WICHITA, Kan. - The American system of electing officials to govern has always been imperfect. The high cost of campaigns to challenging entrenched incumbents potentially discourages many good citizens from pursuing elective office. In Kansas, elections are further strained by the litmus test of the abortion issue.
Candidates who are prochoice in the democratic party have remained silent giving the impression that they are not as principled as prolife candidates. Their silence has only emboldened more prolife candidates to run for office. These republican/religious right candidates in Kansas tend to be less qualified and even more extreme in their positions than ever before. [Yes, that's a shout out to you Kris Kobach and Aaron Jacks.] It's time for the democrats to rethink their "don't ask don't tell" policy on abortion because unless you are a prolife democrat, every conservative in the state is convinced you are a baby killer any way.
Kansas Republicans are not at all shy about airing political ads touting their prolife stance discriminating against women for being women. For good measure, the ads often end by flashing the word "conservative" on the screen to denote conservatism as some kind of Christian doctrine upheld by God. It isn't.
Ad after ad in this primary season in Kansas contains the same old message from the conservative candidates. They preach the gospel of Christian republicanism that includes protecting their businesses, forcing women to have children, and of course, upholding state's rights. Moderates of the party try to hold on but you have to feel sorry for the sane republicans inside the party. They are adrift in a sea of talk that sounds more like Southerners after Reconstruction against those damn Yankees in D.C. Lord, I look at the calendar and think, is it really 2010 or 1878? Someone needs to tell Pompeo and Winkman it's the 21st century!
Obviously, too many candidates running for office in Kansas lack real knowledge of the issues or even show a desire to compromise for the good of the whole in resolving difficult issues facing our country and the world. They show no innovative thinking, nor inspire us with their new ideas. There have been several exceptions when it comes to qualified candidates this primary season.
Republican candidate Jean Schodorf has struggled to provide solid answers to complex questions during debates revealing her legislative expertise and knowledge. It hasn't really mattered yet to voters on the right. They've come to cheer the swaggering cowboys who show up at the republican forums to talk about how wonderful they are as West Point graduates and businessmen and oh yes, did they mention they are prolife and conservative? Yeah, only a million times, boys.
On top of this pitiful situation of campaign lunacy is the comical battle between Representatives Moran and Tiahrt over who is more prolife, more Godly, more conservative, more nuts! Why don't they just run an ad that says: "Our party hates welfare queens, gays and pregnant women who think they can get away with murdering their child and not be punished for their wickedness!"
The Religious Right in Kansas began a frontal attack years ago against the democrats when they realized the democrats were not going to call them out on their stance against women. How I have dreamed of the day the Kansas Democratic Party would air an ad about the prolife movement. The ad could show old footage of the screaming religious extremists protesting with this caption: "Prolife: A belief whereby the government can interfere with the sovereignty of a woman's body and /or health with the intent of forcing women to give birth against their will based upon their narrow religious beliefs."
Reality is far different from my dreams. Not one democratic candidate today has the guts to openly defend the party's position on choice. The party has lost ground on the issue because they refuse to challenge the intellectual dishonesty behind the term "prolife." The party has been afraid to speak out and risk losing moderate and independent voters but who in Kansas really thinks a democrat is going to be prolife? Meanwhile, republican candidates in Kansas have had a field day every election cycle by using the prolife issue to pummel their opposition. It's hard to fight your opponent when you have both hands tied behind your back.
Running as if the issue does not matter or exist in Kansas politics is poor strategy. I know this first hand from serving as a campaign manager. When Peter DeVries ran for the Kansas State Senate against Ty Masterson in 2006 there was no question who was more intelligent, more thoughtful in his ideas and vision about the state, or worthy of representing the district. Despite Masterson's lack of skills, and even some questionable business dealings he waved off as someone else's fault, plus a huge blowup at a debate where he went psycho, Masterson won by over 10,000 more votes. Peter walked door to door throughout the entire district and appeared at every event he could physically attend . He did not have the advantage of family ties, name recognition or good O'l boy connections of the Masterson clan.
In the end, we knew the real reason Peter would not be elected was due to his prochoice position. Ironically, the issue was never, EVER discussed in public because we were advised it would be the kiss of death for the campaign. We were going to lose anyway, so why did we have to be silent on choice? We should have shouted it to the rafters: "We are prochoice and want government out of women's biological house!"
I learned that the kiss of death is running away from your principles. Sometimes it's sound strategy to avoid a controversial issue until the facts stop shifting around, but for the Democratic Party to allow republicans to define and own the prolife position has been nothing short of stupid. Or perhaps, it's the same old political game in the end where women in the party are always expendable for another day?
Sometimes I think Kansans would rather elect a serial murderer than a prochoice candidate especially if he has found Jesus. Amen, elect that man! But this is exactly why democrats must challenge prolife candidates. As long as voters are willing to elect people based upon one issue that never should have been politicized, then government at all levels is seriously compromised. For that reason alone, we need democrats and republicans to step forward and knock this issue off the political pedestal it enjoys or we will continue in a spiral of electing incompetent boobs unworthy of public office and unable to solve major problems in a wise, thoughtful manner.
We need candidates who will "give' em hell" like Harry Truman and hound prolife candidates from debate to debate asking over and over again, "Why are you against women? Why do you want to endanger women's health? Why do you think you can decide such a personal issue for someone you do not know? We should call out these candidates with their smug self-righteous attitude who have no problem denying women their rights acting as if they are so noble in deed. And if they continue to state they think all life is precious, then we know what they will do if elected; treat women like children and deny them the dignity and worth to make their own decisions about motherhood and giving birth.
A prolife candidate is a candidate who stands against the rights of women. It's as simple as that. Every independent, libertarian, democratic, moderate republican in Kansas needs to stand up and let these prolife candidates know their disregard for women will not bring them victory at the polls. The issues facing Kansas and the nation are too complex to continue electing religious extremists and amatures to public office on the backs of fetuses.
Just as any civil rights leader would stand up to racism, prochoice candidates must stand up to the prolife candidates who retard and threaten our nation with this false debate. The tragedy of this issue is how long it has divided our legislative bodies and ruined the opportunity for many qualified citizens to serve in public office .
A woman's reproductive decisions should not be the business of government. Democratic and moderate republican candidates must make this case to the voters or they deserve to lose.