Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Defense of the Tax Deal

Today, the United States Senate, by a wide margin, cleared the way for the recent tax deal agreed upon by President Obama and Republican leaders to eventually pass the upper chamber, meeting a key test vote in which only a few Republicans a handful of liberal Democrats opposed.

For those who haven't followed the news in the last week, the Republican leadership and President Obama have agreed on a tax package that will extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, including for wealthy Americans and reduce the payroll tax for one year. In addition, the bill will have a large estate tax (35%) for amounts over $5 million for the next two years, as well as a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits.

Understandably, liberals who want government to tax us to death and want to continue class warfare are opposed to this deal, even though it would extend unemployment for another year and includes a signficant tax reduction for the middle class. The fact is, liberals want to tax anyone who makes any money, becuase they beleive in a redistribution of wealth, plain and simple.

What surprised us here at Kaw & Border is the fact that a few conservatives -- such as the Tea Party Patriots, Erick Erickson, Sen. Jim DeMint, and others -- have come out against the deal. Certainly, the deal is not perfect:

- The estate tax coming back at all is bad.
- The unemployment benefits extension is questionable, particularly since there isn't a funding mechanism in the bill.
- The tax cuts aren't completely permanent -- only extended for two more years.

No, this deal isn't perfect. However, rarely in process of legislating are deals perfect. In our eyes, the conservatives who oppose this deal need to reminded of a few important common-sense considerations:

The first fact is that in the current Congress, the Democrats have wide majorities, and even when we take over in January, we only will control one of the three bodies necessary to enact legislation -- the House. And while conservatve ideals are certainly on the advance in Washington, the fact is if you actually want to make progress on those principles, you have to come to terms with the fact it takes 218 votes to pass something in the House, 60 in the Senate, and the President's signature.

Secondly, due to the nature of the expiring Bush tax cuts, action was needed NOW - not in January, or Americans of all tax brackets would be seeing a huge tax increase. You can't one hand campaign on extending the Bush tax cuts, and then when Obama agrees to 95% of what you asked, balk because you had to give something in return, particularly when that something was extending unemployment benefits at a time when 9.8% of Americans don't have a job and others are worried they'll be next.

Thirdly, while some conservative activists may say 'let them expire' and get a better deal later -- the fact is that reeks of playing politics with people's incomes. Yes, Republicans needed to hold out for an extension of the tax cuts for all Americans, not just those under $250,000 -- and they got that, to the anger of liberals. So, we've gotten Obama to agree on tax cuts, made liberals angry, and we're thinking about opposing this? In short, don't punch a gift horse in the mouth.

Fourth, we need to remember the concept of incrementalism while at the same time recognizing the political realities, which sometimes compromising on the small stuff in advance of the larger aim. In this case, we know that Obama still wields a veto pen, still holds the Senate, and in the short term, still carries the House. With that environment, to get these kinds of concessions is absolutely remarkable. As Keith Hennessey said in this blog post:

If someone had told me, the day after Election Day 2008, that tax rates on income and capital would not increase for the next four years, I would have laughed at them. Now it’s about to come true, and Presidents Obama and Clinton are helping make it happen.

And some want to oppose it because it’s not enough?

The fact is, we can't compare this to our ideal policy because for the next two years, it is impossible to get our preferred policy. Yes, we all want to extend the tax cuts permanently. But what is to stop Republicans from going ahead and proposing this once we take office in January? We can still criticize Reid for stopping it or Obama for vetoing it, right? We are two weeks away from the end of the year, so it is not like we have more time to negotiate this before tax hikes would go into effect -- pass the two year tax cut extension now and try to do the permanent one later.

In essence, we agree with this column in the conservative journal The American Spectator by Philip Klein, who takes issue with Charles Krauthammer and others trying to call this Stimulus II, and details the noncontroversial, borderline, and controversial parts of the legislation. In it, however, he deals with the crticism that tax cuts are the same as spending hikes:

While it's true that from a budgetary standpoint, a reduction in revenue to federal coffers will increase the deficit, just as an increase in spending would, the difference is that a tax cut allows individuals to keep more of their own money, whereas expenditures represent the government confiscating wealth and distributing it as they see fit. Seeing tax cuts as a cost to government is to accept that all income earned belongs to the government in the first place.

So, the "this adds to the deficit" argument is fundamentally weak to us. First of all, 82% of the bill deals with the tax cuts - either the Bush tax cuts or the payroll tax cut proposed by Obama -- which would meet the long-held conservative belief of giving more people their own money. Whether that money is in the form of the income tax or the payroll tax is not important to us, because it's all money out of our pockets -- it's taxes, period, and the payroll tax is the one that hurts the most among people struggling day to day.

Republicans, in short, need to be careful about being seen as simply for tax cuts for business. Yes, those need to be cut drastically too -- and those tax cuts are extended under this bill, which will help businesses create jobs who would like to in the next to years. On the other side of the coin though is the taxes seen in the paychecks Americans receive at the other end of the employer-employee transaction, taxes that would go to things like food, car payments, and such. Conservatives need to remember those Americans as much as anyone else.

Again, there are parts of this bill that we don't like -- the unemployment benefit extension is questionable, but keep in mind, we are at a period of very high unemployment, and while, as Scott Brown (who supports the bill) noted, it would be best to have a funding mechanism for it, picking a fight over unemployment benefits at a time when unemployment is 10% might not be a good way to go for Republicans.

Finally, there are a few pork barrell points of this bill, as Philip Klein also notes in his article:

But the most controversial element among conservatives is the $55 billion in so-called "tax extenders," (see a list of them here). These are various tax breaks for businesses, including tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel. Earlier today, I spoke with Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform, and he pushed back against describing these as earmarks, because they allow businesses to keep more of their own money. While it would be ideal to get rid of all the various deductions as part of a broader corporate tax reform that lowered rates from where they are now (40 percent including states, making it the highest in the world), Ellis argues that in the absence of such reform, it's better that some businesses are able to get some form of tax relief.

So, in essence, as The Weekly Standard points out in its editorial supporting the deal entitled "Good Deal", we should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Other conservatives dislike the deal because it would raise the estate tax from zero in 2010 to 35 percent in 2011 and 2012. But this is just another instance of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. If no deal is reached, the estate tax will reset to 55 percent next year. Furthermore, there’s nothing to stop Republicans from cutting the estate tax in the future. So why let it get in the way of preserving current tax rates on income, capital gains, and dividends now?

And that is the crux of our position here at Kaw & Border. For now, with two weeks to go until the tax cuts expire, we are getting one a bill that was just a dream a few short weeks ago. When we take the House and six additional Senate seats in January, there is nothing preventing us from trying to achieve even more. But to oppose the broader B- deal because it's not an A+ now seems short-sighted and would have the direct result of doing exactly what we don't want -- and that's "pocket passing" a massive tax increase on the American people. As The Weekly Standard column noted, "the most important stimulus in the current deal is that no one will see their taxes rise in 2011."

This bill doesn't mean the end of the tax debate, but rather simply moving from our own 20 to the 50 yard line. Or, if you want to look at it more broadly, the country's policies just ticked to the right a few degrees. That's a good thing.

In that spirit, we urge conservatives to two things:

One, support the bill and embrace the tax cuts; and two, continue fighting for additional, deeper, more permanent tax cuts and broader tax and spending reform.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our 2011 Tip for the GOP in Kansas: Be Bold!

We are now a month past the general election, and the next two to four years in Kansas politics are beginning to take shape. As Governor Brownback and his transition team line up their appointments for the new administration, and as several legislative seats change hands in the process (either by virture of the Nov 2 election or subsequent resignations or appointments), the transition we are witnessing is not only a change from one Governor to another, but indeed what could be a seismic shift in the entire landscape of Kansas politics that could very well last a generation.

In order to completely understand the signficance of what is currently going on in Kansas, we must first look at history. In truth, the current era of Kansas politics began in the early 1990's, when conservatives went from a small issues-based movement into a political one, capturing a strong foothold in the Kansas House with victories by folks such as Kay O'Connor, Phill Kline, and others. The rise of these figures served as a foundation for conservative victories in the future, including Vince Snowbarger's win against Ed Eilert in the 1996 3rd District Congressional primary, to Phill Kline's winning the Attorney General seat in 2002.

What the rise of conservativsm in Kansas meant was that Kansas was no longer a two party system, but a three party system -- Democrats, liberal Republicans (called moderates by some), and conservative Republicans.

Of course, for the first decade or so of the conservatives' existence as a credible political movement in Kansas, they had growing pains, as is typical for any new movement. While conservatives did very well in capturing federal seats -- Brownback winning the House in 1994 and the Senate in 1996 over Sheila Frahm and Jill Docking; Jim Ryun succeeding Brownback in 1996; Tiahrt winning the House in 1994; and Snowbarger winning the House in 1996 -- conservatives did not do well in state offices.

Yes, Tim Shallenburger captured the State Treasurer's office in 1998 and Phill Kline won, very narrowly, the Attorney General's office in 2002 -- but outside of that, conservatives held no -- and were really not competitive in -- any statewide offices in Kansas from 1992 until 2010. Shallenburger, in fact, was defeated for Governor in 2002 and Kline, of course, was defeated for re-election in 2006. Conservative efforts at the governorship failed miserably -- Shallenburger's defeat in 2002 to Sebelius was the closest, in 1998, Conservative David Miller was trounced by Graves in the primary and in 2006, Jim Barnett (who ran as a conservative, though he unquestionably is truly a moderate) was crushed by Sebelius.

On the legislative side, conservatives were able to get a strong foothold in the House, certainly controlling the caucus and obtaining what some might consider a pro-life majority at one time. However, that majority proved not to be as conservative on the fiscal side, with pro-life moderates, RINO's, and Democrats joining together to allow the Sebelius spending hikes to put Kansas on a path to at best, fiscal irresponsiblity, and at worst, economic and budgetary collapse. On the Senate side, conservatives have never had more than say, 17-18 reliable votes, and never controlled leadership -- even in 2008, with 31 Republicans, Steve Morris won 18-13 in his campaign for Senate President.

Point of this history lesson is to point out that while conservatives certainly rose up and had a great impact on the Republican Party and Kansas politics in general, they truly have never been anywhere near control of either chamber nor any statewide office, save two for a period of four years each.

Much of this is due to the fact, for eight years a piece, liberal Republicans and Democrats each used their one "big bat" to run for and hold the Governorship. From 1995-2002, moderate Republican Bill Graves, a very popular Governor among most Kansans, controlled things. He was, in a sense, the moderates' superstar. It was during that period of time that groups like the GOP Club, a Johnson County-based group of moderate Republicans ran by Steve Cloud and company, were the most organized, having control of the party for periods of time, including the period in which Mark Parkinson was State GOP Chair. They fielded primary challengers, in fact, a sure sign of a strength of a political movement. Graves' name was even used on postcards recommending people for Republican Precinct Committeeman.

However, when Graves left, the moderates lost their main source of control over the Republican Party. David Adkins was crushed by Phill Kline in the 2002 Republican Primary for Attorney General. Moderates were largely unsuccessful in taking out conservatives in legislative primaries. Seats they won in 2002 (like District 18) they gave back two years later, in many cases. In the 3rd District, even hero Adam Taff (pre-prison) lost to Kris Kobach in the primary in 2004. They simply were not furnishing future stars -- and ones they thought they had, such as Kevin Yoder and Dean Newton, ended up being fairly conservative. Other talented figures simply became too liberal for Republicans to swallow in general elections. The moderates, though it wasn't clear to all at the time, were clearly weakening -- slowly.

Because of the moderates' weakness, that gave an opening to Democrats. Much like the moderates needed Graves, however, they needed their own big bat. Luckily for them, there were two Democrats holding statewide office -- Sally Thompson in the State Treasurer's office, who lost to Pat Roberts for the US Senate -- and also Kathleen Sebelius as Insurance Commissioner, who soon became to the the Democrats what Bill Graves was to the mods.

Sebelius gave the Democrats life. Because the moderates didn't have anyone credible to follow Graves and because Shallenburger didn't rise to the "big bat" status necessary to beat Queen Kathleen, she won election in 2002. In the period of time she was in office, moderate Republicans began to show their RINO stripes and switched parties -- Mark Parkinson, Cindy Neighbor and Paul Morrison in 2006 and Rick Guinn, Lisa Benlon and Ron Wimmer in 2008, for instance.

While this certainly gave the Democrats a shot in the arm -- they won a major statewide office (other than Governor) and two Congressional seats in 2006 and they started to recruit more candidates for the legislature, including winning six seats in Johnson County in 2008 -- it was fool's gold for two key reasons:

- Most of their victories were based on party switchers, former Republicans with high name identification. Except for a few folks swept into office by Obamamania such as Milack Talia and Mike Slattery, most Democrats who weren't previously Republicans failed. Some, like Wimmer and Guinn, never succeeded. Others, like Neighbor and Benlon -- have since been booted out of office.

- Kansas is, at its core, a conservative state.

No more evidence is needed in the Democrats false insurgency is the the fact that all of the statewide offices, save liberal RINO Sandy Praeger (one of the last remains of the moderate GOP faction), are occupied by Democrats who were never elected to the position they hold. Parkinson, former Lt Governor, is now Governor. He appointed Troy Findley to Lt Gov, Chris Biggs to Secretary of State, and Steve Six to Attorney General. All have lost.

Indeed, Sebelius saw the writing on the wall when she took off for Washington in 2009 -- she knew that, at its core, Kansas is a conservative state and she would have likely lost to the Moran-Tiahrt winner in 2010. What she left behind was a Democratic Party in retreat -- now down to 9 (and probably less in 2012) seats in the Kansas Senate and just 33 in the Kansas House, including losing 5 of the 6 seats it had gained in Johnson County. Not only that, they lost the 3rd Congressional Seat in embarassing fashion.

The Democrats, by any measurement, are dead in Kansas, at least for now.

The moderate Republicans, by any measurement, are on severe life support, clinging onto just the Kansas Senate with a bunch of ineffective folks like John Vratil and Pete Brungardt, who have absolutely no future in politics. Brungardt, for instance, nearly lost his primary in 2008.

That brings us to 2010. Much like Graves was the mods' big bat from 1995-2002 and Sebelius was the Dems' big bat from 2003 to 2009, Sam Brownback is the "big bat" conservatives have been craving the past 20 years.

While certainly conservative success in 2010 -- capturing at least 71 seats in the House and having Kris Kobach and Ron Estes victorious in statewide races, along with the mildly conservative Derek Schmidt -- had a lot to do with the national mood and the fact the Democrats and moderates are so weak -- there is no question that Sam Brownback's presence at the top of the Kansas ticket -- and with it, the kind of resources that Graves and Sebelius enjoyed -- helped propel conservatives to a true state of governance for the first time in history.

Now with conservatives taking control in January, the question is no longer if they can get control, but what they will do once we have it -- in truth, that is the test for any new "party" when they go from complainer to leader.

Will Republicans, starting with Sam Brownback, be bold?

Will they cut taxes, including repealing the sales tax hike from last year?

Will they institute judicial reform, starting with the State Appeals Court, which only requires a simple majority to change?

Will they pursue real school choice?

Will they have the courage to cut education spending, when necessary, standing up to the education lobby?

Will they have the courage to repeal dumb laws passed in the past few years, including the ridicuously confusing teenage driving law?

Will they pursue real budget reform, which includes going to a system of zero-based budgeting, rather than relying on the previous year's spending levels as a starting point?

These are just a few of the "litmus tests" many conservatives will be using to judge the success or failure of conservative power in the next several years.

Yes, the moderates, when combined with the Democrats, still have operable control over the State Senate. However, with 31 Republicans, one would think Governor Brownback could use some political capital to influence enough squishy Republicans to get to 21 votes on a critical issue? And, more importantly, even if you can't get to a number (say the 27 needed to change the Supreme Court judicial selection method), one would hope we would actively primary the 10-15 RINO Senators who are standing in the way of conservative legislation being passed.

Our advice to Governor Brownback and conservatives in power?

BE BOLD. You have nothing to be afraid of.

Indeed, as we described earlier, the moderates and Democrats are both at their weakest in history. Their "movements' are hopelessly disorganized and morale is low. The candidates they do find are either terrible or out of step with the values of Kansans. The school lobby is weaker than ever, with Kansans sick of 18 years of massive increases in education spending, only to see the same lobby ask for yet another increase the next year, demanding tax increases to fund them.

More importantly, Kansans are embracing conservative values. It is not like Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach are, to use a popular RINO phrase from the mid 1990's, "stealth" -- everyone knew what they were voting for -- yet both won with huge margins, both bigger than the margin Derek Schmidt, someone who was part of the moderate Steve Morris leadership team, earned.

Kansans are pro-life people who want their taxes low, spending cut, the schools kept accountable, and government small. Plus, with a still-emerging tea party movement ready to serve as an enforcement mechanism for 2010 campaign promises, now more than ever, conservative elected officials will be hearing from conservative voters.

With the people at their back and the political risks small, Brownback and legislative leaders need to realize what they have in front of them is a huge opportunity -- not to simply win future elections for political gain, but to leave a lasting legacy that will have a positive impact on the lives of Kansans for generation to come. And on an even broader perspective for the nation as a whole, they have an opportunity to make Kansas a model for conservative governance for other states to follow.

Imagine a Kansas as a truly pro-life state, as far as the current Supreme Court will allow us to go!

Imagine a Kansas where taxes are low compared to our neighbors, where businesses and families want to move here instead of move away.

Imagine a Kansas where immigration laws are enforced, where voters actually have to prove who they are when they vote, and where voter rolls are cleaned up.

Imagine a Kansas where the budget is balanced and where spending is reduced and government is not just held steady, but actually shrunk.

Imagine a Kansas where the court system is like the federal one, and where Governor Brownback, rather than being forced to select from three liberals, can choose true constitutionalists to fill judgeships in Kansas, a decision which would mean no more Montoys -- ever.

Imagine a Kansas where school choice is embraced and where public schools are even more successful because they are held accountable and have real competition.

Imagine that.

This will only occur if Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders not only have a sense of history, but realize they have the opportunity make history -- to realize the opportunity in front of them to take bold, conservative, decisive action.

We will not comment on whether we think this will happen -- that's for another blog post on another day -- but we certainly hope it will. If it does, we will have their back as will the vast majority of Kansans. Sure, some will oppose them, but in the long run, most Kansans -- largely a conservative lot -- will reward conservative action.

Why? Because conservatism works every time it's tried. And it's time to try it here in the Sunflower State.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sarah Palin vs. the Establishment

As we have become accustomed to in modern politics, even though we are not even to Thanksgiving of 2010 yet, rampant speculation has already begun on the 2012 Presidential race -- specifically, the potential field for the Republican nomination. Much of this early fervor is centered around one woman -- Sarah Palin.

To be clear, though this blog is a huge fan of Sarah Palin, we have yet to decide on whether we think Sarah Palin should run for President or not or whether she would be the best choice if she does. Though much of the talk focuses on Palin, Gingrich and the leftovers from the 2008 field, plus a few others, there is still plenty of time for candidates currently not on the "serious radar" -- like Jeb Bush, for instance -- to end up emerging in the coming months.

That said, with the former Alaska Governor herself being honest about the fact she is seeking the office, much of the attention lately has been on her, and deservedly so. After all, if it wasn't for Sarah Palin drawing massive crowds in 2008, there would have been exactly ZERO enthusiasm for the McCain candidacy, and she clearly had a great deal of impact on the 2010 races -- and while not all of her endorsed candidates won, she clearly helped all of them get closer to victory than they would have, including Christine O'Donnell and Joe Miller, who many point to as Palin failures.

Of course, the fact that so many try to assign credit or blame for all candidates wins or losses on Palin shows the power she has in the eyes of the political media. Some of it is overstated -- she is not responsible for the fact some candidates turn out to be duds or run bad campaigns. However, some of it is clearly understated -- there is no individual out there right now, Barack Obama included, who has the ability to generate movement in a race on his/her own.

Finally, while we object to the notion that Sarah Palin is the face of the tea party movement -- as there is no real one singular face to a movement that is so massive and unorganized (not a bad thing, necessarily), she is, in our eyes, the face of what is, in our eyes, a more important political phenomenon that has emerged in 2010 -- and that is anti-establishmentism. Some will try to downplay the fact there is an establishment at all, and while sometimes drawing the line between what is "establishment" and "non establishment" can be tricky, in many cases we known it when we see it and we know it indeed exists. Whatever "it" is, it clearly does not like Sarah Palin.

The reasons for this are several-fold. Some of them like her generally but dislike the prospect of her running based purely on political numbers by those reading the early tea leaves -- they seem someone with very high unfavorables for a potential Presidential candidate, yet someone who could also emerge from the primary and thus sink our chances of defeating Obama. Basically, if these same numbers showed her being very popular, these folks would be singing a different tune.

To be clear, this group of Palin detractors bothers us at K&B the least -- in fact, it is likely that Palin herself is seriously weighing those very numbers as she decides whether to make a bid. Clearly, any serious presidential candidate has to take that into account -- namely, in her case, can those unfavorables be brought down? If she feels they can -- she will likely get in the race. If not, she'll keep doing what she is doing now.

However, it is worth noting that we feel that anyone who feels it is impossible Palin could improve those numbers is wrong -- the fact is Palin generates news simply by opening her mouth and that kind of access and ability to generate news brings with it the unique ability to perhaps move the perception of herself in in the way someone like Tim Pawently cannot. Certainly, some opinions of Palin -- both positive and negative -- will be locked in -- but our sense is that some of the dislike of Palin is rather soft, based on innuendos and perception rather than substance -- and that if people get to know Palin more and trust that she is indeed competent and a leader , that their opinions of her could shift in a way that gets her into general election electability range.

So, to be clear, discussion over Palin's electability is fair game. What bothers us, however, is the level of Palin hatred that is now seeping into some aspects of the conservative movement. While we would expect this level of "Palin derangement syndrome" from the left, it is disappointing when it comes from the right.

Last week, Politico reported that many in the party establishment were "fearing" a Palin candidacy -- basically, the calculation goes that she could win the nomination but would get crushed in the general election. This "panicky fear" demonstrated itself in conservative-yet-establishment columnist Mona Charen's recent piece on Townhall.com entitled "Why Sarah Palin Shouldn't Run".

Now, certainly, Mona Charen has a right to express a view that any candidate should or shouldn't run. That's fine in itself. Perhaps, for instance, it would be better if Palin focused on rallying the troops. Perhaps her numbers are just too low. Perhaps there is some better candidate on the horizon who inspires us all (more on that in a bit). That would be fine.

But, Mona Charen only loosely talks about those issues, instead resorting to what felt to us was a bit of an angry rant. Here are a few examples:

"Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity, not sizzle and flash."

"Instead, she quit her job as governor after two and a half years, published a book (another is due next week), and seemed to chase money and empty celebrity. Now, rather than being able to highlight the accomplishments of Sarah Palin's Alaska, we get "Sarah Palin's Alaska," another cheesy entrant in the reality show genre."

"But Reagan didn't mud wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus encourages the sniping. She should be presiding over meetings on oil and gas leases in the North Slope, or devising alternatives to Obamacare. Every public spat with Dave Letterman or Politico, or the "lamestream media," or God help us, Levi Johnston, diminishes her."

'Speaking of television, sorry, this must be mentioned. Have you watched "Dancing With the Stars"? Cheesy would be several steps up for this one. Perhaps the former governor should not be blamed for the decisions of her adult daughter. Yet there in the audience we see Sarah and Todd Palin, mugging for the camera and cheering on their unwed-mother daughter as she bumps and grinds to the tune of "Mamma Told Me (Not to Come)."

"She would be terrific as a talk-show host -- the new Oprah. "

"But as a presidential candidate? Someone to convince critical independent voters that Republicans can govern successfully? Absolutely not."

Our reactions to these hits are several:

First of all, calling a former Governor and Mayor and long time servant of the people of Alaska a "talk show host" is an insult to Palin herself, the people of Alaska, and the millions of Americans who support her --- particularly conservatives, which Charen claims to be, namely those who worked for McCain in 2008 when they wouldn't have otherwise. While Charen seems to indicate that the TLC show and Dancing with the Stars are beneath Palin, it seems to use that it is beneath Charen to whine in this manner.

Second of all, Mona Charen tries to imply that Palin isn't of substance at all, as if she is kind of ditzy TV clown who doesn't care about the country, but only herself, when a simple trip to her Facebook page would reveal post after post that delves into areas of policy, from energy to health care to taxes. While Palin might not be hosting think-tank-style seminars that no one ever hears about or sees, she is clearly addressing the topics of the day. Could Palin perhaps look to devise ways to express her policy views more? Perhaps so, that would be fair. But rather than making that point, Charen plays into the liberal characterization of Palin by basically saying she doesn't care -- or doesn't know -- about policy and thus is rock climbing on television, when the opposite is true and Charen -- and those like her -- know it.

Third of all, regarding the TLC show itself, we watched it and found it incredibly enjoyable and not the cheese-fest that Charen and other Palin detractors say it was. It provided very beautiful imagery of Alaska and its beauty from the perspective of a former Governor who clearly loves her state and whose family spends a lot of time exploring that state. What could be more American than that? Yes, it was a "reality show" in the sense what was going on was real and not made up -- but is that bad? While the verdict on the show is far from finished -- it's only had one episode as of this post -- it seems to us that Charen already had likely written her piece and predetermined her view of the show before seeing it -- and that's assuming she did even watch it. Her attempt to try to classify it in the same vein as something like the Biggest Loser or Survivor is at best, unfair, and at worst, an outright lie about what the show was about.

What Charen ignores and Palin grasps is that in today's world of communication, thinking outside the box -- such as having a show like Sarah Palin's Alaska -- might actually be a way to reach voters we wouldn't otherwise reach. For example, middle aged suburban women are a key demographic Republicans need to reach in 2012 - well, folks, guess who watches TLC? This isn't hard, yet Mona Charen would rather Palin appear on C-Span or PBS apparently.

Finally, let's address the core issue here -- electability. In our eyes, this panic over Palin's candidacy is delusional and insulting to Republican primary voters. The fact is, in order for a candidate to emerge from what will surely be a crowded field -- or even a small field - that candidate has to display a combination of charisma, intelligence, and yes, substance -- in order to win. If Palin comes across as the Mona Charens of the world portray her -- she'll lose. However, as we suspect, that if Palin comes across as the credible, passionate, affable, even if slightly quirky former Alaska Governor that people followed so loyally in 2008 -- she will have as good a chance as any to win the nomination -- AND the general election, because over time, she will build her reputation among voters enough to win the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Of course, the key ingredient in the establishment's fear over Palin is something that is her strength -- she's damn good at what she does. She has clear convictions and is unafraid to say them. Yes, she tangles with the media but that's a GOOD thing -- too often, our side isn't willing to do so. She's very charismatic and while some don't like her quirks, many do and there is no question she can draw and rile up a crowd -- yet in a different way than Obama did. Rather than using TelePrompTer-induced flowery rhetoric, Palin speaks plainly and from the heart, and yeah, to the establishment, that's annoying. To many, however, it's what they've been looking for.

The fact is, Sarah Palin has what few candidates ever have at this stage -- a following. Guess who else had a following like this at this stage? Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, two "rock stars" (even if you don't like Obama, clearly he was that to the Democrats in 2007/2008) in their own right. The fact is she has legions of supporters and those supporters are not mind-numbed robots -- there is a reason for why they like her. And rather than ripping her, it might serve Charen, Karl Rove, Kathleen Parker and others like them well to look and see why.

Furthermore, what you never hear talked about is the fact that none of the other candidates in the field exactly inspire confidence and visions of victory either. Seriously -- Mike Huckabee? Mitt Romney? John Thune, for goodness sake?

Good men, indeed. Not disasters or anything, but hardly people that most Americans would envision leading the country. If that person did exist -- a clear inspiring conservative who presented an alterative to Palin who perhaps also was anti establishment -- those who think Palin might not win would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately for them, outside of possibly Chris Christie, who has said he will not run on numerous times and whose conservative bonafides are only somewhat clear -- no one out there is demonstrating that "oh, this may be the guy/girl" thought right now that so many Republicans are looking to have.

Finally, it is our view that Republicans should be not be so quick to dismiss the POSITIVES of a Palin nomination nor should they underestimate her -- not just on the ability to win a primary (as they clearly feel she could), but more so on the ability to handle substantive issues and navigate the political waters in a way that people view her favorably.

For if she does handle that well, and the combination of what she is doing in the media, her book deal, and in speaking engagements do eventually start turning her numbers favorably, there is no question in our mind that she could win the general election.

And that, at the heart of it, is perhaps what the establishment fears the most. Call it "protesting too much" -- but the "she can't win" talk is just a little too much for us. A Sarah Palin victory would upset their collective apple carts and that is what they fear the very most. Sure, they can handle a Rand Paul here or a Marco Rubio there crashing their cocktail party of, as Charen puts it, "sensible" Republicans.

But President Palin? That has to be stopped at all costs, even if it means lies and misrepresentations about the most compelling conservative figure in a generation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winn, Lose, or Make Excuses

In the Kubler-Ross model of the "five strages of grief" after a devasting loss, the first stage is denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. In the case of long term Johnson County RINO's Dick Bond and Bob Vancrum, this model seems to be playing out true to form in their reaction to the devasting loss of one of their own -- Larry Winn -- to hard-working conservative Jason Osterhaus, who defeated Winn last week 53% - 47% in the race for the County Commission in the 4th District.

In an article entitled "Changes in store in county leadership" in the Johnson County Sun dated Wednesday, November 10, Bob Vancrum and Dick Bond, former legislators out of the 1980's and 1990's, were asked to explain by reporter Chuck Kurtz this giant political upset. Rather than give Osterhaus credit for his grassroots campaign or acknowledge that perhaps that so-called "moderates" are a dying breed in Johnson County, Vancrum and Bond were clearly neck-deep in the grief process when they gave their silly excuse for the defeat of their fellow RINO comrade -- blaming his loss on the fact the Shawnee Mission School Board redoing boundaries and closing schools. Larry Winn is currently President of the Shawnee Mission School Board.

In Vancrum's case, he seems to be in the first stage of simple denial:

"I think that loss was in part about people being upset about the school boundaries in the Shawnee Mission School District," he said, going on to say "That was not handled very well, and it came back to hurt him."

Bond, long time enemy of conservatives, seemed to be in a mix of all stages, including anger, depression, and perhaps a little barganing. Bond starts off by sharing Vancrum's sense of denial, though Bond's own quote refutes his ridiculous excuse:

"I was surprised, I was supporting him," he said. "But I think the school proposal got him a number of negative votes even though he had not announced his position in regard to the proposal by the superintendent."

It was Bond's second statement went a couples stages further in his grief process:

"He was (in the voters' eyes) guilty by association, and that's too bad. (depression) He would have been an excellent commissioner. (barganing) Osterhaus is far, far right and backed by (former state legislator and former Johnson County Community College Trustee) Ben Hodge." (anger)

I understand Bond's depression -- his long time friend lost an election, in the same geographic area where Bond himself represented when he was a State Senator, which must have doubly hard. We've all been there. All of us have once said after a losing campaign, "Candidate A would have made a great X". And we've all been known to spew a little venom towards the victor who defeated our hero candidate by exagerating the truth a bit. "Such and such is a communist."

So, Mr. Bond and Vancrum, I get it. Elections are tough and losses are tougher. The problem is that in their grief process, they're completely ignorant of the facts of the situation surrounding Winn's defeat -- or perhaps, even more likely, they're simply choosing to ignore them, out of fear of admitting what it means for their ever-shrinking portion of the political pie in Kansas.

Let's be clear about what happened last Tuesday. It had zero -- or, at the very most, extremely little -- to do with anything regarding the Shawnee Mission School Board. As Bond himself acknowledged, Larry Winn hadn't taken a position on the proposed changes. In fact, the Shawnee Mission School Board didn't redo the boundaries nor close any schools. In fact, just this week -- a full week after Winn's defeat -- they decided to not vote on the measure. All that had happened was a proposal by SM School Board Superintendent Gene Johnson -- a controversial one, indeed -- but one that Winn hadn't taken a position on, much less opposed. And, furthermore, the logic in Vancrum's and Bond's statement made no sense -- it's not as if voting against Bond for the County Commission was going to remove him from the Shawnee Mission School Board -- if anything, voting against him would have given him the political freedom to vote for closing the schools, if in fact that was his position in the first place.

What Bond and Vancrum are ignoring in their excuse making is not one, but several very large elephants in the room that led to to the Winn loss:

1. So-called moderates are a dying breed in Johnson County. If Bond and Vancrum would open their eyes, they'd realize that Winn was simply the latest one to go down. In 2008, State School Board Member and RINO Sue Gamble was crushed by Mary Pilcher Cook. In 2010, RINO Jill Quigley lost to Kelly Meigs in the Republican primary in a district dominated by "moderates" like Steve Cloud, Lisa Benlon, and Stephanie Sharp for more than 15 years. Former RINO-turned Democrat Cindy Neighbor was trounced by John Rubin 59% - 41%. Former RINO-turned Democrat Lisa Benlon lost to Greg Smith. RINO Sheryl Spalding nearly lost to Richard Downing in the primary. Owen Donohoe defeated public school-backed Joe Novak 62-38%. RINO-favorite Delores Furtado lost to Jim Denning. RINO "Enemy #1" Kris Kobach flew through the primary and the general. The fact is, while Vancrum and Bond, a well known king-maker for "moderates" going back more than two decades, may yearn for the days they were in power and conservatives were cast as stealthy nut-jobs who hated public education, those days are past and after 18+ years of lies and deception, the people aren't buying "Bonds" anymore. They're buying Kinzers, Grosserodes, Rubins, and yes, an Osterhaus.

2. Tuesday's result had really nothing to do with anything that happened on Tuesday - it started six months ago when Jason Osterhaus started walking, kept walking, and didn't stop walking until it got dark the night before the election, communicating his common sense, independent conservative message to the voters in a kind, straightforward, respectful way, earning their trust and respect over many months. When he didn't walk, he called, or he had friends drop literature for him. And while yes, some assistance from the Kansas Government Reform PAC clearly aided Osterhaus, the victory was in large part due to the fact Jason Osterhaus will go down as history as the hardest working candidate since Kay O'Connor.

Remember Kay? Well, if you don't, Bond and Vancrum should have, because Kay's election should have taught them a lesson. In 2000, then Rep. Kay O'Connor, known as the voucher lady at the time, ran against State Senator and three-term Lenexa Mayor Rich Becker, a popular and kind fellow who was nonetheless one of the RINO's in Bond's zoo.

O'Connor, much like Osterhaus, had no money. Becker had essentially unlimited funds and the backing of those who couldn't stand Kay and a name that few felt could be beat. Yet, much like Osterhaus, Kay walked. And she walked. And she walked. And she walked some more. She didn't hide how she felt nor was she stealthy. As someone once said, no one ever voted for Kay O'Connor by accident. Uncompromising in her principles, come election day, Kay won -- and much like in the Johnson County Sun article today, similar quotes of shock and dismay were given by Bond and Vancrum 10 years ago, rather than refusing to recognize that perhaps she had appeal, much like the refusal to recognize that Osterhaus had appeal this year.

The point here is this -- it is an absolute insult to Jason and the hard working volunteers who campaigned with him for Bond and Vancrum to insinuate that Jason Osterhaus merely represented some kind of protest vote over some line being redrawn or a middle school being closed. The fact is that due to his walking and actually talking to the voters over a 6 month period, there was perhaps no more well known candidate in history in that area of the county than Jason Osterhaus, and the people liked what they came to know and what he believed in, and they voted for him.

3. On the flip side of Osterhaus' hard work was Winn's lack thereof. While Osterhaus had yard signs throughout the district -- in yards, a sign of his real actual support -- there is little evidence Larry Winn ever appeared on someone's door step, instead relying upon Dick Bond's 1990's-era playbook -- large signs in front of shopping centers owned by their economic development buddies; large mailers full of quotes and endorsements from unknown Overland Park City Councilman and other members of the Johnson County oligarchy; and the arrogant-yet-all-too-apparent belief that no young right winger like Jason Osterhaus could come close to the son of a former Congressman.

Truth be told, given Winn's money advantage over Osterhaus, there was no excuse for his loss. Not the school board. Not voter confusion. Not Ben Hodge. It was Larry Winn's refusal, as is typically the case by the wine-and-cheese crowd, to get out and actually talk to the voters and find out what they really think.

See, if Larry Winn, Dick Bond, Bob Vancrum, Jill Quigley, Sheryl Spalding, Lisa Benlon, Cindy Neighbor and others like them would actually get out and talk to the people, they'd realize that perhaps that not only are people concerned with the potential of a few lines being redrawn or schools closing, perhaps they're also concerned about the fact their sales tax went up, the fact their property taxes are too high, the fact the state is in deep debt due to massive education spending, the fact that their liberty is being taken way by big government liberals -- and perhaps that they would like those trends to be reversed, and Jason Osterhaus, along with the other victors last Tuesday, had pledged to reverse them.

In fact, out of all the conservatives who ran for office in Johnson County on Tuesday night -- all of them won. Every. Single. One.

Perhaps the day will come when Bond and Vancrum, and surely others like them, reach that final stage of grief -- acceptance -- and they will accept the fact that the voters are becoming more conservative, that they voted FOR Jason Osterhaus, and that when challenged, RINOs are being rejected coast to coast, including right in the heart of the area once represented by Senator Bond himself.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Riddance, Gene Rardin.

Hey, Democrats! Want to know how to avoid crushing losses in the future like you suffered on Tuesday night?

How about NOT electing bigoted, left-wing candidates like State Rep. Gene Rardin, who in this pathetic blog post, attacked his opponent, Republican Amanda Grosserode, for homeschooling her children. Here is the actual text:

My Opponent Homeschools Her Children
If you are not aware of this, you should be, before you vote. I taught in SM Schools and support funding for a strong public education system. I demonstrated my belief by attending SM Schools as did both of my children.

Amanda Grosserode does not understand the importance of our public schools and has demonstrated that lack of understanding by withdrawing her own children from public schools in favor of home schooling.

The author of this blog attended SM Schools, but this is a pathetic statement. How can Gene Rardin even stoop to the level of attacking Amanda's choice of how to educate her children? Why should that matter? The arrogance that drips from this statement is sad, not to mention ignorant.

First of all, one can send their children to private school or homeschool and have a perfect understanding of public education and still believe in a strong public education system -- and conversely, someone who does send their children or was educated in the public school system can have absolutely zero understanding of a quality public education system.

Second of all, as taxpayers who fund the public schools, we all have a right to have a say in how our tax dollars are applied to education and how our educational system functions, no matter whether we send our kids or even if we choose not to have children at all.

Of course, Gene Rardin wasn't even the worst case of this in the 2010 election cycle. In District 38, Democrat Roberta Eveslage occused Rep. Anthony Brown of the same thing -- of homeschooling his kids. The problem there? Anthony Brown does send his kids to public schools and always has -- in the Eudora Public Schools. She just outright lied.

The good news for Kansans?

In District 16, Amanda Grosserode crushed Gene Rardin 55% - 45%.
In District 38, Anthony Brown destroyed Eveslage 68% - 32%.

Thank heavens.

What's hilarious in this is that these Democrats like to call themselves "moderates", when the are truly "MINOs" -- moderates in name only. If Democrats have any hope of every having a prayer in Johnson County again, they'd better find some candidates who are truly moderates and not leftists who go after their opponents on how they educate their kids.

Until that happens, Democrats won't only have minority status, they will be a virtual non-factor in Kansas politics -- right now, they are holding onto just 1/4 of the Kansas House and Senate, which could have been even lower if not for several razor thin margins in several races.

Pretty soon, Democratic Caucus meetings will start occurring in closets.

Johnson County is Finally a Red County

November 2, 2010 brought historic victories for Republicans nationwide. From coast to coast, Republicans made impressive gains. These gains, outside of perhaps California, knew few boundaries or other demographic barriers. They won 64 new House seats (61 net, could raise as high as 70). They won 6 new Senate seats, which could be 7 -- and should have and could have been more. They won at least 11 new Governorships. They now control 55 of the 99 state legislative chambers. Hidden in the top line results is how close this red tidal wave came to being an absolute slaughter nationwide -- several Democrats barely survived challenges that could have driven the House number higher.

One place it was a slaughter was here in Kansas, where Republicans swept all of the statewide offices, which only one very liberal Republican (Sandy Praeger) held until Tuesday night. Those offices were replaced by conservatives -- ranging from Kris Kobach on the right to Derek Schmidt on the more moderate side, all of whom won by huge margins. In the Kansas House, Republicans picked up 16 conservative seats on Tuesday night, an amazing number when you consider Republicans already had 76 seats in a 125 seat body.

However, the one place where Republicans overall and conservatives specifically can absolutely rejoice is right here in Johnson County, where for the first time since conservatives arrived on the scene in 1992, the county finally became a truly red county. What makes this achievement truly remarkable is that in 2008, it appeared as though Johnson County might be turning hopelessly blue -- but what 2010 showed is that when good conservatives candidates step forward and have the courage to run and run on principle, good things will happen.

Make no mistake, some of the success was due in part to the national mood going against Democrats. But, as many have noted in opinion polls and as we have seen in some of the mixed results in Senate races, this isn't necessairly due to some embrace of Republicans. Yet, what we have seen in Kansas, and particularly Johnson County, is a recognition of the fact that Sebelius-era gains aside, Johnson County is a conservative county that will embrace conservative candidates.

What's truly remarkable is when you look into the details of the results. In the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, Democrats went from 1 seat in Johnson County to 6. Prior to entering the 2010 cycle, only 10 of the 22 House seats in Johnson County were held by people considered to be at least somewhat conservative. That number is now 16, the highest it has ever been proportion wise.

In the seats that we gained, the results were impressive -- in District 16, not held by a Republican since 2006 and not by a conservative since 2002, Amanda Grosserode won with 55% of the vote. In District 17, held by three liberal Republicans (one is now a democrat) since 1992, Kelly Meigs won in the primary and easily won in the general with 63% of the vote. In District 18, John Rubin absolutely destroyed Cindy Neighbor, who had been in and out of the seat since 2000 in a series of close races that went both directions. In District 19, previously held by liberal Phil Kline and then Democrat Delores Furtado, Jim Denning won with 56% of the vote. In District 23, which was lost in 2008 53-47, Brett Hildabrand flipped the result around. And in District 22, a seat not held by a Republican since 1996, Greg Smith won 51-49.

The amazing numbers don't end there. Jason Osterhaus, a conservative Republican, upended son-of-the-former-Congressman Larry Winn II in one of the greatest political upsets/stories in Johnson County political history, capturing the 4th County Commission District, currently occupied by Johnson County icon and former OP Mayor Ed Eilert. Jason, who defeated Winn, City Councilwoman (and wife of Senator Tim Owens) Donna Owens, and Chuck Vogt in the primary, didn't just squeak by either -- he won with 53% of the vote, largely on a strong grassroots campaign backed up by help from the conservative Kansas Governtment Reform PAC, which paid for mailers and autodials from conservative stalwarts Kris Kobach, Currie Myers, and Darla Jaye, among others.

It gets better.

Conservative incumbents across the county didn't do any worse than 60% -- Lance Kinzer earned 68% in District 14, up from 60 in 2008; Arlen Siegfreid earned 65% in District 15, up from 52 in 2008; Anthony Brown earned 68% in District 38, up from 57% in 2008; Owen Donohoe, who had a serious challenger who spent tens of thousands trying to defeat him, earned 62% in District 39, up from 52% in 2008. These are well known conservatives being completely embraced by the voters of Johnson County.

The conservative insurgency -- and the collapse of Democrats and liberal Republcanism -- is even more evident when you look at the county wide results in what where thought to be competitive "big" races.

Kevin Yoder, who ran on a conservative theme, turned NIck Jordan's 39% in 2008 to a 59% in 2010 in District 3 as a whole, and whopping 65% in Johnson County. No Republican had done better than 48% since 1998 and no county had even won Johnson County since 2002.. Yes, Stephene Moore was a terrible candidate, but make no mistake -- Yoder didn't win by being Jan Meyers -- he won by being a conservative in the mold of a Paul Ryan, and that's to his credit.

Kris Kobach, the so-called conservative 'lightning rod', pulled a 61% in his Secretary of State race, incredible given his 43% showing in 2004. What this showed is that the voters in Johnson County embraced his message and do care about immigration and voter fraud.

Sam Brownback, widely regarded as a strong social conservative, earned a 63% in Johnson County.

And completely blowing up the theory that more moderate Republicans make better statewide candidates or are somehow more appealing in Johnson County, Derek Schmidt, a right-leaning but still-somewhat moderate State Senator, was last among the statewide candidates, *only* pulling 56%.

The Johnson County Sun and Kansas City Star are unlikely to talk about these numbers in depth and what they mean, but the impact should not be minimized. The Democratic gains made in the 2000's are gone -- the Democrats, outside of lonely Mike Slattery in the 24th District -- are basically gone. Moderate Republicans are on life support, down to just five endangered (just ask Sheryl Spalding) House Reps and three State Senators in the state legislature -- clinging on to largely uncontested (outside of the County Commission and a few isolated seats) local races on city councils and school boards.

The moral of this story is that conservatives are without question on the asendancy and what could very well be on an unstoppable offensive. One or two new Senate seats and Four or five new House seats -- all in conservative growth areas -- will emerge in 2012, likely adding to these numbers. Conservatives challengers are likely to emerge in the remaining three Senate and six House seats held by moderates and liberals. The Osterhaus victory -- on the heels of the Distler and Tammy Thomas wins in Shawnee and De Soto -- will likely motivate conservatives to start focusing on local government, possibly starting this Spring.

What this will mean is a very deep bench, filled with quality representatives who will help market the conservative brand and fill seats up the political ladder when current elected officials move on. What this will means is a motivated Republican and conservative electorate. And, as it already probably is, it will most likely result in a complete loss of morale within the Democratic and RINO camps, who might soon recognize that their days are numbered and that the fight may soon be over.

Yes, Johnson County is finally a "red county" and is on its way to being a deeply red county.

So who gets the credit for this great surge of conservative success?

The immediate praise goes to those candidates who had the courage to step up and run -- Amanda Grosserode, Kelly Meigs, John Rubin, Jim Denning, Brett Hildabrand, Greg Smith, and Jason Osterhaus. Not only are each of these individuals praise-worthy for stepping forward to endure the hard work of a campaign, they are all truly political superstars, demonstrated by their impressive margins of victory and their absolute commitment to conservative principles. Even better, they are all first class people who Kansans will be very proud of.

In Grosserode's case, she helped found the Johnson County tea party movement and had the wisdom to turn that concern over her country into action, stepping forward to run herself in a critical district for conservatives to hold. Running seemingly non-stop from the day she got in the race, her Democratic opponent had no prayer from the start, despite spending tens of thousands spreading disinformation about Amanda. In the end, as we noted earlier, her hard work and commitment to the truth earned her 55%.

In Rubin's case, after an extremely narrow loss in 2008 which would have caused many candidates to punt and move on, he had the foresight to understand that a narrow loss in a Democratic year in 2008 meant a likely win in 2010, and win he did. John didn't rest on the laurels of a Republican wind, he walked his entire district on a solid conservative message and won with nearly 60% of the vote, an amazing margin given the history of the District.

In Meigs' case, she took on 18 years of history and the entire RINO establishment in a fearless manner, running one of the best organized campaigns in memory. She would not accept the conventional wisdom that District 17, simply because it had been held by Benlon, Sharp, and Quigley -- was off limits to conservatives. She ended that narrative completely, winning 54% in the primary and an impressive 63% in the general election.

The stories go on but the results are the same. Osterhaus had no money and defeated a Johnson County icon. Denning took his private sector experience and had the courage to serve. Smith's personal and inspirational story is well known to all.

Of course, these victories would not have been possible without the foundation of those who came before them. People like Lance Kinzer, Anthony Brown, Arlen Siegfreid, Owen Donohoe and others, who in just the past few years showed that you can be authentically conservative, run on principle, and consistently win. People like Mary Pilcher Cook, who despite a loss for the House in 2006 (and also in 2002), won 55% in a race for the Senate in 2010, laying the foundation in Nortwhest Johnson County for Meigs, Hildabrand, and Rubin. People like Joy Bourdess, who in 2008 ran an impressive race, though unsuccessfully, in District 22, creating a path for which Greg Smith could walk down two years later.

And, dating back to the 90's and early 2000's, we must not ever forget those like Kay O'Connor, John Toplikar, Phill Kline, Judy Morrison, Cliff Franklin, Tim Carmody and others who by their own courage then, founded the conservative movement in Johnson County that is enjoying widespread success in 2010.

It's hard to describe the 20 years of "fighting the good fight" and the depth to which conservatives have fought for a day like Tuesday. Yes, we had some wins, but we had some crushing losses too and sometimes seemingly insurmountable odds. Only limited success in statewide races. The media hitting us again and again, demonizing our candidates and making fun of our movement. Large numbers of liberals within our own party, rendering our large majorities meaningless. Winning seats only to lose them two years later. Yet, we kept fighting, never giving up, realizing that one day, the conservatives day would come, and now it has.

To be clear, this fight is not finished. There are still elections to be won and challenges ahead, and time will tell if the historic conservative surge of 2010 will last and translate into further victories down the road, whether they be at the local, state, or national level. And to be sure, many factors played into these impressive victories, including the national mood, the strength of the top of the ticket, and the overall weakness of our opposition. Moreover, the long term staying power of this new conservative reality in Johnson County will depend on a host of factors, including the records of those we just elected, the ability to create a sustainable and well organized grassroots movement, and the overall mood of the electorate.

However, it is the hunch of this blog is that it will indeed last. Never before has their been this much energy within our great conservative movement. And, if it does last, in ten years from now, much as we today remember the names of O'Connor and Kline and what they meant to our movement, let's always remember the names of Pilcher Cook, Kinzer, Brown, Grosserode, Smith, Meigs, Hildabrand, Rubin, Denning, and Osterhaus, and so many others who made Tuesday possible.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tax Dollars Being Used to Promote Chris Biggs

What do you do when polls have you down 15 points to your challenger?

Commission an ad, paid for by tax dollars, to promote yourself under the guise of promoting advanced voting in Kansas.

That's what Secretary of State Chris Biggs is doing, spending almost $160,000 of Help America Vote Act money in this recent ad on television across Kansas. Notably, the Kris Kobach campaign has objected, as covered by the Lawrence Journal World.

First of all, Biggs claims it is a public service announcement -- not quite, it's a paid TV ad. While it is paid for with federal dollars, tax dollars are tax dollars.

Second of all, if Biggs wanted to avoid any issues concerning promoting himself, the ad could have said "Brought to you by the Kansas Secretary of State's office" and eliminated the picture of him at the end, oddly surrounded by four people in his office, a picture which screams "look at me, I'm your Secretary of State and am hard at work giving commands to my minions!"

But no, the desperate Chris Biggs -- a Democratic Sebelius hack appointed when Ron Thornburgh bailed on Kansans and quit the job early under a Democratic Governor -- couldn't resist the temptation to have $159,000 in free advertising for his failing campaign.

What's even more pathetic is that this isn't the first time Chris Biggs has done this. As covered by the Kansas Watchdog, Biggs also did this in 2005 while he was the Kansas Securities Commissioner. Then, $400,000 of your tax dollars went to promote an ad promoting himself. While not an elected official at the time, the self-promotion was still hard to take, particularly from a complete gas-bag like Chris Biggs.

Another component of this that bothers us -- and perhaps not others -- is why the state should even be spending tax dollars to promote Advanced Voting anyway. Now, it makes sense for a political party -- or a political candidate (like Biggs!) -- to promote early voting from supporters so people lock in their vote for you before anything can change their mind. But why should the state care when people vote, as long as they do vote?

As anyone who has been to a polling place on election day in the last few cycles knows, there are no longer lines at polling places, due to advanced voting. So to use that as an excuse to promote advanced voting now is misleading. While we could see the justification of an ad to encourage people to vote period -- it is not as if the thousands of yard signs, phone calls, mailers, and television ads from candidates and political parties aren't giving people a clue that an election is around the corner, particularly given that almost every ad or mailer tells people when to vote, or how to vote early, if they wish.

This $159,000 is a perfect example of wasted tax dollars to promote something that doesn't need promotion -- advanced voting. And it certainly shouldn't be tolerable for an elected official to use tax dollars to promote himself within 30 days of an election.

The good news is that Kris Kobach is crushing Chris Biggs in the polls, and given that Steve Six and Dennis McKinney are also losing -- perhaps the Kathleen Sebeilus era can be put to bed once and for all in Kansas, if only so we can get their mugs off our televisions and we can all have some hope that our tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Conservatives +6 in Johnson County?

With all the talk nationally about conservative gains from coast to coast, including up to 10 or 11 seats in the United States Senate and as many as 100 in the United States House, our focus here at Kaw & Border is turning local and at the tremendous opportunity for conservative gains that will occur on November 2 right here in Johnson County.

There are currently 22 State Representative districts within Johnson County. Of those 22, only up to ten can be considered "right of center", otherwise known as individuals considered likely to vote conservative on both economic and social issues when in Topeka:

Lance Kinzer, Anthony Brown, Owen Donohoe, Ray Merrick, Scott Schwab, Kevin Yoder, Marvin Kleeb, Arlen Siegfreid, Mike Kiegerl and Rob Olson. How one lines these up from right to left is up to the eye of the beholder, but roughly speaking, Brown and Kinzer are on the right and Yoder and Kleeb are on the left, but all are reasonably conservative Republicans.

Of those 10 people, only one -- Kevin Yoder -- is not running, as he is the GOP nominee for Congress. What could have been a retreat back to the left was held by Rob Bruchman, widely considered someone out of the Yoder/Kleeb model of conservatism, so this is a hold for conservatives. Although some of the others have opponents, none are expected to be defeated in November, but certainly conservatives should make sure they donate and/or volunteer to those like Anthony Brown and Owen Donohoe.

Of the remaining 12, six are RINO's (Sheryl Spalding, Jill Quigley, Barbara Bollier, Ron Worley, Pat Colloton and Kay Wolf) and six are Democrats (Milack Talia, Cindy Neighbor, Gene Rardin, Dolores Furtado, Mike Slattery, and Lisa Benlon).

During the primaries, two of the RINO's were challenged -- Quigley and Spalding -- and Quigley was defeated by Kelly Meigs, who is likely to prevail in the fall against a no-name Democrat opponent. That's +1 for conservatives, so we're up to 11. Spalding only prevailed by 33 votes, setting up the prospect that conservatives could defeat her in 2012, and potentially putting the other four in jeopardy as well. Still, however, for the 2011-12 sessions, the moderate/liberal contingent will at least hold five seats.

However, the great news for conservatives is that out of the six Democratic-held seats, five are being challenged by those considered reasonably conservative, and all five are considered even money or likely to achieve victory on November 2. Here is how we handicap each:

District 16 -- Amanda Grosserode vs. Gene Rardin
Rardin and the Dems have put out some mailers hitting Grosserode on the Fair Tax, but this is way too little way too late for the Democrats against the hard-working, hard-charging, incredibly credible Grosserode, who has walked her district twice and has the money to answer whatever Rardin tries to throw her way. Frankly, we would be shocked if this race turned out to be less than 10 points in a Likely Victory for Amanda Grosserode.

District 18 -- John Rubin vs. Cindy Neighbor
Isn't it just hilarious that Cindy Neighbor actually used to claim to be a Republican? Neighbor, who nearly lost to Rubin in the year of Obama, 2008, which along with 2006 was perhaps the best year to be a Democrat in Kansas, is facing John Rubin again and this time, her fate will be the opposite. John Rubin, a former federal judge who fits the Kinzer mold of conservatism, has covered the district on foot and is already known by the voters due to his previous run. Again, the Democrats are trying hard to hold on here, but the chances of that happening are slim in 2010. We're calling this a 54-46 win in a Likely Victory for John Rubin.

District 19 -- Jim Denning vs. Dolores Furtado
You don't get any more liberal than Dolores Furtado, who would frankly fit right in if she was running in San Francisco. Furtado, herself a former Republican and a County Commissioner pre-Eilert, is always tough to beat but Denning is working his rear off to win this district back for Republicans, which is one of the two they lost in 2008 where the Republican won those who showed up on election day but lost overall due to underperforming with advanced voters. Denning, who is truth be told probably somewhere in the Yoder/Kleeb model of Republicans, will have to earn his stripes as a conserative in Topeka, but he is light years to the right of the socialist Furtado, and has the bucks to conduct a mail campaign as well as a door to door campaign. It is hard envisioning seeing Furtado holding on to this, so we're calling it a 54-46 win in a Likely Victory for Jim Denning.

District 22 -- Greg Smith vs. Lisa Benlon
District 22 has been the district the Democrats could count on for the last 16 years, even when Republicans held all the rest. Briefly held by Britt Nichols from 1995-1996, it has been held by Sue Storm and RINO-turned-Democrat Lisa Benlon since. Benlon drew a serious challenge from Joy Bourdess in 2008, but Joy, despite her strong grassroots campaign, was simply unable to overcome many of the advantages Democrats had in 2008, including the fact that District 22 has many Democrats in it. However, in 2010 the Republicans have their best chance since the mid 1990's in Greg Smith, father of Kelsey Smith, and Greg is on the cusp of victory here in the hard-to-win 22nd. Smith, a conservative by all stripes, has worked the district hard and has not only a compelling story to tell, but a compelling message as well. However, due to the political makeup of the district, this one will be tough and could go either way. While we feel it is a slight lean towards Smith, it is truly a Tossup.

District 23 -- Brett Hildabrand
Unlike the 22nd, where the Democrats have held it for 15 years, the 23rd is a District that until 2008, was held by conservative Republicans Judy Morrison and Cliff Franklin. Though the district is balanced politically -- a lot of Democrats live there -- conservative Republicans can win it as the number of moderate Republicans is quite small. Milack Talia won it in 2008 57-43, but that was against an opponent who was widely regarded as not working particularly hard, particularly on the ground, so the margin should not deceive anyone -- mainly because political newcomer and conservative Brett Hildabrand has taken the opposite approach, walking the district completely and doing what needs to be done to achieve victory -- for make no mistake, the 23rd is not a district that one can rely on mail to win. A conservative must work the grassroots and that is what Hildabrand is doing. Though some Democrats may think they can hold on here, the previous 15 years prior to Talia's win tell us that Hildabrand will win here, though it will be close. Our handicap is that this district is a Slight Lean For Brett Hildabrand.

Add those five districts up and add in Kelly Meigs win from the primary, and you've got a Net +5 conservatives already and if Greg Smith wins in the 22nd, a +6 for conservatives within Johnson County alone.

The other Democratic-held seat, the 24th, is being challenged by someone widely regarded as being quite liberal, Michael Foltz, so we are not handicapping that race, though it appears likely that Slattery will win.

Should the above scenario occur, the conservative numbers in Johnson County will go from a respectable 10/22 to 16/22, heading into redistricting, which will push the number of House seats past 25, perhaps as high as 27.

The moral of this story is that for the first time in recently political memory, conservatives have the opportunity to make significant gains in Kansas, including right here in Johnson County, previously regarded as a bastion for moderate Republicans, who either have switched parties or been defeated. And, considering the fact Spalding barely won her primary, no left-of-center politictian should consider themselves safe in Johnson County.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jill Quigley Isn't Sharp

After a hiatus for the primary season, Kaw & Border is back for the fall, and will be looking at various races around the metropolitan area and Kansas as a whole. Perhaps look for other contributors as well.

One of the more exciting results for conservatives last Tuesday night was the historical -- yes, historical -- win for Kelly Meigs over Jill Quigley in House District 17, which incorporates northern Lenexa and southern Shawnee.

The win was historical because for the past 18 years, District 17 has been represented by the left wing of the Republican party -- Lisa Benlon, Stephanie Sharp, and Jill Quigley. While all nice women, all three were unquestionably liberal on both social and economic issues, and as such were the personification of the term RINO, or Republican In Name Only.

Several times in the past, conservatives tried unsuccessfully to capture the seat. Jacob Swisher pulled a respectable 43% against Benlon in 2000. Sharp was challenged twice -- once in her initial election in 2002 by Bob Curtis and again in 2004 by Marty Metz, who pulled a respectable 42%. Sharp went unchallenged in the 2006 primary and then resigned in 2007, when Quigley, a Republican for Moore, won the special election among District 17 Precinct Committeepeople 18-12. She was unchallenged in the GOP primary in 2008.

Enter 2010, the year of the conservative, and Kelly Meigs. Meigs, undaunted by previous losses by other conservatives and with the complete knowledge of what it takes to win -- hard work, walking, etc -- defeated Jill Quigley by a healthy 53-47% margin, a nice spread for a challenger in a primary.

This result happened for three key reasons:

- Kelly Meigs was a hell of a candidate who had a clear consistent message and worked very hard at talking to voters. A simple trip through the neighborhoods of the 17th District showed that Meigs had been literally everywhere. She walked, got some mail out, and usually that translates to a win. The fact is, despite the myth that some have been spreading for two decades, conservatives can win in ANY seat in Johnson County and the 17th District is NOT liberal. It may not be Olathe, but it isn't chalk full of pro-abortion tax-and-spenders either, and Meigs proved that.

- The era of the true hard-core Republican "moderate" is essentially dead or at least on serious life support. Not only was this proven in the 17th District, it was also shown in Sheryl Spalding barely escaping defeat (by just 33 votes, a 17 vote margin in essence) in the 29th District, as well as Kris Kobach's overwhelming win in the Secretary of State's race, as well as the fact that Kevin Yoder only scored 44% of the vote, despite having support from a solid slice of conservatives. And Yoder is far to the right of the Sheryl Spaldings and Jill Quigleys of the world.

- Finally, Jill Quigley isn't (Stephanie) Sharp. Stephanie Sharp, to her credit, was a very hard campaigner who largely adopted conservative election tactics in her many wins in the district. She also had a bit of a conservative background, but just ran hard left while in the legislature, supporting massive tax increases, supporting abortion rights and opposing the marriage amendment. Quigley, on the other hand, was a well known Republican for Moore supporter with a spouse who contributed to Howard Dean in his 2004 bid for President. She had quite possibly the worst record of anyone in legislative history that actually sat on the Republican side of the aisle, a big mistake for someone living in a district whose Senator is Mary Pilcher Cook. Quigley's politics might have had a chance in northeastern Johnson County, but not in District 17 -- the fact is, once she was challenged in a primary, she was destined to defeat.

So, with Meigs win in the primary, one would think that means that Quigley would respectfully realize that she is too liberal for the district, recognize the reality that is 2010 politics, and maybe, just maybe, even support Kelly Meigs in an attempt to appear more reasonable if things swing back in a couple of years.

Or, not.

Instead of this intelligent approach, Jill Quigley is once again proving she isn't so sharp -- but this case, with a lowercase "s". This week, Martin Hawver revealed in his "Hawver Report" email blast, revealed the following:

It’s being quietly discussed in Johnson County that Bryan Cox, the un-contested Democratic nominee for the 17th House District, may resign his victory in favor of State Rep. Jill Quigley, R-Lenexa.

Cox said he’s considering whether he will retain the Democratic nomination, or resign it, presumably in favor of Quigley who would change parties to seek the seat as a Democrat. Efforts to reach Quigley have been unsuccessful.

Can anyone say sore loser?

So, essentially, for those of you who don't follow Kansas politics, this is what they'd do:

1. Cox would declare he's "incapable of fulfilling the duties of office" (I guess because he's a bad candidate?), triggering a vacancy on the ballot.

2. Quigley would finally admit the truth and officially switch parties.

3. The Democratic Precinct Committeemen and Women within District 17 (of which there are only 8!!) would meet and fill the vacancy on the ballot created by Mr. Cox.

4. Jill Quigley would be nominated and "elected" to be on the ballot as a DEMOCRAT to replace Mr. Cox, so she could face Kelly Meigs again in the fall.

Oh, man. How bad of a candidate must Mr. Cox be in order for this kind of Chicago style politics to be tried right here in sleepy old Lenexa and Shawnee? Think of what the Dems are trying to tell him:

"Um, yeah...we know you wanted to run for this and stuff, but we want to replace you on the ballot with this lady who just lost 53-47 in the REPUBLICAN primary. So could you, like, declare you're unable to serve?"

Way to build confidence in your new candidates, Democrats!

Obviously, what Jill Quigley's thinking in this scenario is that she would attempt to "Phill Kline" Kelly Meigs and thus get all of the Democrats and enough moderate Republicans and Unaffiliateds to win in the general election.

The math, on pure numbers alone, theoretically could work but Quigley's thinking does not take into account these obvious roadblocks:

1. Trying to "Phill Kline" Kelly Meigs is absolutely ridiculous. She just beat you in a primary, Jill. The Dems tried to do the same to Mary Pilcher Cook in 2008, a year much friendlier for Dems in Kansas than 2010, and she crushed you 55-45. So go ahead and try.

2. People don't like this kind of game, particularly in 2010. YOU LOST as your declared party. It's one thing to pull a Cindy Neighbor and switch parties and run in the NEXT election -- but in the SAME election in which you JUST lost, using some quasi-legal maneuver designed for people who either relocated, are injured somehow, or dead is not something the public will like -- it would make a mockery of our election laws.

3. Perhaps the district is CONSERVATIVE AFTER ALL, or at least more in line with Kelly Meigs common sense conservative thinking than Jill Quigley's left-wing ideology. Perhaps it doesn't want a Howard Dean-supporting, Dennis Moore-supporting liberal who loves tax increases and is for abortion on demand.

Yet, for our part here at Kaw & Border, we really hope Quigley tries to pull this stunt. It would be thoroughly rejected and motivate conservatives to fight even harder to get Kelly in, and she would likely crush Mrs. Quigley by a wide margin.

However, for the long term sanity of our state, we hope that the State Legislature makes an adjustment to this law. It's one thing to fill a vacancy for someone who has died, relocated, or somehow truly unable to run, but to allow this kind of shenanigans sets up scenarios that are truly shady.

It basically allows either party, if they are unable to find the candidate they want by the filing deadline of June 10, to nominate a stand in, wait til the primary results of the other party to see if they have a chance, and then have that person declare that he or she is unable to serve, and then fill the spot on the ballot with the person they really wanted, thereby extending the filing deadline.

Of course, the problem would be in writing language that would prevent that kind of backroom crap from occurring while still allowing for the replacement of someone who was truly unable to run and thereby allowing the voters a choice...but surely something could be written to prevent a PRIMARY CANDIDATE FROM ONE PARTY to be the GENERAL ELECTION NOMINEE OF THE OTHER PARTY in the SAME CYCLE!

In the end, Jill Quigley only has til about Monday night to decide this, because Mr. Cox would have to get his notice in within 7 days of the primary certification. Reading the mind of an sore loser like Jill Quigley is difficult, but we'll see if she comes to her senses.

If not, bring it on!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In Honor of Our Namesake

In this post, we are taking a break from covering local politics to discuss the famous television show that is this site's namesake -- Law & Order. After all, last night marked the end of the show's 20th season, and possibly its last, if Creator Dick Wolf is unable to find a new home for the drama on TNT or another network or possibly get NBC to change its mind.

Tonight's show, called the "The Rubber Room" was perhaps the best episode in the last few seasons, for both its twists and turns as well as some of the best scenes in the show's history - from D.A. Jack McCoy's ripping of a teachers' union lawyer to the goodbye scene for Lt. Anita Van Buren. If this show is indeed the last regular episode -- if Wolf strikes out on finding a new home, NBC will assuredly run a series-ending movie -- then the writers did the show justice.

But this post is not about one episode, it is about honoring the 20 year drama that is, without question, the best show in television history, and to urge that NBC either reconsider its decision to cancel the show or that TNT pick up new episodes for not only a 21st season, but beyond.

A show like Law & Order doesn't go on for twenty years -- making it through the era of brainless sitcoms, reality TV, and numerous failed dramas -- if it isn't the essence of good television. A show doesn't create multiple spin offs -- Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent, Trial By Jury (cancelled), Conviction, Law & Order: UK and now, Law & Order: Los Angeles -- unless it's a compelling franchise. Simply put, in the era where ratings mean everything and quality means less and less, a show like Law & Order has to be outstanding in order to survive.

And Law & Order is all of the above. Unlike most fictional television shows which are primiarily based on the lives of characters, Law & Order is based on headlines. Now make no mistake, Law & Order has had a series of great characters -- but by basing its plots largely on something that will naturally keep relacing itself, it could survive multiple cast changes in each of the main six characters and still last 20 yeas, and theoretically, if the writing holds up, another 20 years and another 20 years.

Of course, it is not just the "ripped from the headlines" theme that made the show -- it is the quality, first class writing. For twenty years. And, writing that dared to be controversial and also dared to make you think, no matter what your political persuasion. In the show's first season, a show called "Life Choice" depicted an explosion at at abortion clinic, but fairly reflected all sides of the issue. Recently, some fellow conservatives criticized the show because Jack McCoy came across as quite liberal, yet they forget that just a few seasons ago, some thought the show was too conservative when McCoy's precedessor, Arthur Branch, was the DA.

Point is here that the show was and is the best on television. That's the reason so many are addicted to it and why it has so many millions of fans, and why it has done so well on TNT on reruns. And that's why so many of us are trying to do whatever we can to save it.

Law & Order should, of course, be renewed for a 21st season. NBC cancelling it, and denying itself a television milestone right when they need positive news, makes little sense, particularly given that they are launching another spin off, Law & Order: Los Angeles, when they should have/could have just kept the mothership. Not only that the cancellation will result in the unemployment of thousands of actors -- not just the six main stars - but the thousands of actors who have appeared on Law & Order in some form. It also will have an extremely bad effect on the economy of New York City -- and, perhaps more imporantly, it's culture.

However, even if NBC had kept it/does keep it for a 21st season, it was not going to survive past that season on a major network. The reason is several-fold: NBC doesn't have a clue how to market quality shows; NBC can't design a programming lineup that makes sense; NBC refuses to do crossovers between the shows on the franchise; it's now popular to replace old with new, even if the new is bad; budgeting; and the fact that shows like L&O are no longer valued or cherished by the network brass like it used to be. People forget that L&O wouldn't have even made Season 2 unless the then-NBC head was a L&O Nut. He gave it life and it lasted 20 years. That won't happen when people like Jeff Zucker are in charge.

So, for those who really wanted Law & Order to survive ANOTHER twenty seasons, the network holding it was not going to be NBC, but probably a cable outlet -- most likely, TNT. Dick Wolf has given us all hope that L&O is not dead as he has given indications he is actively shopping the show to other networks, and will exhaust every available means before relenting.

TNT, of course, makes the most sense. As the home for reruns of the show since 2002, it has helped make L&O the success it is. Its slogan is "We Know Drama". It saved another NBC show, Southland. It has several other legal dramas. It would thus be a perfect fit for TNT to make Law & Order the crown jewel of its network not only for one season, but for the next decade or more.

So, Dick Wolf, TNT, or whoever else will help make the decision -- we ask that you bring Law & Order back -- that you not let it cancel, and you let this national pasttime of American television continue on so another generation can actually turn on the TV and not only be entertained, but made to think and even inspired.

After all, it inspired this blog.