Kansas, Kobach, and the Face of Middle America

July 23, 2018


In the movies, Kansas represents middle America, from The Wizard of Oz to The Day After to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Simply stating that a character hails from Kansas is shorthand for the director to announce that the person is a red-blooded, average American. When in Kansas, background characters are meant to convey to the audience that the latter is peering into the “true” America.
 
Like a lot of America, Kansas is changing. Modern liberals have damaged the state to the point that a little over a decade ago, Kathleen Sebelius was its governor. The state is still attempting to recover from budgetary poison pills and bond bills coming due from her day. As one member of the Kansas Legislature told me, “Medicaid caseloads and education are major influencers, but the KPERS hole (Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) she left us in is a killer, not to mention a crap computer system she bought.”
 
Now, jump ahead to the present, past the Sam Brownback years, which were marred by unreasonable expectations of immediate results, a lack of solid leadership at the top, and administration reticence in the face of media opposition. Today, the face of middle America is plagued by an out-of-control state Supreme Court, legislative addiction to spending, and inefficient school spending acting as the beneficiary of the first two plagues.
 
Enter Kris Kobach, the current Secretary of State and a Republican best-suited to put Kansas on the right track. Instead of speaking in terms of cutting or increasing education spending, he wants to approve targeted spending, focusing on the classroom. Currently, only 53% of every Kansas education dollar finds its way to the classroom. Kobach has a plan to raise that number to 75%. That’s not good for the Kansas National Education Association. They want their piece of the pie. Correction: they get their big piece; they don’t want to lose it.
 
From the harmful Sebelius to the listless outgoing administration (Brownback’s Lieutenant Governor, Jeff Colyer, is at present keeping the seat warm after the former took an ambassadorship in the Trump administration), Kansas is due for a winning streak. Kobach has made clear that he will support bills during the legislative process rather than play a game of “wait and see,” as Kansans have grown accustomed these past eight years.
 
Non-Kansans know Kobach as the guy who has grasped the problem of illegal vote-casting, both by illegal aliens and legal citizens, spear-heading the issue for candidate-Trump and in his role as Kansas Secretary of State. The national press have delighted in lumping together these two subjects – illegal aliens voting and legal citizens illegally voting – into one supposedly tawdry subject of illegal aliens voting, ignoring the obvious: illegal vote-casting is a much broader topic. To the media’s topic: some illegal aliens vote. Legal citizens need to be purged from the voting rolls on occasion, in order to protect our system. Over the last couple of decades, elections have been marred by illegal vote-casting, including in Minnesota, Washington, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
 
This demonstration of leadership has been a welcome sight in Kansas.
 
When you are effective, the long knives come out; the tepid do not have many enemies. Two areas of attack include Kobach’s association with a veterans advocacy group, and that the State is on the hook for Kobach’s personal legal bills. The second accusation is the thinnest and thus easiest to defend.
 
The Secretary of State’s office was held in contempt of court; the Secretary of State is a public position; fines against the Secretary of State’s office come out of that office’s budget; the fine equals a fine against the taxpayers. The fine follows the Secretary of State’s office, not Kobach personally. Agree with the liberal judge or not over the matter of a proof of citizenship requirement for voting and the speed to which Secretary Kobach’s office reacted after the judge’s ruling, the fact remains that Kobach was not held in contempt, rather the office was held in contempt, no matter how the judge chose to word the court order. If the law worked otherwise, how could we ask individuals to represent us?
 
The Secretary of State’s office was also ordered to pay the ACLU’s court costs – obviously, a risk only leaders would take if the cause were just. The tepid never try.
 
Secretary Kobach, eager to help military veterans, joined the Board of Directors of a veterans advocacy group in order to help, among other things, vets to gain access to so-called “freedom cards,” which allow veterans to seek medical treatment at health care locations of their choosing. In essence, “Veterans in Defense of Liberty” is a veterans’ lobbying group. When the organization spent most of its money on fundraising, guess whose fault it had to be? The guy associated with President Donald Trump. The guy who never received money from the organization. But of course.
 
The flirtation with liberalism and then the rush to a safe, calm harbor have not gotten Kansans far. Multiple surrounding states sport better economies and smaller deficits. They also possess leaders in the governors’ mansions, capable of rising above newspaper editorials and emotion-based television stories – leaders who are willing to stand up to entrenched anti-taxpayer unions and liberal advocacy groups. Playing it safe leads to moderation – and opens the door for liberals to pine for the implementation of more liberalism.
 
Winston Churchill once said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Indeed, Kobach has, and the evidence shows he has stood up many times. Hated by liberals who wish to fundamentally transform America, pilloried by political opponents who are content to play it safe when “it” is the topic of being disliked by the liberal press, Kobach recognizes he has work to do. He has not won every battle, but he has remained true to his convictions. That alone makes him an enemy to many.
 
Kansas needs leadership; before the end of the year, we will know what voters will choose. Will Kansas be that land of cowering souls, unable to survive without government? Or will it remain Hollywood shorthand for all that makes America great – and yet oh so…average?

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Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.