and special interest. Usually, this money from status quo energy companies became an invisible force taking issue with environmental groups, green organizations, and ordinary citizens.
These good government organizations and citizens came to Frankfort for a fair hearing of how Kentucky’s land and water were being tortured into corrupt profit streams for the very well connected. Most days, these battles were over in quick committee hearings or on the side of the Capital steps or in the somber light of a state agency finding of fact that favored the rich and powerful.
Now, a new tide of public voice is rising. This is the voice of hard nosed activists seeking a more powerful direct highway of thought into the great herd of middle class voters in Kentucky.
No other time in modern Kentucky history has there been such a time for the birth of a true “Green Movement.” All the planets are lining up. Gas prices could go to $4 or $5.00 a gallon. The Federal Government could find that exposure to fossil fuels over long periods of time has been instrumental in the deaths of many Kentuckians who breathe into their lungs damaged air. Tourism dollars may be impacted through reckless disregard of natural resources and thousands of tourism related jobs could be lost.
Most importantly to the dynamics of the governor’s race will be the attitude of the voters in the urban areas of Louisville and Lexington. If Wendell Berry and the Green Movement gain strong foot holds within these two urban areas, public opinion may turn against big coal and side with the people of Eastern Kentucky.
Neither the Democrats nor Republicans will be able to mount a large army of followers in the urban areas. The Democrats have no real leadership or stomach for an intense and protracted house to house ground war. Their game will be to go all out with major TV buys and push TV image over track record.
The Republicans are trying to lay waste to all the federal programs that seem to help the poor, women, minorities and senior citizens. Republican leadership see nothing wrong with cutting from the federal budget programs that help the middle class or reach out to the poor and underprivileged in America. Their theme will be to attack the waste and fraud in state government. However, people who are out of work, losing their home, sick, or just angry at the whole political process will not be easily convinced to support this new Republican platform.
October 2011 and the End Game
By October, 2011, if the trade unions form a loose coalition with the Tea Party along with the new urban green movement, under the big tent of a Gatewood Galbraith push for governor, all bets will be off on what could take place.
Polls are showing Governor Beshear at about 40 % support. Senator David Williams, the front runner in the GOP race has about 25 % of the vote. Undecided stands at about 15 to 20%. Gatewood is about 12 to 15% standing.
Support for both Beshear and Williams is soft. Their vision of a future Kentucky that serves big coal or corporations and dismisses the common people may be hard to win with. Gatewood could win if he is successful in winning Lexington, taking a respected chunk of Louisville and coming in strong in East and West Kentucky.
Gatewood could win the Governor’s race if four factors develop:
(1) The Republicans become viewed as too extreme in their program cuts for most ordinary Kentuckians and scare fixed income senior citizens into a fear cycle for their futures. This campaign strategy would place David Williams and the Republican Party in Kentucky somewhere in the 12% to 20% poll position.
(2) Incumbent Governor, Steve Beshear, along with running mate Jerry Abramson, self destruct in West and East Kentucky. Beshear drops into 33% to 37% in poll standing.
Beshear will plan a strategy to take Louisville with a big win. From this position, he will then sweep Central Kentucky horse country. He plans to just make a decent showing in the far western and eastern parts of Kentucky.
There is no organized Democratic Party. The incumbent power of the Governor’s Office will have to be shown through massive advertising on TV. Louisville will not give him the numbers needed to win. West Kentucky will turn their back on the sitting Governor as pay back for his years of ignoring them.
(3) In October, the general population of Kentucky will be in an extreme place of anger.
The good voters of Kentucky will be mad over high gas prices, food prices, loss of jobs, feeling left behind by America, and a strong sense of cutting government size and cost.
This is the doorway through which a strong, well organized Tea Party will play havoc with the Governor’s Race. Gatewood will become the voice of the Kentucky coalition of Tea Party organizations.
(4) By fall the Green movement will have reached a major tipping point in their existence as a political force with a highly successful campaign to blame big coal and public energy companies for most of the bad energies polices in Kentucky that will have lead to outrageous high energy cost. The people want someone in power to blame for their energy woes.
Gatewood has a natural base in Kentucky of somewhere between 12% and 18% of the vote. A strong support wave from Tea Party activists plus urban Green Movement from the Golden Triangle could put Gatewood at 34 to 38% of the final vote.