Is Bevin’s Nemesis named Adkins or Beshear?


I don’t know if Gov. Matt Bevin took a history course on ancient Greece.

If he did, he’d know about hubris, what the Greeks of old called too much pride. Hubris was a big-time sin in the land of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

Bevin’s snap special session on public pension “reform” is more proof, as if proof were needed, that he’s more of a Cornelius Vanderbilt kind of guy.

“What do I care about law?” the old 19th-century Robber Baron harrumphed. “Ain’t I got the power?”

Bevin thinks he does. The national Democratic Blue Wave was barely a trickle in the Bluegrass State. The Republicans still enjoy supermajorities in the House and Senate.

In Greek mythology, the gods punished mortals guilty of hubris. Bevin evidently figures mortal Democrats—and voters—are powerless to punish him.

Maybe Bevin doesn’t know what hubris means, but he is a Christian. So he ought to be familiar with the biblical warning, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Hubris describes a personality quality of extreme pride or dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with arrogance.
In its ancient Greek context, it typically describes behavior that defies the norms of behavior or challenges the gods, and which in turn causes the appearance of Nemesis, the goddess of justice and retribution.

In last spring’s regular 2018 session, the Republicans also went after pensions, ramming through a bill that the Kentucky Supreme Court last week unanimously overturned on procedural grounds.

Naturally, Bevin popped his cork. He dissed the 7-zip ruling as “an unprecedented power grab by activist judges.”

Never mind that the next regular legislative session is set to start Jan. 8. Forget that the GOP will be up one seat in the Senate (to 28-10) and down only two in the House (61-39).

Bevin couldn’t wait, though special sessions reportedly cost taxpayers $65,505 a day, the C-J explained.

The GOP is back with two new bills that look a lot like SB151, the “sewer bill” that the high court deep-sixed.

“Included in the legislation is the provision that would move new teachers into a ‘cash balance’ retirement plan similar to a 401(k) retirement plan rather than putting them into the traditional pension plan that has defined benefits,” wrote Tom Loftus and Darcy Costello in The Louisville Courier-Journal.

At least the governor and his party are consistent.

They hustled the sewer bill to passage just before the legislature adjourned last spring. While Bevin rushed this special session, GOP lawmakers are hurrying the new pension bills. They were introduced after 11 Monday night – three hours after the special session started.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, “shouted repeated objections about what he said was an expedited process that ignored House rules,” Loftus and Costello added.

Adkins, who’s running for governor next year, vociferously denounced the “sewer bill” last spring as well, but to no avail.

Republican pension “reform” proposals triggered massive Capitol protests during the last session. There are calls for more demonstrations during this special session.

Statements of protest against the special session and the pension bills

Meanwhile, protest statements are flying everywhere.

We got an email from the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition in which KPPC spokesperson Ron Richmond demanded,

This special session needs to end now! The people of Kentucky have elected new representatives who will take office in a few short weeks.  

Calling the special session in the first place is wrong and a slap in the face to Kentucky’s voters. KPPC is calling on House members to vote to end this special session immediately.  Our membership will continue to contact all lawmakers until this unnecessary special session ends.

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, emailed us that the new legislation, like SB151, does next to nothing to reduce the pension debt.

Rather, he said,

The measures take away retirement security for future teachers, putting Kentucky at a disadvantage in attracting and keeping the kind of great teachers our students need and deserve,

So there is no reason to rush into a special session to pass a bill that does a great deal of harm while doing essentially nothing to address Kentucky’s pension obligations. The fact is, the only way for the state to address its pension obligations is for the state to make its full payments every year.

Bevin, the proto-Trump, is losing support

Bevin is Kentucky’s proto-Trump. Like the president, he’s a rich, petulant, union-busting Wall Street Republican posing as a populist.

Trump’s popularity in Kentucky was a big factor in the GOP’s success at the polls last month. At the same time, Bevin’s approval rating is still slipping.

An October Morning Consult tracking poll showed that while 56 percent of Kentuckians like Trump, only 30 percent back Bevin, who is seeking a second term next November.

Bevin ranked 46th in popularity among the country’s 50 governors.

A brand new Mason-Dixon poll revealed that 53 percent of Kentucky voters don’t think Bevin is doing a good job, up from a 41 percent disapproval rate in 2017, as we reported today at Forward Kentucky.

The goddess Nemesis, by Alfred Rethel (public domain)
The goddess Nemesis, by Alfred Rethel (public domain)

Attorney Gen. Andy Beshear, Adkins’ Democratic primary challenger, enjoys a 48-40 edge over Bevin in a head-to-head contest. About 12 percent of voters are yet undecided, according to the poll.

And, even though Adkins only has a 42% name recognition across the state, he still leads Bevin in the poll 42-41.

Bevin doubtless would scoff that when he won in 2015, polls showed him trailing Democratic Attorney Gen. Jack Conway, right up to election day.

Governor Bevin, beware. Remember your Greek mythology wherein the goddess Nemesis—the spirit of divine retribution—was all over hubristic humans. Her handle was “The Inescapable.”

Bevin’s case of hubris seems incurable. Only time will tell if his overweening pride presages a fall, if his Nemesis is named “Adkins” or “Beshear” or some other Democrat, and if Bevin’s defeat is inescapable come November 5, 2019.


Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.