Tag Archives: elections

KCMO’s Mayoral Election Is an Example For All

A bit of a crazy thing is going on near me. Just across the river in Kansas City, Missouri, the public is about to elect a new mayor.  The race is between Sly James, an attorney, and Mike Burke, an attorney. They have participated in a primary in which James won by a slight margin. Burke came in second, so the two are going into a run-off. None of this seems very unusual. It shouldn’t. Today the day before the election an attack ad ran on TV against Sly James and a flyer was sent out attacking Mike Burke. Not so surprising that the mudslinging would ramp up the day before the election, is it?

This is where it gets very, very unusual. Both candidates denounced the attacks against the other. That’s right. Both candidates came out against the ads meant to help them win. This isn’t surprising in this particular campaign. The entire campaign has been very positive. The candidates have not attacked each other. In fact they have both praised each other. The pointed out that the city would not be harmed by their opponent, merely it would be better off with them. The entire debate hasn’t been about the evils of the other side. It has been about how one approach is better than another. It has been a debate that says both candidates want to make the city better. They just have different ideas on the best way to do it, and the public should decide.  In fact, both candidates have said their opponents could play a very positive role in their administrations. This has been the debate that we should be having in every election.

Kansas City’s  mayoral election is an example of where we need to go as a country. The outgoing mayor, Mark Funkhauser, was very controversial, and it appears that the people are fed up. They wanted a race that was about ideas not attacks.  According to FOX4 in Kansas City the final debate between the two candidates was a light-hearted give and take. When was the last time you saw that in a political debate.

We need to look at Kansas City’s election as an example. If people demand real ideas and not just baseless attacks, the political climate of this country will improve and we will all be better served by our elected officials.

An Interesting Vote

NPR had a very interesting report this evening.  The House of Representatives voted to stop a 465 million dollar a year program that builds an engine for the f-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This is not the primary engine, which is made by Pratt & Whitney. This is an alternative engine built by GE. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called it “the extra engine” in a Senate hearing. The Bush Administration wanted to kill the program. The Obama administration would also. The Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps agree. Most importantly the Defense Department says it’s unnecessary and the money could be used elsewhere. The House just did what they all recommended. Why is this an interesting story then? It seems pretty cut and dry.

The interesting part is the vote. It was 233 to 198. The majority of Republicans voted to sustain funding. They voted to keep a program that costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year when the people who benefit from that program want to get rid of it.  This is the party that is currently talking about the need for drastic budget cuts. This is the party claiming to be all about fiscal restraint. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan proposed cutting billions of dollars from programs like HeadStart, and the funding for Pell Grants. Now his party votes to maintain funding for an “extra engine” for a fighter jet we probably don’t even need. Just last year after building 187 F-22 fighters the Defense Department decided they didn’t need them. They would rather put more time and money into the F-35. So now the question is will we need the F-35? Or after billions of dollars spent will they say we need to move on to the next generation? Defense spending has to be brought under control.

That is just a quick thought. I will talk a lot more about defense spending this weekend when I write my opinion on the upcoming budget battle. We will soon see if anyone in Congress is willing to tackle the deficit issue. Likely, we’ll see a bunch of people saying what they think is important to getting elected. Campaign season never really stops these days.

The Problem with Obama’s Tax Deal

Since the election last November, I’ve had some time to think. About 2 months worth of time actually. During my reflection Pres. Obama compromised with Republicans to pass a bill on the Bush tax cuts. I’ve written before that I think he did the right think, but there is one thing about it that I don’t understand. That’s the number two.The deal extended the tax cuts for two years. That means right in the middle of the presidential campaign of 2012 this is going to be an issue. As far as I can tell it’s a losing move for Democrats. The unfortunate truth for Democrats is that lower taxes always sound better.

We live in a time of huge budget deficits. If we look at the reality of the situation two things almost certainly need to happen. We need to cut the amount of money we spend, and we need to raise taxes. The Tea Party movement is built upon fiscal responsibility. at least in theory. The rhetoric you hear from them doesn’t support that, however. What we heard in the last election was that taxes are too high, and government spending was out of control. What is most interesting about that argument is that taxes are exactly what they have been for 10 years, and spending (along with the deficit) has been growing that entire time. Where was the outcry then? Why weren’t Tea Partiers angry in the last year of Pres. Bush’s administration when the budget deficit went over a trillion dollars for the first time? The truth is that the Tea Party cares little for fiscal responsibility and more for the government not taxing them at all. They don’t consider the consequences of that, however.  It is easy to say the government should take less of your money, but not so easy to deal with the reality of what will happen if they don’t. It’s easy to want your paycheck to be bigger, but difficult to deal with the fact that you can’t survive in retirement and old age because Social Security and Medicare are not funded.  The Tea Party is existing in a world that will never come to reality, because it is impossible. They want the services that the government provides, but don’t want to pay for them.

Unfortunately for Democrats it is easy to buy the Tea Party’s vote.  All you have to do is follow the formula that Republican’s used in the last election. Promise lower taxes, say the problem is just government spending. If you simplify the argument to the point that it doesn’t make any real sense, it will probably work. Kevin Yoder, who is the new congressman for the Kansas 3rd district, ran a campaign commercial in the election where he said, ” Washington taxes too much, borrows too much, and spends too much.”  He never mentioned what would happen if they did less of any of those things. That wasn’t important. What was important was saying Congress is wasting money. He wouldn’t want to mention that they were wasting money on things like helping the poor, old or disabled. He wouldn’t want to mention that we spend billions on military programs that go nowhere, only to further the most technologically advanced military in the world unnecessarily. He wouldn’t want to propose real solutions, because real solutions almost always have side effects that some people don’t like.

The real problem with the tax deal is that it makes it more difficult for Obama to be re-elected. It they had extended the cuts for 1 or 3 years, it would be an entirely different situation. Democrats have little to gain from a tax argument in an election. Any real fiscal conservative would say that when the time comes we need to eliminate the Bush tax cuts. I’ve heard a few say just that, but in an election year logic takes a back seat to winning. In a year where the future of not only Congress, but the White House, hangs in the balance, we can expect a lot of politics, and little of sensable policy.

Palin 2012: It Might Be Good for Republicans

It’s not often that I take the time to suggest something that I think would be helpful to Republicans. After I do, any of you that read the next few sentences will undoubtedly tell me I’m crazy. I think there is a case to be made for this though. If I were a Republican, I would suggest not only that Sarah Palin run for President, but that the Republican establishment should support her.

Okay, let me explain.  The election of 2012 is almost certainly going to be as bad if not worse than 2008. You can expect all the rumors about Pres. Obama to come back. He’s not a citizen; he’s a closet Muslim; he’s going make us Communist and so on.  The people who believe these claims will be Palin supporters.  Palin herself will probably egg them on in thinly veiled words. That’s what she is good at. It allows her to drum up support without delving into actually policy ideas.

I know so far this doesn’t sound good, but allow me to continue. 2012 isn’t going to be an easy win for a Republican candidate. Likely the economy will be improving. It may not be a 90’s economic boom, but any growth will be noticeable.  The healthcare debate will be gone. People will want to hear about the future not the past. The tax cut debate will be back so the Tea Party may still be a force. If Palin decides she is not welcomed by Republicans and stages a 3rd Party bid, it will kill any Republican chances. For any of the possible Republican candidates, 2012 is anything but a sure victory.

Even if Obama is re-elected, Republican’s will probably retain control of at least one chamber of Congress. That will allow them to act as an obstacle to any far-reaching legislation they oppose. Also, second-terms in the last forty years are notorious. Nixon resigned. Reagan had Iran-Contra. Clinton was nearly impeached, and classified information was leaked out of the Bush administration.  All of these caused major distractions. The point being that Republicans have little to fear from a Obama second term.

Meanwhile, the Republican establishment needs to push Sarah Palin to the fringe.  Her support of congressional candidates cost them major wins in the last election. The Senate seat in Delaware was written off as soon as Christine O’Donnell won the primary.  If the Nevada Republican Party had put up just a solid mainstream Republican they could have taken down Harry Reid.  While she may be good at firing up the base, she is not winning any new votes. Many well-known Republicans are not fans of hers. Former First Lady Barbara Bush said, “I think Sarah Palin is very happy in Alaska. I hope she stays there.” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski said she recalled Palin not being too involved in policy, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said a Palin run would be the one thing that would get him in the race.  The fact is that people who vote for Sarah Palin will vote Republicans anyway and by proving she is not a viable candidate will allow the Republican Party to return to business.

Republicans have little to lose in the next election. As long as the federal government is divided. No far-reaching piece of legislation is going to go through Congress. Compromise is the name of the game. Meanwhile, they could eliminate a problem that could cost them future elections and gear up for the midterms of 2014, and ultimately try to put a Republican in the White House in 2016. That election will be much easier to win.

Happy New Year: A Look at 2011

Well, it is official. One particular midnight has come and gone and now we all get to spend the next few months writing the wrong year on the date line. Typically people write all about New Year’s resolutions at this time. The blogosphere will be crowded with people making promises to themselves. I am not going to do this. One, if you really want to know my goals for 2011, I have a feeling you’ll ask.  I have instead decided to look forward at what 2011 holds for us.

Across the country new governors are being sworn in. To list a few of my favorites: Andrew Cuomo in New York. I list him because New Yorkers we’re smart enough to not elect his opponent Carl Paladino. Paladino on at least two occasions sounded like he was going to clock the a reporter with the gall to interview him. The second time was during an interview with NPR’s Robert Segal, when he was asked about the first time.

Break out your tie-dye, grow out your hair and light a joint,California is going back to the Seventies. From 1975-1983 Jerry Brown served as California’s 34th governor. Upon leaving he prophetically stole a line from a future California governor saying, “I’ll be back.” Tomorrow, on the 28th anniversary of his first inauguration, Brown is back for his 3rd.  His re-re-election brings up an important trend in American politics. If people know your name because you run for something in every election, they’ll vote for you. Well, except if you happen to be a witch.(I’m looking at you, O’Donnell.)

I could talk about my own state of Kansas and incoming governor Sam Brownback. Unfortunately, I’m to frightened/depressed/wanna-move-to-Canada to do so yet. Maybe, Brownback won’t be so bad. He has already appointed the top lawyer in the Governor’s office. That guy was an advisor to former Attorney General Phil Kline. So, I’m not really excited so far. Hey, I was wrong. At least I can talk about it a little.

Nationally, we had a very productive lame-duck Congress, after a fairly productive regular Congress. This fact combined with the unofficial start of the 2012 Presidential campaign, makes me believe nothing is happening in Washington for a while. Luckily, we still have Sarah Palin going all “Mama Grizzly” on us. So there will be something to talk about. There should be a George W. Bush Award for Providing Comic Fodder. Palin would be a shoe-in.  All in all, 2011 might prove to be a calm year. There are no Olympics, no World Cup. There won’t be any true election fervor for a while, so all our Muslim and Mexican friends can relax for a bit. (Unless you live in Arizona or a few other places, like Kansas, but more on that later.)

Perhaps the most important event of all time, but probably for at least 2011 can be summed up only one way.  “YOU GET THE OPRAH NETWORK, YOU GET THE OPRAH NETWORK, IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT CABLE OR SATTELITE PROVIDER, YOU GET THE OPRAH NETWORK.”

Oprah is now not just on your t.v. for a few hours. She’s got a whole network. I don’t really watch cable television so I won’t see much of it. If you want to win a car or humpback whale, the OWN is for you.

I would like to recognize just a few people who I don’t think got nearly enough press in this last year.  I’m sure you all remember the 30 or so miners who were trapped in a Chilean mine this year. They endured an unbelievable event and in the end were hailed as heroes around the world. One guy who didn’t get as much press was a man named Jeff Hart. Jeff Hart flew halfway around the world from Afghanistan to Chile. His job was to drill the hole that the miners escaped through. There were countless others, from engineers to medical staff and beyond. Unfortunately, I don’t know their names, but without them not one of those miners would have ever seen daylight again. They all deserve Time’s Man of the Year award.

So here we are America at nearly 234 and 1/2. Let’s hope we make it to 235. To all our readers have a Happy New Year. We here at Independent Kansan hope to provide another year of civil argument in a world of cable-news,political-spinning madness.

Independent Kansan’s New Year’s Resolution 2011: “Count how many ways Glenn Beck says that Barack Obama is a Communist.”

I had to sneak it in there. That’s gonna be a tough one though.

Lowering the Voting Age, and Making America Better

Recently, I was asked what I thought about the prospect of lowering the voting age. My gut reaction, “Let kids vote? There are a lot of adults I don’t think should be allowed to vote.”  As I considered the question more I realized that there is a reason I don’t want a lot of adults to vote, and lowering the voting age, if combined with education, might help fix that problem.

Winston Churchill reportedly said, “The best argument against democracy is five minutes with the average voter.”  My biggest problem with the American public has been that I agree with Churchill.  I spent a large part of my adult life being angry with other adults because of their knowledge of issues in an election, or more often their apathy.  On average about 60% of eligible voters participate in a presidential election, only 40% in a midterm election. Those numbers are ridiculously low. We all have a large stake in what these elections mean. Yet, we do not participate. Voting is not a societal norm in this country. When you ask someone if they voted, their answer is largely inconsequential. It’s more small talk than important talk.  So, one would ask, “How would lowering  the voting age help?”  I’m not sure it would, but with participation by schools I think it could.

I’ve long thought Election Day should be a federal holiday.  What better message of support for democracy could we send than saying on Election Day everyone takes the day off to go be part of the process.  It could be extraordinary. Imagine a day when our officials our elected by 80% of eligible voters.  We could really begin to see what America believes. Now, imagine a day when that 80% is well-informed about the issues. It could be even better.

So how does this relate to lowering the voting age? I’m glad you asked. We need to teach people to participate.  Think about this. If math were taken out of the curriculum except for a semester in you senior year, you wouldn’t learn much about math.  That is exactly how much government and civics is taught to our youth.  I can’t speak for everywhere in the country but I took “social studies” for a long time. I took one semester of “government.”

Some things about the structure of government are covered in a social studies class, but not enough. We need to include government in all levels of education.  Some of these would be minor. I remember having a small mock election in 1st grade. It was 1988. Then Vice President Bush was running against Micheal Dukakis.  We didn’t know anything about the candidates, but I distinctly remember it as my first exposure to the election process.  The next one I remember was 1992, we had a mock election where we actually went into a voting booth and filled out a small paper ballot for President. Ross Perot won in a landslide. I don’t remember being taught to much about the process again until my senior year. That would have been Aug. 1999-May 2000. There was no election that year. In Nov. 2000, the first election I could have voted in, I didn’t.  Voting, as a civic duty, had not been instilled in me.  I guess I still haven’t answered how lowering the voting age helps, so let me. If we lower the voting age, we can teach teenagers to participate. We can teach them to look at candidates, and the issues, not the attack ads. We can teach them that America is about everyone voicing their opinion.

Imagine for a moment that every election every child took part. In younger grades it would be like the mock elections of my memory.  We would be showing kids that voting is important.  We would also be instilling the value that participation is important. In high school everything would take on more importance. What if every year that there was an election, every child had to take one hour of civics, or government, or election class; whatever you want to call it.  Every high school student would spend one hour of their day in a class where they discussed the process of elections; how to vote, where to vote, why to vote. Then, by the time Election day rolled around they went to a polling place and cast their vote, for real.  If the voting age was 14, then every student who came out of high school would have voted in at least one Presidential and one midterm election.  They could be taught to look at candidates and issues. When the voting was over, they would have time to discuss what that election meant to them.

If we made voting something that every high school graduate had already done before, we would make it something they will do again.  We will never get everyone to participate. Some see their lack of participation as a protest. Others are disillusioned with the process. However, we are not trying to make the electoral process important. We could. We should. And America will only be better for the more voices that are heard.

Weekly Wrap-up 10/31/10

Before we get to the news, I have to wish a very happy birthday to my nephew


Owen. He became an  astonishing 1-year-old on Nov. 1st.  So Owen, Happy Birthday from your one and only Uncle Fat Jesus. I hope you like the shirt.

We have a humorous Quote of the Week . It comes to us from a skit on Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion”:
“Spitting has to come from within. It’s like throwing up, just not all at once.”

Words to live by.

Well, I suppose we should get the obvious out of the way. Republicans made huge gains in Congressional races this election. Independent Kansan’s views on this election are available in a previous post. We hope they turn out true.

An unusual story is coming out of Detroit. The mayor wants to demolish a large part of the city.  Apparently Detroit has lost 1/2 of its population in the past 50 years. So large areas of cramped urban landscape are actually sparsely populated.  In essence he is trying to redefine where Detroit is.

Trash bag maker Hefty is starting a new campaign to make you care about the color of your trash bag.  They want you to buy black ones.  It may come as a surprise, since we suspect a number of you already do. This report from “Marketplace” explains or at least tries to. Just so you know, even the trash bag people are playing mind games.

In the best news for K-State/Wind Farm region, all those white windmills dotting the Kansas plains should actually be painted purple. This article at Smartplanet.com explains. Read the comments, some people apparently take wind turbines very seriously.

Oh yeah, Go Cats!!

That’s the news for this week. Thanks to everyone who checked in with Independent Kansan this week. It was our highest traffic week ever. Please keep coming back and commenting.  A preview of next week, Independent Kansan will look at the Tea Party and fiscal responsibility and getting young people involved in the political process by lowering the voting age.

UPDATE: Independent Kansan just learned of the Michigan vs. Illinois football games. The Wolverines were victorious in a scoring fiesta. Final score 67-65 in 3 overtimes.  Their were more points scored in that game than last years NCAA basketball championship, which was decided by a score of 61-59. Unbelievable.