Night was closing in. The air hung heavy with lush humidity so thick that one could almost cut it into foot wide cubes of air and stack them against the MSU Curris Center. Even the June lightning bugs sought refuge deep in the rushing darkness of twilight.
With this back drop of early summer flooding into the Jackson Purchase of Western Kentucky, Mary Potter and I traveled the 47 mile trip from Clinton to Murray for the annual Purchase Area Jefferson Jackson Dinner.
Each year this West Kentucky Dinner is held to pull the party faithful together, at one time, at the same spot, and usually, for the past few years, with the same major speakers. However, this year the Calloway County Democratic Party that hosts the event had to scramble when Auditor Adam Edelen cancelled at the last minute, as did Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Only Democratic Party faithful, State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach made his way to the Murray dinner.
It didn’t matter. The Democrats came for one reason, to hear Alison Lundergan Grimes.
And she performed very well. She started her speech at 8:50 pm. She ended her speech, with a listing of all the reasons Mitch McConnell need to be retired from a broken Congress, at 9:10 pm. In those twenty minutes, Grimes received 14 applauses and two standing ovations.
Some 300 hard core Democrats from 15 counties listened to her. In one night, Grimes caused the following to take place:
1. Double the attendance to 300 from the 150 of 2013 dinner.
2. Attracted 40 % more youth.
3. Local Democrats saw her as new “Party Star Power.”
4. Presented the crowd with a “sense of a winner.”
5. Reached out to the faithful as a new unifying force for Kentucky Democrats.
Grimes touched every hand in the room. The only comparison to her style of campaigning has to be way back to Governor Wendell Ford of the 1972 campaign. Both like to wade into crowds spreading their own special high energy that electrified rooms and outdoors.
The only other modern day national candidate to demonstrate this very special personal power over voters is Bill Clinton. He loved people. He loved to talk of great issues. He loved to lead history rather then follow it. Bill, above else, wanted to shape America’s future. It seemed that on this night, she was channeling both Ford and Clinton. The crowed loved her for it.
At this point, Mary and I bolted for the door, hoping to get an early start back to Clinton. We were heading west on Highway 80 out of Murray when we first notice the lightning.
Like giant blacksmiths in the sky, large explosions of fire ripped the darkness of a West Kentucky summer evening. Each eruption of orange and yellow burst was followed by long charges of lightning fingers reaching out for someplace to land. Nature was on a rampage. The entire western horizon seemed to be one long series of brilliant fireworks foretelling of massive damage.
Maybe, just maybe, Mother Nature was in league tonight with the Democrats. Maybe the storms foretold of storms to come where the vast middle class and working poor class would awaken to confront those who wanted to keep them down.
Maybe it was time when Kentuckians started to take to heart the words of a young lady mounting a epic fight against the entrenched ramparts of a national broken government.
Maybe this night would mark the point in time when West Kentucky would rise up to over throw the would be Washington DC Plantation Masters who only danced to the voices of large money elites..
Maybe on this mid summer June night, that the smile on Alison’s face, as she headed west, for the next day of Bus Tour, was the knowledge that she was beginning to awaken the Great Democratic Voting Beast of the Purchase and Pennyrile.