Kansas Named Florida / Arizona / Mississippi Of 2014, Pawns Trophy For Gas Money Home
Picking Wonkette's State of the Year was no easy feat this time around, but Kansas pulled away from the pack with its flair for the dramatic. For a few heady months of 2014, Kansas shocked the country by flirting with electing politicians who were unaffiliated with the Republican Party. We let ourselves believe there could be a chance for the state to turn puce, if not full-on purple, as Kansas Republicans sucked at their jobs on a scale that was especially shocking given the fact that many of them were running for re-election.
First-term Gov. Sam Brownback distinguished himself early by subjecting Kansas to an "experiment" into the effect of money starvation on a state government. After packing the state legislature with far-right Republicans who let him cut taxes down to pretty much zero for corporations and other high earners, Brownback sat back to wait for the growth that ultimately failed to spew forth like red-hot lava from his low-tax fiscal volcano.
Brownback filled this year's resulting budget chasm with the poor and the children and the poor children and then most of the state's fund for road repair until Moody's downgraded the state's bond rating, and he got scolded by a panel of judges for violating constitutional obligations to fund education. Kansas enters the new year hundreds of millions of dollars in the red, just as national Republicans are preparing to bring Brownback's brand of budgeting to DC.
Speaking of Washington, Kansas delivered on the soap opera front in its U.S. Senate race. The Democratic candidate came down with acute Democrat Humility Syndrome, dropping out in order to throw his support behind an independent who seemed to stand a chance of knocking off the Republican incumbent. That shouldn't have been possible, except that old Pat Roberts was such a lazy candidate he'd given up pretending he even lived in Kansas, let alone care about the people who did.
After a cartoonishly transparent and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach to force the Democrats to run a replacement candidate to draw support from the independent and save Roberts's apathetic hide, Roberts was somehow re-elected by 11 points anyway. Let this be a lesson to future candidates that they need not go to the trouble of hooking up internet in their campaign offices.
Of course, it's something of a miracle that anyone voted in Kansas at all with Kobach in charge of the state's elections. Kobach is a voter ID evangelist whose commitment to winnowing down the electorate led him to prevent a category of registered voters he felt were under-documented from voting for state offices (like his). Kobach took his voter suppression act on the road this year, appearing at the Heritage Foundation to accept its praise for his success in "keeping elections honest."
Kobach himself was in a tight race during the summer and fall with a former Republican who'd been primaried out of her seat in the state house after opposing Brownback's tax cuts. Still, Kansans re-elected Kobach by a comfortable margin, inviting him to spend the next four years protecting Kansas democracy from those unsavory characters who can't produce 50-year-old documents to show their names changed when they got married.
In the end, the twist that hooked us into the Kansas 2014 story turned out not to be improbable victory by a few Democrats, but the loyalty of the electorate to blood-red political comfort food in the face of staggering Republican ineptitude. We should have known that no amount of rank incompetence, partisan myopathy, or outright contempt for voters could dislodge an officeholder in Kansas with an R after his name.
Congratulations, Kansas, on being unapologetically you. Don't ever let economic or electoral self-interest sway you from that straight Republican ticket! Now get back to work selling those stale candy bars and auctioning off those confiscated sex toys, or your kids' schools won't have any toilet paper when they get back in January. Happy New Year!
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