Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Politics: January 2010

WICHITA, Kan. - A jury found Scott Roeder guilty of first degree murder in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, whom Roeder said he killed to stop him from conducting late term abortions. Roeder's lawyers had tried to mount a defense that would have reduced the crime to manslaughter. The jury took 37 minutes to decide to convict.

On Being a Kansas Democrat

WICHITA, Kan. - Recently, a friend asked me why I continue to hang in there with the Democrats. Some days, I ask myself the same question.

Three months after John F. Kennedy's election, I turned 21 and registered to vote as a Democrat. In doing so, I turned my back on my parents' life-long Republican Party affiliation. My dad was a truck driver and a member of the Teamsters Union. My mom was an independent-minded woman who spent most of my growing up years working as a housewife. As working class people, neither of them fit the country club Republican image. However, my folks were Republican precinct committeeman and committeewoman in their district of Baxter Springs, Kansas.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - According to polling data, the Democratic party has a low approval rating among American voters. But the Republican party's approval rate is even lower than the Democrats. The "Tea Party" - an informal group of anti-tax, anti-big government folks is approved by more Americans than either major party.

People are angry at Democrats, but they remember why they voted out Republicans in 2008. Republicans gleefully assume that they will be the beneficiaries of all this voter anger at Democrats in the 2010 elections.

Don't be so sure. Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, indicates that the angry voters may turn to "a third force" other than the Republicans or Democrats. Republicans initially assumed that the Tea Party's interests would be identical with their interests. However, there is already some infighting between the Republican party and the Tea Party.

cstein.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Christina Stein has filed papers with the Kansas Secretary of State's office to become a candidate for House of Representatives 112th District. The 112th District covers most of Barton County, including the cities of Great Bend, Albert, Dundee, Pawnee Rock, Galatia, Olmitz and surrounding townships.

Christina indicates that her main focus will be working for good jobs at good wages in Barton County. "The economy is much better in Kansas than in Michigan, where I grew up. The crash of the auto industry has my home state in sharp decline," she explains.

Though she has observed that the jobs market may be worse in other places, she still believes that, even in the current economy, Great Bend and Barton County can provide better jobs at better wages than are currently available. Christina intends to support economic development and chamber efforts to bring new businesses to the area as well as support policies that help our small businesses grow and prosper.

Nation Cruise Broadcasts

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, the broadcast of the Howard Dean interview will be postponed until February 11th. Apologies for the change. Since the original files were video, not audio, problems arose in transferring the files. The Nation is sending DVDs which I will use to broadcast.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Nation has given permission to Community Bridge to broadcast three seminars from last month's cruise that were reported here on the pages of the Kansas Free Press.

This week on Community Bridge, following my interview with Curt Brungardt on Jana's Campaign to End Domestic Violence, we will broadcast Is there an Obama doctrine in Foreign Policy?

Foreign policy panel
The panel features Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, as moderator, with panelists: Robert Scheer, editor; Steve Cohen, American scholar of Russian studies and professor of Russian Studies and History at New York University; Gov. Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and Chair of the Democratic Party; and, William Greider, author of numerous books, including Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country, contributor to The Nation, former writer for Rolling Stone magazine during the 1980s and 1990s, and has worked as an on-air correspondent for Frontline on PBS.

Christopher E. Renner, host of Community Bridge, thanks The Nation for giving permission to broadcast this conversation so it can be heard by a broader audience.

To listen to the panel presentation, either click the start button on the player panel or click the MP3 File button to down the file to your computer.

Is there an Obama doctrine in Foreign Policy?

MP3 File

A conversation with Howard Dean. Broadcast on Community Bridge on 11 February 2010.

MP3 File

2010 Election Season Begins

TOPEKA, Kan. - And we're off! The 2010 election season is getting off to a quick start with several candidates declaring interest in running for office. State Senator Chris Steineger filed for the Secretary of State position last week, joining several others who have indicated interest in running for the seat.

His press release is below...

WICHITA, Kan. - State Rep. Raj Goyle reported his campaign raised $252,953.29 during the fourth quarter of 2009. Goyle's campaign now has $583,483.28 cash on hand, a record amount for a challenger going into an election year in Kansas' Fourth Congressional District.

"I am deeply humbled by the tremendous support I've received from people across the Fourth District and the State of Kansas," said Goyle.

Goyle drew on a wide base of support, receiving contributions from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Nearly half of all contributions Goyle's campaign received were less than one hundred dollars. With nearly 1,500 contributions since July, Goyle's campaign has more supporters than any other candidate in the race to date.

SALINA, Kan. - The Democrat's bitter election loss in Massachusetts may be a result of how Democrats have been losing ground on the public opinion front. As fellow KFP writer, Marty Keenan, recently pointed out, "Democrats are terrible at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds. Republicans are experts at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds."

Marty recommended that Democrats read the excellent book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

A few other books may also provide some of the tools that Democrats need to regain lost ground. In addition to The Political Brain, I'd like to recommend four additional books: 1) Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives, 2) Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 3) Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments, and perhaps the best one, 4) The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - One of my most fervent hopes is that all Americans can be on the same page again. It was like that when I was growing up. When I was 8 years old we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. We had a party, and made homemade ice cream. There were Republicans there, Democrats, all kinds of people: and everybody wanted the mission to succeed. And it did.

We had a common enemy: the USSR. And nothing unites a nation like a common enemy. But communism collapsed, and that was a good thing. But there were unexpected consequences.

Today, we are divided: Red States vs. Blue States. Fox News vs. MSNBC. And the explosion of technology is a major culprit in causing this divide. Now, everyone listens to whatever news outlet they agree with. There were 3 networks when I was a child. Today there are billions. Every home computer is a network.

Tom Holland for Governor

DERBY, Kan. - Tom Holland for governor is indeed a breath of fresh air. Just hearing of anyone willing to challenge Sam Brownback is encouraging, to say the least. However, just having the identification of Republican gives any statewide candidate in Kansas at least a 3 to 1 advantage. Even though Brownback doesn't have a very high approval rating in the polls, when it comes voting time, the republican candidate just seems to automatically get the nod.

What, then, will it take for Tom Holland to wage a successful campaign for Governor of one of the most solid red states in America?

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Tom Holland's (D-Baldwin City) probable entry into the Kansas Governor's race is a major development, because Holland has a track record of knocking off Republican incumbents. He defeated incumbent Republican House member Ralph Tanner in a heated 2002 race in the 10th House District, and in 2008 he defeated Republican State Senator Roger Pine in the 3rd Senate District.

Although U.S. Senator Sam Brownback is not an incumbent Governor, he symbolizes everything people think of when they think of "the status quo." Brownback is a career politician whom people associate with Washington, D.C. His 49% approval rating is remarkably low for a longtime Republican incumbent in Kansas.

The worst possible news for Brownback's candidacy was this week, when Massachusetts voters filled the "John F. Kennedy / Edward M. Kennedy" seat with a Republican. Brownback would have been so much better off if Coakley had won without incident. Obama had been on the wrong track, and Kansas voters knew it - Obama's approval rating in Kansas was 36% - even lower than Brownback's.

Obama Needs to Put His Dukes Up

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Life is a lot like boxing. And boxing is the best metaphor for politics I know. If a boxing match is so one-sided that one of the boxers is in danger of being permanently injured or killed, the referee stops the fight.

If you think of the Massachusetts voters as a boxing referee, they did President Obama a huge favor by stopping the fight yesterday. Democrats losing "the Kennedy seat" in the U.S. Senate is hard to believe. But since his inauguration, Obama didn't throw a single punch at the opposition. Meanwhile, he got pummeled by the the opposition.

I wish things were different. I wish things could be truly bipartisan again, and that all Americans rooted for the nation, for the President. But politics has become a bloodsport, and you better knock the other guy's head off before he knocks yours off.

I have written several times now about Drew Westen's remarkable book The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. But apparently nobody even close to Obama read the book. Drew Westen's article in today's Huffington Post Obama Finally Gets His Victory For Bipartisanship, says everything that I would like to say, better than I could ever say it.

Obama's vision, first spelled out in his spellbinding 2004 convention speech, for a return to a bipartisan America where everyone works together, sets aside partisan bickering, and works for the good of the nation was appealing. But both sides have to agree to the deal. And as Obama was elected and extended the hand of friendship to Republicans, they broke his face with a right hook that could knock a barn down.

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

HAYS, Kan. - With the loss of Teddy Kennedy's seat in the Senate, perhaps progressives need to take a hard look at ourselves. Have we been on automatic pilot since November 2008? How many in our ranks thought that our jobs were more or less done following the presidential election? Who among us slowed down our activism because, in part, we believed that electing Democrats to the White House or Congress was sufficient enough to create sweeping social change and install justice throughout our land?

We can look back at history and see that all significant social changes began as people-powered tidal waves. The people maintained ownership and control of their own movements. The movements germinated, bubbled up and remained political forces powered by the people - and were never given away or handed off to Washington to mismanage.

Bankrupt Kansas, Bankrupt Legislature

WICHITA, Kan. - On Friday I attended the Nonprofit Chamber of Service's "Board University," its annual meeting surrounded by an all-day conference dedicated to issues of interest to NFPs and their boards. A lot of the organizations that belong to it are grassroots social service organizations, like drug treatment centers and working with the mentally disabled and abused children. Really hands on, on the ground work.

I went to all the "leading your nonprofit through hard times" sessions. We would go around the room and talk about whether our budget was going down, if we'd had to lay off people or cut back services, etc. A lot of the organizations are very reliant on government support for their efforts, and that has been falling. So someone would say, "we lost $60,000 in government support," or "it depends on what level the state funds Medicaid reimbursements" which is a big issue for some, and some other groups depend on the sales tax exemptions, which I'll get to in a minute.

Of course, as you may know, the state of Kansas has cut about 20% of its budget in the past year due to recession-caused revenue shortfalls. Well, that and the steadfast refusal of the state legislature to do anything on the revenue side. We have a pretty strong tea party culture in this state, and it's an election year, and there isn't a Republican in the Central Time Zone who wants to be on record supporting a tax increase. So because some people are mad about deficit spending in Washington, programs in Kansas that deal with the most vulnerable get cut and cut and cut again.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Derek Schmidt's (R-Independence) active participation in a recent "10th Amendment Rally" in Topeka is disappointing. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt coined the phrase "lunatic fringe" to describe those on both sides of the political spectrum who get involved in far-fetched movements. But I expected better of Schmidt.

I've never met the man, actually. But I was under the mistaken impression that he was a mainstream Republican along the lines of President Eisenhower, Bob Dole, Nancy Kassebaum and others. But no Eisenhower Republican - the kind that used to run the state of Kansas - would go anywhere near the "States Right's" rally held across the street from the capitol Friday.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Democrats are terrible at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds. Republicans are experts at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds. That is the message of Drew Westen's remarkable book: The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

While Democrats give arcane professorial arguments that go over the heads of most voters, the Republicans make punchy gut-level arguments that scare people. And fear is a powerful emotion. It wins elections.

These are difficult days for Democrats, especially Kansas Democrats. Last night I watched three politicians, former or current Presidents, Obama, Bush and Clinton, standing on the same stage, talking about Haiti. Obama and Bush made bland pleas for people to "send cash" to Haiti. Meanwhile, former President Clinton did what Democrats rarely do - he explained the need in a short, punchy, emotional way:

"I stayed at that hotel in Haiti that collapsed. I had dinner with people who are dead. Hillary and I worshiped in that Cathedral that is now in rubbles." How refreshing! A Democrat speaking in simple, emotional terms, using powerful images. Bill Clinton seems to be the only Democrat out there who knows how to do this.

No Room for Partisanship

WICHITA, Kan. - According to Brandon Whipple of Wichita, "No one should be denied the opportunity for a quality education."

Whipple, a first generation college graduate, entered the race for state legislator to represent Kansas District 96.

Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between, should look closely at this particular candidate.

Anyone who understands the dynamic importance of quality education and job creation needs to take a scrutinized look at the voting record of incumbent Rep. Phil Hermanson before heading to the polls this fall.

"Our children are our most valuable and, unfortunately, most vulnerable resource. The recent budget cuts to public schools are jeopardizing the future of our children. My opponent is not doing his part to protect and fund education," Whipple said.

Whipple's community involvement and level of education speaks volumes about his core beliefs, and his desire to commit his valuable work ethics to the people of Wichita.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Before Julie and I had children, we had HBO. Back then HBO featured exclusive heavyweight championship fights. Mike Tyson was Heavyweight Champion of the World. And when HBO would broadcast his fights, I started a tradition of inviting some of my friends over to watch the fights.

Mike Tyson was invincible, and the best I could hope for was that the fight would last a few rounds so we could have a few beers and see an interesting fight. We didn't like Tyson, but all good "morality plays" have a villain, and Tyson was the seemingly invincible Goliath.

I remember one Friday night when one of my friends was a little late for the broadcast, ringing our doorbell almost the exact second the bell sounded for the first round of the bout. In the few seconds that it took me to walk to the door and invite my friend into the TV room, Mike Tyson had knocked out Carl "The Truth" Williams. Williams had not thrown a single punch.

brownback.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - On Monday, Brownback for Governor, Inc. is expected to file a lackluster finance report for the last quarter. The report will show the campaign raised approximately 1.53 million dollars for Sam Brownback's gubernatorial bid.

"It's a remarkably low number for a candidate who has been running for Governor since the day he ended his Presidential campaign more than two years ago," observed Kenny Johnston, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.

"This lack of support reveals that many Kansans have serious concerns about the extreme agenda he would bring back to Kansas."

Will Kansas Have a Race?

I Don't Heart Todd!

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - As if the doldrums and cold of January aren't depressing enough I subjected myself to more than an hour of Mr. Tiahrt's blather at a town hall meeting in Hutchinson this morning.

In truth it turned out to be more of a GOP rally.

He started with a attempt at humor, commenting on the frigid temperatures and complaining that Gore had led us astray with his promise of warming. I could tell it was going to be a long morning when the audience tittered appreciatively at that and his next remark about hoping to speak well without the aid of a teleprompter - snicker, snicker.

Its Time to Step Up

donkey-in-barrel.jpgWICHITA, Kan. - 2010 is here and its already an election year, and you don't have to be a pessimist to see that it could be a very bad year for Democrats with no candidates for Governor, Dennis Moore and Laura Kelly dropping out. In fact my nightmare scenario of a Governor Brownback, Secretary of State Kobach, with an all Republican Congressional Delegation and the Republicans picking up 4 or 5 more seats in the Legislature isn't all that far fetched.

To stop above scenario from happening is within our grasp, its as easy as contacting the campaigns of candidates like Raj Goyle and Charles Schollenberger and either volunteering or giving a little money, even 5 dollars adds up, if you can get 100 people giving, it adds up quickly, Another thing is half if not more of the precinct committee positions are vacant.

WICHITA, Kan. - I dare to ask the women of Kansas to stand up and use our voting power to remove Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas Government. By his own actions Brownback has shown he cares nothing for important women's issues. He voted against the Preventive Services Coverage Bill that would expand women's access to preventive services such as mammograms. He also voted against the Equal Pay Bill, a gender pay equity law, and the Lily Ledbetter Pay Act that would redefine discriminatory salaries. Instead Brownback focused on anti-abortion amendments.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Why no Democrat has stepped forward to run against Senator Brownback for Governor is a mystery greater than Stonehenge. It's not like Brownback is a human dynamo.

Brownback is neither striking in appearance, nor good at political speeches. One wonders: "How did he get this far?" People tell me the answer is money. He married into a powerful family that had lots of money, and buddied up to corporate interests like Koch Industries, so that he has stacks of cash.

So what? If you have a deodorant that doesn't work, it doesn't matter how much you spend advertising it, sooner or later people figure out it doesn't work. In spite of the millions and millions spent to promote Senator Brownback, he approval rating is 49%. Shouldn't it be more like 70%?

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Politics: January 2010 section.

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