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The Likely Democratic Party Candidate for the Senate Opposing McConnell is a Militarist Who is Not Much of an Alternative

Given the 2018 election results, one might expect a wave of more liberally-minded peace candidates. In one race for the senate, that is definitely not happening.

I live in California.  A couple of weeks ago, I received a fundraising letter from Amy McGrath who is running for the Kentucky seat in the U.S. Senate against the reactionary Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

I have been registered with the socialist and anti-war Peace and Freedom Party since the 1970s.  I have to wonder why on earth McGrath would reach out to me asking for money, especially given the message of her letter.

She starts out by describing a letter she wrote to Senator McConnell as a 13-year-old about her “dream” to serve her country by “flying fighter jets.” At the time, “women weren’t allowed to serve in combat roles in the U.S. military.” She asked Mitchell “to help change the law” so her “dream” could come true.

I can understand a 13-year-old having dreams like hers and thinking women should have the same opportunities as men. What is troubling is her screwball feminist dream came true. As a young adult, she flew fighter jets on behalf of U.S. imperialism. According to her letter, she completed “three combat deployments,” flying “89 combat missions” in the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan presumably helping in the killing and the displacement of people from high up in the sky.

Criticisms of McConnell

McGrath sees communicating with leaders like she did as a 13-year-old as a “crucial part of the democratic process” of “holding elected leaders accountable and demanding action.”

She faults McConnell for not writing back to her and for ignoring voices like hers “in favor of coal barons, Big Pharma bigwigs, and other D.C. swamp-dwellers.”  Were she Kentucky’s next senator, she pledges to be different. She will “hear what constituents care about” and put “people first and gets things done.” The examples she cites of getting “things done” are completing three combat deployments and flying combat missions, “serving in the Pentagon, and raising a family.”  That is real specific information about what she will do as a senator! And for these reasons, I should feel compelled to make a donation to help her campaign?

She goes on to write that McConnell has “forgotten the people who elected him” and is supported by his “special-interest pals” who will use “millions of dollars in dark money” to help him keep his position. She does not mention that so far, more than six months before the election, she has raised almost $30 million– about $4 million more than McConnell.  In her fundraising, she shares something in common with McConnell. According to one report,

“Both candidates’ campaigns are being funded by significant proportions of out of state donors. McConnell’s campaign got over 89 percent from donors outside of Kentucky, while McGrath’s received 96 percent through the end of 2019.” [1]

She is hopeful she can win. She cites the election of Democrat Andy Beshear. He won his race for governor of Kentucky, a position Beshear’s father recently held, over the Republican incumbent by “talking about issues…like good-paying jobs, healthcare, voting rights and teacher pay.”  However, in her letter, she does not specify what is said when discussing these matters, nor offer any concrete proposal as to what she would do.

McGrath concludes her letter letting people know how some people have told her “they’ll sleep better” with McConnell “out of office,” and by having a leader “actually fighting for everything from quality, accessible health care to affordable college,” and “the integrity of our very democracy.”

Finally, she asks me to join her “grassroots movement” even though I live in California. The only joining I could read about is to send her some money which is not my understanding of what a grassroots movement does.

McGrath’s Stands on Issues

To be fair, I went to McGrath’s website at www.AmyMcGrath.com. I sought to learn more about what might be her specific proposals to fill the desire expressed in the P.S. section in her letter calling on me to imagine “a better future with her,” something I have difficulty doing.

On Militarism

McGrath favors the use of diplomacy to solve some security problems as opposed to going to war,

“many serious threats to our security—information warfare, pandemic disease, the diffusion of violent extremist ideology, and climate change—cannot be resolved with more fighter jets and aircraft carriers.”

For obvious reasons, solutions to some of the above-mentioned problems require world cooperation—you can’t bomb viruses.

Her favoring diplomacy over going to war to address threats should not put one at ease. She also comes across offering up zealous right-wing claptrap and illusionary rhetoric about the uniqueness of the U.S. and the importance of it striving to be the “champion of democratic movements.” Given her military record, this is frightening. In her words,

“Our role in the world is unique and we must strive to be the champion of democratic movements, human rights (including women’s rights), justice, equality, opportunity, and the freedoms of speech, religion and the press. After fighting for my country and representing America around the globe, I know firsthand that we need a professional, modern military that is ready to stand up when the nation calls—and that understands and represents our American values.” 

What “American values” did she stand up for when she helped with the dropping of  bombs on Iraq and Afghanistan?  How often, especially during her lifetime, has the United States striven to be a “champion of democratic movements, human rights,…justice, equality,” and not done the opposite?

McGrath’s call for a “modern military” that is prepared “to stand up when the nation calls” indicates she is ready to resort to war as a solution.

Does she really think the nation called when Bush and his cronies and Obama deployed her on bombing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan?

U.S. militarism alone is not sufficient for her.  She also sees the NATO alliance and its militarism as also critical.

“We live in an interconnected world. We need strong alliances to face the global challenges ahead, and NATO is the most capable alliance in world history. The alliance includes members that together account for more than half of all global military spending, and it’s critical because it’s values-based. Freedom, democracy, rule of law, and liberty are pillars of the organization.”

Furthermore, McGrath supports Israeli militarism: “I’m in full support of maintaining Israel’s QME (Qualitative Military Edge) and strengthening our nation’s special relationship based on shared values.” How much stronger does she want that relationship to get and how many more billions should U.S. taxpayers provide Israel is not specified.

On Health Care

McGrath rejects a single payer health care system and, instead, wants to reform the existing system that maintains a large role for the private health insurance industry that profits by denying people care and charging exorbitant rates.  She favors giving people a choice to either be in a public health plan or a private one. She believes the increased competition from a public plan will help keep people from paying too much since the goal of a public plan “would not be to make a profit.” Shouldn’t that be the goal of all medical plans?

McGrath supports a Medicare buy-in for those over 55. Her stated goal is “universal coverage for all Americans.” Yet, her proposals will not necessarily provide medical care for the millions without insurance or even those with insurance who are reluctant to seek medical treatment due to high deductibles and/or co-payments.

On Student Debt

McGrath recognizes the problems many former students face being burdened with debt. Her “practical solution” is not to offer any relief by cancelling or reducing that debt.

Instead, she favors giving students “an educational benefit equal to four years of average in-state tuition where their college is located.” In return, recipients would have to give back and enter a national service program. For how long is not clarified. Nor is there any mention of how students would pay for room and board, transportation and textbooks.

This obviously is class-laden since those whose parents can pay for college won’t have to enter a national service program to be able to leave school without owing money borrowed to cover the cost of tuition.

Workers and the Economy

There is little on McGrath’s website that addresses the immediate needs of workers. She condemns McConnell for opposing increases in the minimum wage and states “We need leaders who say “yes” to raising the minimum wage.”  Yet, she does not specify how much it should rise above the current, with exceptions, abysmal $7.25/hour.

Part of her plans for a “New Economy” is the following:

“Kentucky’s coal miners literally fueled the growth of the nation, and helped power us to become the greatest economy the world has ever seen. We need to repay the sacrifice of generations of people now bearing the brunt of changing global energy markets.”

How coal miners would be repaid is not specified.

McGrath’s Background

From her website, one learns that she grew up in what appears to have been a solid upper middle-class household with a father who was a high school teacher and a mother who was a pediatrician and psychiatrist.

She attended the U.S. Naval Academy and was a Marine for 20 years, becoming the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18. She would later have jobs in the government including working as a Congressional Fellow advising on defense and foreign policy and in the Naval Academy as an instructor before retiring from the Marines to raise a family with her husband, a retired Navy pilot.

Nothing on her website indicates she has ever been involved in fights for social justice or in grassroots organizing campaigns, other than to seek office.

Her having been a fighter pilot and her disgruntlement over Mitchell not responding to her letter written when she was 13 are hardly good or compelling reasons for electing her. Her stands on issues, to be charitable, are problematic.  McGrath is not McConnell, but she is also not much of an alternative—more a reflection of how right wing and militaristic the U.S. and the Democratic Party continues to be.[2]

Notes.

[1] https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/04/mcconnell-falls-kentucky-small-donors-flock-to-mcgrath/

[2] An article in The Intercept at https://theintercept.com/2019/07/11/amy-mcgrath-mitch-mcconnell-democratic-party/  provides more insight. When McGrath launched her losing 2018 campaign for the House of Representatives, she ran “a viral ad celebrating her role as a bomber pilot, going so far as to use actual footage of a bombing.” See the ad at

The same Intercept article quotes McGrath telling people back then at a fundraiser held in Boston, “I am further left, I am more progressive, than anyone in the state of Kentucky.”  Good grief! What total nonsense.

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Rick Baum teaches Political Science at City College of San Francisco. He is a member of AFT 2121.

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