Democrat Booker: ‘Rand Paul doesn’t know a damn thing about our struggles’
Charles Booker is the Democratic frontrunner in the race to challenge incumbent Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. | Timothy D. Easley / AP

I don’t know if Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul pegged Charles Booker as a doormat Democrat.

Booker seems to be pretty soft-spoken and a really nice guy. But he’s proving to be anything but a pushover, one-two punching Paul and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

“You’ve got to fight hard to win an election, especially against an entrenched incumbent like Paul, and Booker is fighting hard,” said Democratic activist Daniel Hurt.

A former state representative from Louisville, Booker is the favorite—so far—to win next May’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary and earn the right to challenge Paul.

Booker’s feistiness seems to be firing up Democrats, even some skeptics who claim his candidacy is a Quixotic quest against Paul, a hard-right, Tea Party-tilting Trumper in a deep Red State with millions to spend on beating any opponent.

Paul is also a well-known Covidiot, which various websites define as “a person who acts like an irresponsible idiot during the COVID-19 pandemic, ignoring common sense, decency, science, and professional advice leading to the further spread of the virus and needless deaths of thousands.”

But Paul’s irresponsible idiocy extends beyond recklessly mocking medical experts and spreading potentially lethal lies about the deadliest pandemic in a century. “The poorest people in our country actually are equivalent to the middle class in most countries. We are a huge success,” he said in a Senate speech the other day.

Paul is a well-heeled doctor-senator and the son of a millionaire Texas doctor-congressman. Born and reared a long way from Easy Street, Booker lit into Paul for his clueless comment.

“Shameful,” Booker said in a recent fund-raising email. “I grew up poor. I come from the struggle. I will not accept or tolerate an ignorant politician telling the people of Kentucky that we should be satisfied with poverty.

“Rand Paul has never had his lights cut off or been homeless. Rand Paul has never rationed his medicine to survive. Rand Paul doesn’t know a damn thing about our struggles because he doesn’t see us. He thinks he’s better than us.”

No doubt let-’em-eat-cake Paul, a poster boy for white privilege, figures his disingenuous comparison between poverty in the U.S. and “most countries” will endear him to the if-you’re-poor-it’s-because-you’re-lazy, red MAGA-hatted white folks who comprise a mammoth hunk of GOP voters in Kentucky and nationwide.

Either Paul was just shamelessly pandering to his bigoted base or he really believes what he blathered. It doesn’t matter; he’s flat wrong.

Don’t take my word for it. Check out “America’s Poor Are Worse Off Than Elsewhere,” a posting under the heading “Poverty Facts and Myths”:

“The myth that the poor in the United States are not so bad off can be found in a wide range of places. It basically reflects the idea that those in poverty have nothing to complain about—that given the conditions in less developed countries, things could be much worse.

“It is certainly true that if we compare the U.S. to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, physical poverty in the U.S. is obviously less extreme. The United States does not have the widespread famine and severe stunting of children that are sometimes found in extremely poor countries.

“However, most analysts would argue that the more relevant comparison would be the group of other high economy countries such as those found in the European Union, Canada, Japan, Australia, and so on. In comparing poverty in the U.S. to these OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries, we find that American poverty is both more prevalent and more extreme.”

The OECD countries cited are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“What we find is that the U.S. rates of poverty are substantially higher and more extreme than those found in the other 25 nations,” says Poverty Facts and Myths. “The overall U.S. rate using this measure stands at 17.8%, compared to the 25 country average of 10.7%. The Scandinavian and Benelux countries tend to have the lowest rates of poverty. For example, the overall rate of poverty in Denmark is only 5.5%.”

Those prosperous Scandinavian and Benelux countries lean pretty steeply toward—Saints preserve us!—democratic socialism, A.K.A. social democracy.

Anyway, while Booker seems to be boosting Democratic morale in the Bluegrass State, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did likewise for Dems here and everywhere for forcing the “Truculent Turtle” back in his shell over raising the debt ceiling and calling McConnell’s hand on his “dangerous and risky partisan game.”

After McConnell caved, he fired off a poison-pen letter to President Biden vowing he won’t play ball with the Democrats again because of Schumer’s “tantrum.” Translation: The schoolyard bully was desperate to save face.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul. | Andrew Nelles / AP

Booker also wrote to Biden, scorching McConnell for lashing “out instead of working towards any solution at all. As a Kentuckian, I’m furious. As a public servant, I’m sickened.”

Booker reloaded and fired again: “I’m ashamed to share a home state with Leader McConnell. He’s clearly forgotten the people of Kentucky, willing to sell us out on the national stage for cheap political points. He couldn’t walk a mile in our shoes, let alone understand what it is like to live every day in fear of going hungry, dying without healthcare, traveling broken and dangerous roads, or going homeless because you can’t make ends meet.”

McConnell romped to re-election again last year. Paul is still the favorite to beat Booker or any other Democrat. “But Booker is exciting the base,” said Democratic activist Daniel Hurt. “They like seeing a candidate who is fighting back.”

Hurt, who has managed or helped run a slew of campaigns for the state legislature, said that for years, Republicans have succeeded in negatively defining Democrats, and not just in Kentucky. “They’d come up with a label and it would stick and we’d come up with some less-than-equal come back or we’d just say ‘That’s not us—you all know better than that.’

“That’s not how you win elections.”

Added Hurt, who was also on the staff of Adam Edelen’s gubernatorial bid in 2019: “Good campaigns have a rapid response team that will take action immediately on what an opponent says or does.”

Hurt suspects Team Booker will keep calling out Paul “on the poor leadership we are getting from him in Washington. Democrats in Kentucky have been too concerned about playing defense instead of going on the offense.”

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Berry Craig
Berry Craig

Lifelong Kentuckian Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, recording secretary for the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. His ninth book on the history of his state, “Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor: Stories from the Day of Infamy,” was published by the University Press of Kentucky in November 2020.