Missouri’s Race To The Bottom Gets National Attention: “There`s No Liberal Or Progressive Opposition Really In This State.”

Regular readers know that I have tried, when my mental state permitted, to follow the race to the bottom between Kansas and Missouri. Each state is attempting to outdo the other, in terms of reactionary politics and bad governance. It’s very sad to watch.

Since nobody does it better than St. Rachel, I present the transcript (uncorrected) from her Wednesday show, which went into the god-awful details of what is wrong with not only this state, but so many red states across the country. Please read the following, but try not to get too damned depressed:

MADDOW: In the year 2008, the great state of Missouri got rid of its limits on campaign contributions. They said rachelanyone could give any amount for candidates and election issues in that state. And when Missouri made that issue in 2008, they got — drum roll, please — they got their own Missouri version of the Koch brothers or their own Sheldon Adelson, their own Art Pope.

Once Missouri said anybody could spend anything they wanted on Missouri politics, they got their own homegrown Missouri zillionaire who thought the policies of the whole s state should be remade in his own image. And this is a new species in American politics, right? Since we started getting rid of all the campaign finance rules. We`ve got these zillionaire guys, all of the country, a lot of them operating in national politics, some of them operating in just their home state.

But the one that Missouri got, he turns out to be a doozy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX SINQUEFIELD, RETIRED FINANCIAL EXECUTIVE: You know what, there was a column written, and I hope I don`t offend anyone, but a published column who was a farmer judge in Missouri. He now owns and writes for a newspaper in central Missouri called the un-terrified Democrat. What a name. And it`s is Osage County, Missouri.

And he starts off and it`s something like this. He said, a long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said, how can we really hurt the African-American children, l permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And when they designed was the public school system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That man`s name is Rex Sinquefield, he`s the conservative zillionaire trying to use his own money to remake politics in the great state of Missouri.

He made that remark on tape there in February of 2012 when he explained it must have been the Ku Klux Klan that invented the public school system to really hurt African-American children permanently. The Klan invented public schools. He said that in 2012. He later apologized for it, saying he was sorry for making that reference.

rachel 2But after Missouri got rid of its campaign finance rules in 2008, that guy`s money is the money that has absolutely dominated Missouri conservative politics ever since. “The Wall Street Journal” profiled him in 2012. Actually, it was a few months after he made the Klan comments. “The Wall Street Journal” called him one of the super PAC men, comparing him to Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers.

By then, by the fall of 2012, Mr. Sinquefield had already spent over $20 million of his own money, all in Missouri, all since they dropped the campaign spending limits in that state. So, just between 2008 and 2012, he had already dropped more than $20 million of his own money, with plans to spend a lot more.

And that kind of money goes a long way in a single state. He said at the time that his two priorities for things he wanted to change in Missouri, were schools, which again you heard him say he feared were invented by the Ku Klux Klan to enslave people, schools and taxes.
In 2012, he personally bankrolled a ballot measure that would have basically killed all income taxes in Missouri altogether. No more personal income taxes, no more corporate income taxes. It would get rid of taxes altogether in terms of income and replace them all with a sales tax.

He got — he was working on getting that in the ballot, and unfortunately for him, polling indicated that people in Missouri basically hated the idea. And when the polling turned out really bad for his ballot measure on getting rid of all income taxes, he pulled that ballot measure in Missouri.rachel 3

But at the time, he said he thought he might be able to get Missouri to get rid of all its taxes anyway, even without this ballot measure idea that he had that didn`t work out. And he thought he might be able to get it done in Missouri anyway, because of something that was going on next door in the deep read state of Kansas.

Kansas, you probably know is in almost Oklahoma territory when it comes to how red a state it is. In 2008, President Obama won a grand total of three counties in Kansas. In 2012, he won a grand total of two counties in Kansas.

In Kansas, the Republicans control the statehouse by an almost 3-1 margin. They control the state senate, 32-8, and, of course, the governor is a Republican as well. The governor is former U.S. senator and former Republican presidential candidate, Sam Brownback, who won election in 2010 by more than a 30-point margin in Kansas.

But now, even in a state that is that red, even after Sam Brownback won the governor`s race in 2010 by more than 30 points, Governor Brownback now looks to be at risk of losing his seat this fall. He`s up for re-election in November. He`s running against a Democrat named Paul Davis, who was one of those very few Democrats in the Kansas statehouse.

The Real Clear Politics average of polling on that gubernatorial race shows that Sam Brownback is basically within the margin of error. He`s within 2 1/2 points of this very little-known Democratic challenger he`s got.rachel 4

The last Public Policy Poll in Kansas was in February. It had Paul Davis beating Sam Brownback by two points. Kansas is so red that Attila the Hun ought to be able to win an election in Kansas if he only had an “R” listed after his name on the ballot.

Sam Brownback is apparently no Attila the Hun, because Kansas is against him. His approval rating as governor is hovering around 33 percent. You think in a state that red, President Obama would have a terrible approval rating, you`re right, he does a terrible approval rating in Kansas. But Sam Brownback`s approval rating is even lower than President Obama`s is.

And some of Kansas`s bad feelings about their governor may be about all the recent reporting on a big FBI investigation into Mr. Brownback`s inner circle in state politics, including his longtime chief strategist. The FBI is reportedly looking into whether there`s pay-to-play corruption around Sam Brownback`s way of governing in Kansas, whether lobbying dollars and campaign contributions have been leveraged or even coerced in an illegal way as Governor Brownback has pushed through his legislative priorities.

So, that may be part of it, those FBI stories. There have been no indictments or anything yet, so nobody really knows what that reported FBI investigation is going to come to.
But regardless of whether team Brownback in Kansas got their favored policies passed through some illegal means or not, we`ll find out when the FBI finally speaks about what they`re looking into, whether or not they got those things, the things they got passed, passed by illegal means, the fact is, they did get a heck of a conservative agenda passed. And Kansas really seems to hate that agenda. They seem to hate those policies.

Like, this is from the internals on that Public Policy Poll. “Do you think public schools in Kansas are adequately funded or not?” Not, by a 28-point margin.

“Do you think Sam Brownback`s tax plan has been successful or not?” Not, by another giant 21-point margin.

Kansas is under complete Republican control. It`s Sam Brownback in the governor`s office, Republican control in the House, Republican control in the Senate. Their entire congressional delegation is all Republican as well.rachel5

And even after they had that total Republican control, in 2012, Sam Brownback went on a campaign of cleansing fire and worked actively to get Republicans who weren`t conservative enough ousted from the state Senate. He got nine Republicans in the Senate replaced with more conservative Republicans.

He`s not only got complete control in terms of party affiliation, he`s got complete control in terms of conservative Republican affiliation. And with that complete control, he pushed through the most important item in his agenda for the state, the biggest tax cut in Kansas history. By some measures, it is the biggest tax cut of any state in America in multiple decades.

And when Sam Brownback pushed through that really radical tax plan in 2012 and popularity expanded it in 2013, that was the policy move that got Rex Sinquefield, the Klan-invented public schools guy in Missouri, that`s what got him so excited about what might be possible next-door in Missouri.

He called what Sam Brownback did on taxes in Kansas, he said, it was, quote, “unbelievably brilliant.”

Mr. Sinquefield said in “Forbes” magazine that Sam Brownback`s visionary leadership was, quote, “schooling Missouri on tax policy.”

Sam Brownback himself wrote an op-ed claiming that his biggest tax cuts in history would be a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. And his biggest cheerleader, other than himself, was across the state line to the east in Missouri, this guy, Rex Sinquefield, who wanted Missouri to get rid of all of its taxes, too. And he thought Kansas` experiment, Kansas` Sam Brownback government experiment would go so well that Kansas getting rid of all of their taxes would be such an economic boon to Kansas that the state next door to the east would have no choice but to follow suit.

That was the thinking. And that`s how Missouri was going to get to zero taxes, by watching how wonderfully it worked out in Sam Brownback`s all-red Kansas. That was the plan.
Turns out what Sam Brownback did in all-red Kansas has turned out to be a disaster. In January, a big warning flare was fired by the nonpartisan research service from the Kansas legislature. They found that cutting all the revenue, cutting all the income out of the state budget meant — surprise, that there was no revenue in the state budget. There was a giant hole where the revenue had been. That was the official state report in January.

Then, in March, it got much worse, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that by law, by the state constitution, Kansas needed to increase what was it was spending on public schools, where is that money going to come from.

And then, in April, there was a huge shock in Kansas state government when the state realized that it was going to be taking in almost $100 million less that month than it expected for the month of April.

Revenues were already down a half billion year to year since last year, and then, oops, in April, it turns out, another $100 million they thought they were getting, guess we`re not getting that. That was last month. That was April.

And then, last week, the real hammer fell, when the Moody`s credit agency downgraded Kansas`s bond rating, citing Kansas` relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers and specifically calling out Sam Brownback`s magical thinking around these huge, unprecedented tax cuts, for which he apparently had no plan for the impact of. Quote, “Eliminating a tax that`s been in place for many years and has accounted for a large share of revenue entails risks,” says Moody`s.

So, Sam Brownback has created a mess in Kansas. And “The Kansas City Star,” they say he is suffering from a political brownout between the FBI investigation into his inner circle with and his right-hand man, forever, and into how he got all of these policies passed, the state bond rating getting downgraded, the governor`s plummeting popularity. They say, you take it all together, and this amounts to, quote, “new doubts about whether Governor Brownback`s ability to win a second term in a state that is as red as any in the nation.”

On the same day that Kansas got its bond rating downgraded, in the neighboring state of Missouri, the governor there, was named Jay Nixon, he vetoed a Republican proposal to cut Missouri`s taxes the way Sam Brownback cut Kansas` taxes. Missouri is one of the few states in the nation that has a solid AAA bond rating. Governor Nixon said, listen, we`re not going to jeopardize that by doing something as reckless as what Kansas just did when they flushed their economic prospects down the toilet with a tax thing like this. Jay Nixon said Missouri Republicans are, quote, trying to follow Kansas down the fiscally irresponsible path. He said he would not stand for it and he vetoed the Republican tax cut proposal in Missouri.

But now, now, Missouri Republicans overrode that veto. They have thereby forced through a Kansas-style fiscal disaster plan for the neighboring state of Missouri.

Even with a Democratic governor, Missouri has taken a real right turn under the tender ministrations and the tens of millions of dollars of Rex Sinquefield, right? The well-funded, newly emboldened Republicans in the state of Missouri, they blocked Medicaid expansion, which led to this dramatic protest in the state capital yesterday. The protesters actually shut down business in the state senate over the Medicaid decision.

rachel 6Republicans in Missouri are trying to enshrine strict scrutiny for gun rights into the state constitution. And that may not sound like much, but that is such a fundamentalist approach to gun rights that it has really wide implications that have scared other states that have tried this. But Missouri is steaming straight ahead to put that in their state constitution.

Missouri is down to one last abortion clinic in the entire state. This year, Republicans in the Missouri legislature introduced 32 separate pieces of legislation against that one clinic. They`ve got one abortion clinic left, 32 bills this session to try to shut down or curtail the activities of that one last clinic.

With no campaign finance limits anymore and with an eager conservative godfather funding every step they take further to the right, Missouri is doing everything it can to try to turn itself into a deep-south style red state, but with what they just did on this tax issue, did they just make a decision to follow Kansas off the cliff?

Joining us now is David Helling, political reporter for the “Kansas City Star.” Mr. Helling, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time tonight.

DAVID HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, what did push Missouri lawmakers to proposal these very, very deep tax cuts, even as Kansas was really flaming out because of them?

HELLING: Well, part of it is Rex Sinquefield, as you suggest. He`s been heavily involved for years, Rachel, in trying to push a no-income tax agenda in the state of Missouri, as you suggest. He`s tried to get that on the ballot. He`s really a supporter of turning to sales taxes instead of income taxes.

But part of it is just philosophy. Missouri, as you also point out, really had a choice about ten years ago, will we be Arkansas and Mississippi, or will we be Iowa and Minnesota? Missouri, as you might know, is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats in most
years and then about 10 years ago, it started its slide into conservatism and it is firmly there now.

So, you put that sort of ideological approach together with Rex`s money and you get what you got this week in the legislature.

MADDOW: In terms of that path, that sort of decade-long path that you just described there, is there any equivalent force on the left or to strengthen the Democrats` hand in Missouri? Is this a transformation that`s really taken place entirely within conservative politics? Is there any counter-game?

rachel 7HELLING: Democrats have a role in Missouri, unlike Kansas where they`re virtually nonexistent. Democrats in Missouri do have some voice. Claire McCaskill, of course, is the senator, Jay Nixon the governor, both Democrats.

Republicans have not done extremely well at the statewide level. They lost the race for governor. They do have the lieutenant governorship in the state. But Democrats in Missouri have a unique challenge. They must appeal — if they are to win, they must appeal to rural voters as well as urban voters in Kansas City and St. Louis and to some degree in Columbia, in Jeff City. So, even people like Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon strike a populist, conservative, in some senses, moderate tone with voters in the state.

There is no real — with one or two exceptions, there is no real progressive movement in the state, and that showed up in the last state elections for the legislature, the House and the Senate. Jay Nixon has virtually no working ability in that statehouse at all, Rachel, owner to
sort of convince lawmakers by the sound of his voice, to change their views. And they often listen to Rex Sinquefield, the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, also has a heavy presence in Missouri, as well as Kansas.

So, those are the voices they hear. There`s no liberal or progressive opposition really in this state.

MADDOW: I feel like I have heard that, really, just in my observations of Missouri politics, particularly with Claire McCaskill on the federal level. I continue to believe that she would make a very credible national level candidate for the Democrats.

Not because I agree with her on lots of policies. She`s nowhere near liberal like I am, but simply because she does talk in populist terms, very central terms, and she`s made that case, I think it was the Missouri Democrat way of talking to a big, broad audience.

And that`s why I was so surprised to see Governor Nixon making this case. Hey, we can`t do this. They just got their bond rating downgraded. We`ve got a AAA bond rating, we`ve got to hold on to that. That seems to me like sort of the ultimate fiscal conservative, centrist, kumbaya message, and yet, it just didn`t go anywhere.

HELLING: Right, and for that matter, Jay Nixon is a big fan in some instances of tax credits, tax breaks for big business. He tried to get the Boeing plant to come to St. Louis. He offered a huge package of tax breaks for that. He gave incentives to the auto companies to stay in the state, Rachel.

Again, that`s kind of a traditional country club banker Republican mentality. Give big incentives to big business to create jobs. That`s his approach. Again, he gets a bit of a pass, because Missouri is just that kind of a state. It`s hard to believe that an out-and-out progressive liberal candidate has any chance at the statewide level, and I think Jay Nixon senses that.

Now, a lot of — he`s not really popular among some Democrats. For example, he`s had a sort of a low-level feud with McCaskill for years about who really control s the party in the state. And Jay Nixon, to a degree, like McCaskill, really looks out for himself. You know, his own re-election is more important than electing more Democrats to the legislature so you wouldn`t have to go through what he just went through.

That`s a criticism you`ll hear of Jay Nixon. But, again, there may be a lot of self-preservation in that. Missouri, as I suggested, and as you suggested as well, is much more Southern in its approach to politics than it is industrial Midwest or in north of the state border.

MADDOW: And as you point out, that was a choice. That outlook was a choice and it has been a fascinating transformation to watch.

Dave Helling, reporter with the “Kansas City Star” — I really enjoyed your reporting on this, Mr. Helling. Thank you fore being here. I appreciate it.

HELLING: You bet. My pleasure.

How Much Voter Fraud Is There In Kansas? This Much: 0.00001156069

On a local radio show in Wisconsin, a retiring Republican state senator, Dale Schultz, told the truth about his party and its desire to keep voter turnout as low as possible. He said that the so-called “reforms” that Republicans are fixated on and are ramming through legislatures, including his own, are “all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities,” but that is something that his fellow Republicans “have failed miserably at demonstrating.” Then Schultz really dug down to the heart of the matter:

It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

The only idea the Republican Party has any faith in at all happens to be how to suppress the vote more efficiently. And one is tempted to admire the tenacity with which Republicans pursue that one anti-democratic, anti-American idea, even if one is disgusted by it.

And speaking of disgusting, Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach, one of the most disgusting politicians in the country, won a major, but hopefully temporary, victory  for voter suppression, as the AP reported yesterday:

Federal officials must help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, in a decision that could encourage other Republican-led states to consider similar policies.

Kobach said,

This is a really big victory, not just for Kansas and Arizona but for all 50 states. Kansas has paved the way for all states to enact proof-of-citizenship requirements.

Mind you there is exactly no evidence that hordes of non-citizens are voting in Kansas or anywhere else. Okay, that isn’t quite right. Kobach himself admits that he has found “20 or so” of those mysterious non-citizens on Kansas voter registration rolls. I’ll leave you to do the math as to what percentage of 1.73 million registered voters that number 20 represents. On second thought, no I won’t. Here’s the percentage:

0.00001156069

That tiny number, which roughly corresponds to the amount of patriotism found in all of the GOP kill-the-vote measures around the country, is what Kris Kobach wants you and me to think is motivating him. But even without looking at that tiny number we know better. Even without Wisconsin Republican Dale Schultz, we know the truth. Republicans are fresh out of policy ideas that appeal to a majority of Americans. Fresh out. The only thing they have left, as part of a desperate effort to stave off the coming demographic tide nationwide, is to make it harder for folks, many of them potential Democrats, to vote.

And needless to say, the extra proof-of-citizenship requirement, that unnecessary hindrance to voting that Kobach is so proud of, will make it tough for some poor and elderly voters to comply with. It’s not easy for some people to come up with the money to produce, if they even exist, the documents that will assure Kobach that they are white Republicans, or excuse me, American citizens. And some of those people, perhaps many of them, won’t even bother to try. It’s hard enough to get citizens who have all their papers in order to exercise their right to vote, let alone get people to register who don’t have the paperwork handy to prove they’re Americans.

All of this is just one example of why this polling chart on political party ID looks like it does:

party id

Down, down, down, goes that red line. And as far as I’m concerned, it can go all the way down to hell, where the Republican Party, as we know it today, certainly belongs.

Why The Republican Party Is What It Is

“A reactionary is a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society.”

Wikipedia

I often use the term “reactionaries” to describe those folks on the right who have a problem living in the 21st century, a problem coming to grips with present reality. I sometimes differentiate between reactionaries and conservatives because conservatism doesn’t necessarily involve reactionary politics, though it often does, especially as we watch conservative behavior today. Most of the conservatives we see dominating the Republican Party these days are—without the slightest doubt—reactionaries.

As most of you know, I was born and raised in Kansas. I lived there until I was about 30 years old. I worked there. I played there. I became a conservative there. I was baptized into an evangelical faith there. The political Kansas I knew was mostly a right-of-center place, with pockets of leftish resistance here and there, and for the most part its politics was not radical or reactionary. Today, though, like a lot of red states Kansas has been radicalized and has turned into one of the most reactionary places in the country.

Nothing could better demonstrate the change from a mild, if not moldy, conservatism into a radical and fiery reactionaryism than what emerged in Kansas recently. Last week, as nearly everyone knows by now, the Kansas House passed a bill that, according to Time,

would permit businesses and government employees to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious principles. 

That Jim Crowish bill, which has been condemned far and wide by progressives, passed 72-49 and is now being considered by the state senate, which is expected to either water it down significantly or kill it. Apparently there are some Kansas Republicans left who haven’t been completely radicalized by religious zealots in the state. But the fact that such a reactionary piece of legislation passed one side of the legislature in 2014—2014 for God’s sake—says a lot about not only about the Republican Party, but it speaks to why it is that our national government is so profoundly, if not dangerously, divided.

At the heart of this ascendance of a rabid reactionary politics in Kansas and elsewhere—there is an anti-gay bill in Idaho that is even worse than the one in Kansas—is the anxiety that (mostly but not entirely white) evangelical and fundamentalist Christians feel deep in their bones over the loss of cultural dominance they and their Iron Age theology once enjoyed. Most of the theological angst started with the Supreme Court ruling in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale) that government-composed prayers could not be used in public schools, then just after that blow came atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s victorious lawsuit in 1963 (consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp) in which the Supreme Court put the kibosh on the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading in government schools.

If I heard it once, I heard it a gazillion times from the conservative church folk I knew back home: “They kicked God out of the schools! Why do you think things are so bad!”

So, it started with those two court rulings, but other rulings followed that were specifically related to Bible-based anxiety over a rapidly changing culture. There was Griswold v. Connecticut (which found that because of the Constitution’s now strangely controversial “right to privacy” states could not prohibit the use of contraceptives by married people; later this freedom was extended to all couples via Eisenstadt. V. Baird; and now we are fighting over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate). Skipping over the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade case (which isn’t necessarily—even though it has mostly become—a case involving evangelical theology), we come to Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case that effectively struck down all sodomy laws in the country and paved the way for the eventual legitimation of same-sex marriage, which is now driving right-wing Christians into convulsions not seen since the Gadarene Demoniac.

Along with—perhaps partly because of—these culturally significant court cases, public opinion has evolved in the direction of progress and against the forces of Bible-inspired conservatism. Holy Book-believing Christians have essentially lost the fight over whether the Bible or a secular Constitution will be the ultimate law of the land. This has led to a backlash, a serious and divisive backlash, among folks who take the Bible seriously and who genuinely—I repeat: genuinely— believe that America is going straight to hell because it has turned its back on God and his Word.

More important, though, than all the talk of cultural anxiety and ancient theology is what these Bible-believing folks have been up to lately. In order to turn their biblical notions and reactionary tendencies into public policies like the one proposed last week in Kansas, they have increasingly and fanatically turned to grassroots politics.

These religious reactionaries have educated themselves and essentially taken over the Republican Party’s organizational structure. One such reactionary lives right here in Southwest Missouri. I used to go to the same evangelical church he did and used to believe a lot of the same things he believes. His name is John Putnam. He’s from Carthage and he is the Chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party.

Mr. Putnam has essentially written his own bible on how to take over and transform the Republican Party from the ground up. He notes that there are some “183,000 precincts in the 50 states” and he outlines how the system works:

putnam's patriotsThe voters of each precinct, according to their state’s laws, can elect or appoint one man and one woman to represent the people of that precinct in their political party’s organizational structure (sometimes called the party “machine”).  The precinct chairs/executives become members of their county committee and elect their county committee’s Chair and Vice-Chair who, in turn, help elect their Party’s State Committee; plus, they largely influence which candidates will run (and most likely be elected) in their party’s primary election and who, subsequently, will carry their party’s banner in the November General Elections. 

All of this represents the nuts and bolts of party organization. It is how a political party can be commandeered by a zealous minority and how such zealotry can come to represent the face of the party. It it why the Republican Party is so schizophrenic. It is why its national leaders are so afraid to actually lead. It is why Washington is suffering from legislative paralysis. You think I am exaggerating? Putnam goes on to point out that,

Nationwide, half of these positions sit empty and most voters no longer even know they exist.  If Constitutional conservatives will fulfill the precinct leader’s role and elect Constitutional conservative chairs and vice-chairs to their county committees, we can cleanse our representative form of government in very short order.  This is assuming the men and women who fill the precinct position have the wisdom of  Cleon Skousen gleaned from The Five Thousand Year Leap and the virtue of George Washington (see Glenn Beck’s Being George Washington).

If that stuff about cleansing doesn’t scare you, then you don’t know who Cleon Skousen and Glenn Beck are. Perhaps now you can see why the Republican Party looks the way it does. This kind of tactical action is going on, has been going on, all over the country. Mr. Putnam provides local zealots everywhere, those who have a biblical ax to grind, with essential knowledge of how to go about that grinding. Become “party officials” at the local level, he says. Why? Because:

…party officials have a strong influence on who wins the Primary because of their influence in recruiting and endorsing candidates. They also influence whether the Party stays philosophically true to its platform. There is no reason why YOU cannot become a Precinct Patriot and be one who influences these decisions. 

If you ever wondered why a disturbed and disturbing man named Todd Akin became the Missouri GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2012, now you know why. Even after Akin was disgraced, even after his horrific views on women and rape were revealed, even after the Republican establishment abandoned him, John Putnam came to his defense and supported him. And even with that robust defense of a man clearly out of touch with reality, perhaps because of that robust defense, John Putnam remains in charge—in charge!—of the Jasper County Republican Party.

That tells you all you need to know about what is wrong with the GOP. At the ground level, where it often matters most, the reactionaries are running the asylum.

What’s The Matter With Kansas? Nothing That An Election Can’t Fix

Way back in February of this year there were signs. Public Policy Polling began a piece on a survey conducted in Kansas, my old home state, this way:

Sam Brownback is one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 37% of Kansas voters approve of him to 52% who disapprove. He meets with near universal disapproval from independents (22/66) and Democrats (14/81), but what really drives his numbers down is that even among Republicans just 55% approve of him to 30% who disapprove. 

Now, for those of us who have been witnessing the race to the bottom in Kansas—engineered by Tea Party fanatics in the state—that poll in February was good news. But the news is even better now because Democrats have a gubernatorial candidate who is turning heads in the Sunflower State. A poll conducted by SurveyUSA found:

Sam Brownback, who has served in Kansas as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and now Governor, is in danger of being unseated after one term…Today, the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking edges the Republican ticket of Brownback and Jeff Colyer, 43% to 39%.

Can Paul Davis actually win? Should Democrats even dare to dream that big? Well, the SurveyUSA pollsters also found that Brownback’s approval rating is a meager 34%. If it remains that low, maybe the dream can come true.

Another poll (“Kansas Speaks 2013″) conducted by Fort Hayes State University found that only 33.9% of people who voted in 2012 are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with Governor Brownback’s performance, while a whopping 45.5% are either “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

And satisfaction with the Tea Party-controlled Kansas legislature is worse. Of those who voted in 2012, only 27.3% are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with their lawmakers, while 44.4% are “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

Until the 2012 election, there were moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate who would occasionally work with Democrats to keep the Tea Party zealots, who dominate the House, from burning the government down. However, the Koch brother-funded zealots knocked off enough moderates—and that is a relative term; they were pretty damned conservative—in 2012 to take control of the entire state government, with Brownback as the Chief Zealot.

Perhaps the major reason there has been a turnaround in public opinion is due to education funding in the state. Here is a recent headline from The Topeka Capital-Journal:

kansas education cuts

Public school funding has become a major issue in Kansas. A district court in the state ruled in January that the way the Tea Party extremists, led by Brownback, went about cutting income taxes and shortchanging public schools last year was unconstitutional, a decision that has been appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

And Paul Davis, the House Minority Leader who is currently leading Governor Brownback in the polls, has made the Tea Party’s stingy education funding a big part of his gubernatorial campaign. As the Topeka paper point out, Davis,

has said the district court appropriately acknowledged the governor’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations directly conflict with our constitutional obligation to fund public schools.”

Davis’ message may be resonating. Here is a graph from the “Kansas Speaks” survey:

education funding in kansas

As you can see, even 50% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing education funding for K-12. That’s a big bleeping deal. (And almost 40% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing funding for higher education.)

I know—I know—it is way too early to get excited about all this. I know we can’t be the least bit confident that a majority of Kansans will next year decide to reject Tea Party governance. But, dammit, at least we have some hope.

For those of us here in Missouri, we have our own zealots to worry about. Earlier this month, Rex Singquefield, who is Missouri’s version of a gazillionaire Koch brother, wrote a glowing article on the alleged success of Kansas’ cut-taxes-on-the-wealthy-and-they-will-come experiment. The Forbes piece (“How Kansas Governor Brownback Schooled Missouri On Tax Cuts, And Showed The Region How To Grow”) has Singquefield saying:

Just one year later, a close look at the data backs up the economic projections of Brownback’s visionary leadership. Lower income tax rates have in fact stimulated the economy by reducing the price both of work and conducting business in the state, not to mention that lower rates have predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business environment.

Singquefield’s “close look” at the data is so close that no one with normal vision can see it, unless, of course, they want to see it even if it ain’t there. I think that’s called hallucinating, or something akin to it. Whatever it’s called, Steve Rose, writing for the Kansas City Star, isn’t buying it:

Sinquefield claims the Kansas economy has been stimulated since the tax cuts.

Wrong. The Kansas economy is tracking most of the rest of the nation. There has been no discernible jolt upward.

Sinquefield also says that lower tax rates have “predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business climate.”

What we do know is corporations have moved from Missouri to Johnson County and vice versa because of generous tax incentives that have nothing to do with Brownback’s income tax cuts.

One year later, what we also know is from July through September, revenue to the state coffers has declined by $135 million, or a 9 percent drop from last year. The Legislature’s research staff projects that there will be a net reduction this fiscal year of a half billion dollars and a billion dollars by 2018.

Rose admits that it is “way too early” to know if the tax-cutting “experiment” in Kansas will eventually do what the zealots claim, but he says:

What we do know so far about the experiment, besides sharply declining tax revenue, is that Kansas is short-changing schoolchildren because legislators decided to cut taxes rather than to restore reduced funding to public schools, and that choice may be coming home to roost.

As I said, at this point we can only hope he’s right.

Gene Garman For Kansas State Senate

Gene Garman, a friend of this blog, is running for a seat in the Kansas state senate (District 13). God knows there aren’t enough Democrats in Topeka, and God knows that there are only a few places in Kansas where a Democrat has a chance, and Southeast Kansas is one of them.

If you are a Democrat, or a Tea Party-tired Republican, living in Cherokee or Crawford counties, or in southern Bourbon county (Fort Scott, my old home town), then get out and do something about the right-wing extremism in your state.

The Fort Scott Tribune interviewed Gene and reported:

He said his experience and formal education have impressed on him the responsibility to do unto others as he would have done unto him. “The need to fully fund public education and social services for the poor and needy among us is the right and the American thing to do.

Southeast Kansas and Crawford County are among the most economically depressed counties in the state,” Garman said.

He said the legislature is hampered by a “poverty of imagination, coupled with ideological rigidity,” that keeps Kansas “limping along economically at both the state and local levels of government. Improve the lives of local residents in each community and the entire state benefits,” Garman said.

His bona fides:

He said voters should choose him because he was born and grew up on a farm with an outhouse downstream from a hand-dug water well. “(I) was listening to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys before I learned to read and write in a one-room schoolhouse with kerosene lanterns on the wall, remember Pear Harbor, and am a U.S. Marine Corps Korean Veteran, with a Baylor University education, and, for what its worth, one year of education at Washburn University School of Law, my fifth year on the G.I. Bill.

“I also hold a Master of Divinity degree, from a theological seminary. I am retired from the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, which has a local office in Frontenac, and the National Association of Letter Carriers, Pittsburg. No campaign contributions accepted,” Garman said.

He had me at “Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.” Who could vote against a guy with such exquisite taste?

I wish I could pull the lever for him, but I’m stuck here in Petticoat Joplin with only a Republican state senator to vote for.

Go, Gene!

___________________________

Gene sent this message today, commenting on my post about the Republicans in Missouri, many of whom are committing to the disgraced Todd Akin:

 
Submitted on 2012/11/05 at 8:24 am

And, do I not have the same type of opposition in Kansas State Senate District 13? Yes, I do. So, it should be just as significant for those who read this to make sure everyone on your email lists, in the Kansas counties of Cherokee and Crawford, as well as the cities of Fort Scott and Chetopa, know for whom to vote: Gene Garman, Democrat.

The reference is to Gene’s opponent, Jacob LaTurner, a right-wing conservative who defeated a more moderate Republican in the GOP primary this year (sound familiar?).

Again, get out and vote all you locals. Or don’t complain to me about not having a voice in Topeka.

Statewide Madness In Kansas

In a blog post more than a month ago, I waved goodbye to my old home state, Kansas, after GOP primary voters decided to,

officially become the property of Koch-sponsored fanaticism.

Voters did that by tossing out relatively—and I do mean relatively—moderate Republicans in favor of right-wing zealots.

Those zealots now dominate the state completely.

Well, since I wrote that piece what has happened? Let me see:

♦ Kansas Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder took his love truncheon for a short dip in the Sea of Galilee.

♦ The all-Republican Kansas Objections Board finally bowed to reality and admitted, sort of, that Barack Obama belongs on the Kansas ballot in November. The board had previously dithered on the issue, with members saying they needed more information from Hawaii and indicating they were pissed that Obama did not take their delusional deliberations seriously enough to send a representative to their ridiculous meeting.

♦ Orly Taitz, that crazy-mad woman who commands much Tea Party respect over her insistence that Mr. Obama is a Kenyan by birth, has managed to convince a silly Kansas judge to give her yet another hearing on whether the decision by the all-Republican Kansas Objections Board should be overturned.

♦If that ain’t enough Kansas craziness for ya, in today’s Joplin Globe we had a story on the draconian Kansas voter ID law that began:

There were 251 votes statewide in Kansas in the Aug. 6 primary that weren’t counted because the voters didn’t present the proper photo identification under the new voter ID law.

The father of that voter ID law, and a man well known to right-wing extremists everywhere, is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who called the new law an “outstanding success“—no, even better, he added that it was an “extraordinary success.” At least I think extraordinary is better than outstanding.

In any case, he really liked it, despite the fact that it disenfranchised 251 Kansans who went to the trouble of going to the polls.

Kobach, of course, doesn’t see it as disenfranchisement, but merely that folks who were challenged simply didn’t bother to come back with the proper papers:

Most of them had a photo ID and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. They weren’t disenfranchised.

Hmm. That’s amazing, if you really think about it. And you should really think about it.

But the most amazing comment Kobach made is found in this excerpt from Roger McKinney’s story in the Globe:

An American Civil Liberties Union analysis of a report produced by Kobach’s office related to alleged voter fraud incidents between 1997 and 2010, finding no cases of voter impersonation fraud, which the voter ID law is designed to prevent.

Kobach disputes that, saying there was one report during that 13-year period.

If this weren’t so serious, Kobach’s response would be side-splittingly funny. He disputed the ACLU’s contention of zero cases in 13 years by citing, uh, ONE! Uno! Or, well, in his case, maybe: Eins!

That is the goings-on in my birth state, a place I once called home, a place that has its priorities straight, by God. I know that because on Friday night, two teeny-weeny southeast Kansas high school football teams, Frontenac (302 kids) and St. Mary’s Colgan (231 kids in grades 7-12), played each other.

The game was broadcast statewide—state-bleeping-wide—on cable TV.

Goodbye, Kansas, And Missouri May Be Right Behind Ya

The state of my birth and Missouri’s now radical neighbor to the west has officially become the property of Koch-sponsored fanaticism.*

And Missouri, with Rep. Todd Akin becoming the state’s GOP offering to unseat moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill, may soon join Kansas—which when I lived there actually could elect a Democratic governor!— as a place where teapartiers try to out-tea party each other in their efforts to destroy 21st-century government.

On Tuesday, Kansans settled the war in the Republican Party between moderates (yep, these days that’s what we call GOP conservatives who won’t quite put a full set of teabags on their hats) and the Brownbacks (as in Governor Sam), those hard-core Koch-heads who want to dismantle large parts of the government and ask some folks to live like 19th-century settlers.

Most prominent among the moderates defeated in the GOP primary was Senate President Steve Morris, who waged something of a resistance movement, in alliance with Democrats, to stop some of the draconian legislation—wild-eyed anti-abortion and anti-union and anti-education bills, for instance—that the extremists were otherwise very close to passing.

That’s not to say Morris was a left-winger. He and other “moderates” went along with tax cuts (read about that sordid tale here) that will end up crippling the state and enrich Koch-heads at the expense of working folks and kids, as well as a voter ID law that would have made it difficult for my late mother, a former poll worker, to vote.

But enough about Kansas. It’s too late to save that state. Missouri? There’s still time, and defeating Todd Akin would be a good place to start our comeback. Remember in April when President Obama said, as reported by HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yep, that’s right. He was talking about—no laughing at—Todd Akin, a U.S. Congressman who once suggested Obama should be impeached and who said this about the President:

He is a complete menace to our civilization.

Obama is not just a menace, you see, but a complete menace.

In any case, as Claire McCaskill said before Akin was officially anointed  as the state’s freakiest conservative (he’s always held that title in my book):

Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Among the larger lights Akin wants to turn out are Medicare (voucherize it) and Social Security (privatize it). Go to truthaboutakin.com and read the details. Can’t wait to see those first McCaskill ads explaining to voters how Akin wants to flip the switch on those wildly popular government programs.

Finally, Democrats in Missouri should ignore the polls, especially this late faulty one that showed Akin with a slight lead in a match-up with McCaskill, but which also showed John Brunner beating Akin by 16 points!

Which leads me to say that Todd Akin did Democrats a favor by beating Brunner. Missourians were bombarded by Brunner ads—$8 million worth in our mailboxes, on our radios and constantly on our TVs—and he would have been a stronger general election candidate than Akin. But Akin will have plenty of money spent on his behalf, mostly to darken McCaskill’s complexion, if you know what I mean.

So, my progressive friends, let’s all cough up a little dough and send it Claire’s way. While she hasn’t been a force for liberalism in the U.S. Senate, the alternative is unthinkable.

______________________________

* I suppose it is only fair that the Koch’s get first dibs on buying the state, since Koch Industries—the nation’s second largest privately held company— is headquartered in Wichita.

Kansas: Where Seldom Is Heard An Encouraging Word

As a former Kansas boy, I like to keep tabs on the reactionaries back home:

From the Kansas City Star:

TOPEKA | Republicans on Thursday pushed a bill through the Kansas House requiring potential voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year’s election, although GOP senators are divided on whether the state will be ready to enforce the rule.

The House approved the bill 81-43, with all of the votes for it coming from Republicans. It would impose the proof-of-citizenship requirement for people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas starting June 15, more than six months ahead of schedule and in time for the normal surge before a presidential election…

Legislators approved a proof-of-citizenship rule last year but — at the Senate’s insistence — it’s not scheduled to take effect until Jan. 1, 2013.

Now, judging from this bill, and the big hurry these Republican legislators are in, one would think that Kansas, in the middle of the country, is plagued with lots of non-citizens voting. Well, of course, there is no such plague.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State* who was the primary drafter of Arizona’s infamous anti-immigration bill, SB 1070, identified a whopping “32 non-citizens on the voter rolls” in 2011.  That’s out of a total of 1.7 million registered voters, the Star notes.

That’s 32 out of 1,700,000.

So, let’s do the math:

32 divided by 1.7 million = .0018823% 

You can see why Republicans are in such a hurry to stop this electoral travesty.

The truth is that Kansas Republicans, like Republicans all over the country, are trying to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly, and the poor, many of whom lack the ability to comply with these nonsensical and unnecessary laws.

There is no evidence that voter fraud is a problem—anywhere in America. Yet Republicans, who apparently have little confidence in their message, are going to a lot of trouble to fight this non-existent problem.

It is shameful, but not surprising.

_____________________________

* Kobach also works for the legal arm of a group called Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose founder, John Tanton, has said,

I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.

White power!

Tea Party Governance In Kansas Means Regulating Abortion Clinics Out Of Business

Whenever you hear Republicans waxing nasty about all the government regulation that hinders businesses and therefore hurts the economy, most of the time you can be confident they are lying through their gold teeth.

Such is the case in neighboring Kansas, where the legislature, completely controlled by Republicans, and the governor, a right-wing Christian Republican fanatic, have conspired to close down the state’s three—three!—remaining abortion clinics by using, what else,  so-called safety regulations, thirty-six pages of which are designed only to put the abortion clinics out of business.

As The Kansas City Star editorialized:

The latest political attack on abortion providers in Kansas is misguided, arrogant and dishonest, and opens up a state struggling to pay for schools to a long list of clearly indefensible lawsuits.

This attack came in the form of what is known as a TRAP law, a “targeted regulation of abortion providers.”

Under the guise of ensuring the safety of patients, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature this year created a new regulation category for abortion providers, and gave the Kansas Department of Health and Environment broad authority to write the rules.

Officials gave the details to abortion providers in mid-June, noting that clinics had until July 1 to be in compliance or lose their license to operate.

The intent was to close down clinics and end the legal practice of abortion in Kansas.

The proof, as the Star offered, is that of the 241 ambulatory surgical clinics, “only the state’s three abortion clinics are subject to these regulations.”  And, “Many regulations have nothing to do with patient safety, and many are impossible to meet within two weeks.”

The editorial makes it clear that those who proposed these regulations aren’t really hiding their motivation: they want to make Kansas “the first abortion-free state.”

Religious zealots and anti-choice fanatics hitched a ride on the Tea Party train as it pulled out of Big Government Station just after President Obama assumed office in 2009, and after the train reached its November 2010 election stop, the zealots and fanatics got off and went to work attacking abortion rights.

The Star:

The attack on legal abortion is a cheap legislative trick to get around the law of the land. Legitimate safety regulations would be phased in, giving clinics time to get up to code. But these regulations were never meant to be legitimate.

Of course not.  And neither were the claims of many in the Tea Party movement who held signs at rallies around the country protesting the size and reach of government and making the outrageous claim that Obama and the Democrats were after our liberties.

What legitimacy there was in the Tea Party movement was soon undermined by Republican political operatives who moved in to take partisan political advantage of the Obama-induced angst on the Right by pretending to run “grassroots” operations.

And worse than that, Christian moralists and quasi-theocrats used the small-government, love-the-Constitution movement to gain power in order to enact their extremist anti-choice agenda, an agenda which includes using state governments to effectively eliminate in America the constitutional right to abortion.

Big government? You betcha.

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