The votes have all been counted. The Republicans won the night. The election cycle is now complete.
Almost all of our local kingmakers got it wrong. The pain of defeat is beginning to sink in. As Lord Byron wrote, “The widows of Ashur are loud in their wail, and the idols are broke in the temple of Baal.”
Prior to the election, everything here in Kansas seemed to be conspiring against Sam Brownback, Tim Huelskamp, Peggy Mast, Kris Kobach, and, to some extent, Pat Roberts. The well connected and those with what appeared to be considerable political clout were against them. Old guard Republicans were against them. The cops and the sheriffs were against them. The N.E.A. was against them. Even the polling data seemed to be aligned against them.
Yet, they all won by 4 percent or more. How could it have happened?
One thing seems pretty clear. Other than Lyon County, most Kansans didn’t vote the way they’d been told to vote.
This is an exceedingly good thing. The preamble of our Constitution begins with three beautiful words - “We the people!” It was our Founders’ way of saying that the collective wisdom of the people is always to be preferred over the so-called superior wisdom of the few and the well connected.
Prior to the election I had a few conversations about the upcoming vote. Some of those I spoke with told me that they’d never met anyone who’d ever voted for Tim Huelskamp or Peggy Mast. Well, someone has to be voting for them, because they keep winning elections. They’re out there and they’re showing up at the polls. They’re not voting the way they’ve been told to, but they are voting. They’re voting in accord with their own interests, not the interests others are trying to impose on them. The elites fail to see this because they know even less about the people of Kansas than they do about Laffer curves and supply side economics.
I honestly didn’t expect the election results we got. I thought for sure that the Republicans were going to go down in flames. The elites were telling me it was going to happen. The polls were too. I was very wrong!
A few days before the election, a Survey U.S.A. poll showed Kansas Republican candidates trailing badly. My wife insisted that I dig a bit more into the guts of the poll. I did and found something else in the poll that had gone almost un-noticed. The demographic breakdown of the poll revealed that people with annual incomes under $40,000 were supporting the Republican slate of candidates. Those with incomes above $40,000 supported the Democratic ticket. Apparently, the ham and eggers showed up at the polls and delivered victory to the Republicans.
There’s one last observation I need to make. Hatred is not a sound political foundation. It was clear to me and many others that the most vocal supporters of Democratic candidates hated Sam Brownback, Tim Huelskamp, Kris Kobach, and Peggy Mast. That was a big problem. Their political positions and platforms got lost in a fetid swamp of contempt and hate.
This was especially evident in the aftermath of the election. Some of the losing candidates were quite gracious. Teresa Briggs thanked the Democratic Party and her supporters. Good for her! But, some gave in to the urge to have a public tantrum. In a Facebook post to Teresa Briggs, Independent Bill Otto posted this gem: “I don’t think a Democrat has a chance. I was hoping I could pull enough votes out of Coffee County to let you win. We both know the least qualified but best politician won. Good luck.”
Let’s see if I have this right. Bill Otto got 1,500 people to vote for him because he was trying to do Teresa Briggs a favor. Talk like that really does validate the old Kinky Friedman adage - “You can lead a politician to water, but you can’t make him think.”
The comment was also dripping with hate and that’s a real problem. I’ve known Peggy for as long as I’ve lived here. I’ve differed with her on matters of politics more than once. But, she’s really a very nice person. She’s never said an unkind word to me or about me. I value her friendship. I would never abandon it or speak ill of her because our politics differ. The same would be true if I knew Sam Brownback, Tim Huelskamp, or Kris Kobach. I’ve never met them, but they seem like pretty nice guys to me. I think I could express my political differences with them without the conversation veering off into hate and contempt.