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Déjà vu for Democrats this fall?

"Republicans take the Kentucky House after 95 years of Democratic control," trumpeted a Lexington Herald-Leader headline on Nov. 8, 2016.

Similar headlines blared in newspapers from Paducah to Pikeville.

But reporters missed the rest of the story, which Democrats hope presages Nov. 6, 2018. While the GOP flipped the House in 1919, the Democrats grabbed it back in 1921.

On Nov. 8, 1921, voters turned a 55-45 Republican edge into a 68-32 Democratic bulge, according to the Nov. 10, 1921, Louisville Courier-Journal.

The shifts in 1921 and 2016 were similarly seismic, to boot.

On election day, 2016, the Democrats had the House, 53-47. Afterwards, the Republicans were on top 64-36. The Trump tsunami swept out the Democrats, who nonetheless recaptured a seat in a special election last February.

Democrats mainly rode state issues to victory in 1921. (They also captured a slim majority in the Senate, which had been deadlocked 19-19, thanks to a defecting Democrat who voted with the GOP.)

History doesn't really repeat itself. But it's not hard to find parallels.

Here's another one. Pundits are tagging 2018 "the year of the woman" because women, most of them Democrats, are running for office in historic numbers nationwide.

Nearly 100 Kentucky women--Democrats in the main--tossed their hats in the ring for the May primaries, according to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat.

But 1921 was the year of the woman in the Bluegrass State. Democrat Mary E. Flanery was the first woman ever elected to the legislature; she represented Catlettsburg and its environs in the House.

Flanery crusaded for women's rights and for public education, issues that echo in the marble-walled Capitol today. In this cycle, doings in Frankfort, not Washington, seem to loom largest in Kentucky hearts and minds.

Democrats have their fingers crossed that two years of voter ire over Republican legislation from "right to work" to public pension gutting will make 2016-2018 a reprise of 1919-1921.

For more from retired history professor and union activist, Berry Craig, go to https://ky.aflcio.org/


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