It seems the eyes of most political bloggers are glued to the trainwreck of scandals in New York and D.C., but even more interesting may be how the dramas are changing the dynamic of politics at the local and state level.
Case in point, Kentucky. Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) is not only feeling the weight of the GOP's falling national fortunes, he has his own scandal to contend with. 11 current or former members of his administration have been indicted as part of an investigation into Fletcher's hiring practices.
The gov's decision to issue a blanket pardon for all involved - excluding himself - didn't do much to endear him to voters.
So can Fletcher get his groove back? The jury is out. On one hand, he's not up for re-election until 2007, a virtual lifetime to regain lost ground (and for the public to forget about the unpleasantness).
On the other hand, the investigation is now moving closer to Fletcher himself -- a sobering prospect for a governor whose numbers are already in rapid decline (one poll found that, if the election were today, only 17% would return him to office).
Democrats are hoping to use Fletcher's woes as an opening to rebuild the state party, a declining presence in Bluegrass politics. A report from the Associated Press earlier this month found Democrats that were determined, but far from naive about their prospects for turning around the state's GOP trendlines. Lamenting their lack of organization, one local Dem said, "We've been apathetic. We're our own worst enemy."
But in a recent trip to Owensboro, KY -- not exactly progressive central -- Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation found progressive stirrings and candidates promoting a "good government" agenda that can win across party lines:
I also had a chance to talk briefly with another state representative, Mike Weaver (D-Elizabethtown), who hopes to challenge Republican incumbent Ron Lewis in the state's 2nd District in next year's congressional elections.
Weaver, a Vietnam vet, denounced Bush for misleading the country into a war which had made us less secure. Weaver also helped craft--and pass--a freedom of information style bill that protects the public's right to examine governmental performance. As a result, his legislation has pushed the Associated Press of Kentucky to take on the state's corruption-challenged governor, Ernie Fletcher, demanding that he release the most basic information about the state government's role in Vice-President Cheney's visit to Kentucky.
So scandals and "good government" will stay hot in the foreseeable future, and may give Democrats the break they've needed. But I agree with Katrina's conclusion, that to be successful in the long run, progressives can't forget the everday issues that affect people's lives:
If I had to categorize people I met, they were independents looking for a politics and leaders who would speak to the reality of their lives, their work, their aspirations ... [M]aybe we need to spend more time paying attention to the record number of bankruptcies being filed in towns like Owensboro, or the workers' lives lost with an end to safety and health regulations, than to Judith Miller and her notes.