Watching Brownback and Seeing Red

October 14, 2011

Oh, yes – he had a “road map for Kansas”. We heard it again and again during the 2010 campaign. He was going to focus on getting Kansans back to work and improving the economy.

We are now seeing the course he charted unfolding. Unfortunately, most reasonable people are seeing things they never expected – haphazard job eliminations, rejecting federal funds that could help our state, underfunding education, and a heavy-handed new initiative to promote marriage and discourage divorce. Many people are seeing red watching this extreme conservative agenda in action and wondering how we can close Pandora’s box.

Cutting Jobs = Getting Kansans Back to Work?

One of Governor Brownback’s first actions was to cut all open State jobs. There was no consideration of the necessity of these roles – just a brash, knee jerk elimination of jobs. Then, he demolishes funding for Planned Parenthood and SRS, which not only cut jobs but also important services for Kansans. I just don’t understand how massive job cuts are consistent with getting Kansans back to work. Sadly, the most recent Kansas unemployment data shows that we are losing the minuscule gains of recent months. Kansas unemployment is now only 0.1% less than when Brownback took office.

Rejecting Federal Funding

Federal funds that would support the arts and public health were categorically rejected while other federal funds not linked to anything that might be interpreted as “liberal” were accepted. This inconsistency makes it very clear that Brownback is only interested in promoting his specific extreme right-wing agenda. Anything that would enrich or better the lives of the people of Kansas is summarily rejected unless it is on his to-do list.

Jeopardizing Education

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that someone who advocated for abolishing the Department of Education during his failed Presidential run would not provide adequate support for education as Governor. Under the guise of making tough budget choices, schools were severely underfunded leading to a myriad of negative impacts around the state including fewer teachers, larger class sizes, inadequate funds for supplies, and a large burden for parents in the form of sizable school fees.

Marriage “Encouragement”

I’m married and I believe marriage can be absolutely wonderful. I am an advocate of marriage.

However, I don’t approve of the State attempting to tell people how they should approach marriage or trying to keep people together who are incompatible or no longer love each other. The Brownback marriage initiative is the pinnacle of conservative hypocrisy. Conservatives claim they want less government involvement in the lives of individuals. But there seems to be an exception for any social issues they have strong feelings about.

What deeply concerns me is the possibility that many people may become trapped in unhealthy or abusive relationships as a result of Brownback’s efforts to emphasize marriage and make divorce more difficult. Brownback has claimed to have spent a great deal of time in homeless shelters and to have met many people “who’ve blown through relationships”. What is this supposed to mean? For someone to seek refuge in a shelter, they are desperate (possibly in an abusive situation) and probably do not have family or friends who can help them. Trivializing their situation by implying that they would be just fine if they hadn’t “blown through” a relationship is frankly sickening.

Buyer’s Remorse

Shortly after taking office, Sam Brownback had a disapproval rate of 34% in the Survey USA tracking poll. In recent months, however, this disapproval rate has climbed to 44 – 45%.

Increasingly, Kansans are developing serious doubts about the Brownback “road map for Kansas”. If these trends continue, we may be able to dethrone Brownback in 2014.

Our Only Hope – A Sane State Legislature

Between now and 2014, the only thing standing in the way of Brownback completing his journey to crazy town is our State Legislature. We need as many reasonable representatives as possible to keep Brownback from fulfilling his ridiculous agenda. This means we must strongly support our Democratic and/or moderate Republican candidates for State House and Senate in 2012.

Defeating Brownback

To have a chance for a new Governor in 2014, we need a strong, electable Democratic candidate for Governor as soon as possible. Let’s discuss electability as we sometimes don’t attend to it as much as we should. There are a lot of folks out there who meet general electability standards – good public servants, sensible priorities, good communicators, and a desire to make a positive difference. However, we need someone who could win against Sam Brownback, not just an individual who would be electable in generic circumstances. This sets the electability bar in an entirely different place.

In my view, this means we need a candidate who is a charismatic, dynamic, and passionate speaker. We need someone who can inspire voters and excite a crowd. We also need someone with a razor sharp mind who could make mincemeat of Brownback in a debate but also positively present a vision for improving Kansas. This balance is very important – we can’t have a candidate who merely attacks Brownback. We must have something better to offer. We need a candidate who is attractive, likable, and has strong interpersonal skills. We need someone who will not be seen as “just another politician”. In order to win, we will need to create a desirable contrast with Brownback and offer something that he does not bring to the table, because we obviously can’t outdo him on decades of political experience. Above all, we need someone who is genuine and who comes across with the heart of a true public servant who wants to help Kansans.

Electability is Everything

Obviously, all candidates need money to campaign. But, Meg Whitman’s 2010 candidacy for California Governor showed clearly that even throwing over $100 million of your own money at an election can’t win it if you are not seen as desirable and electable. In business, you can throw tons of money at advertising a mediocre product, but advertising alone will not overcome product shortcomings. The same is true in politics, especially when competing against a well-known incumbent. Money alone won’t do it. First and foremost, you need an outstanding and electable candidate to have a chance to win.