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GOP Holds On To House Seat In Heavily Contested Kansas Special Election

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Republicans held on to the House seat previously held by new CIA Director Mike Pompeo, but the margin of victory is being cited by some as reason for them to worry:

WICHITA, Kan. — Ron Estes, the Republican candidate for an empty House seat in Kansas, survived a surprisingly competitive race in a heavily conservative district on Tuesday. He defeated James Thompson, the Democratic candidate, in the first national test of the Republican Party’s electoral strength, in a contest that saw a late infusion of national support from Republicans nervous about the tumultuous political environment during President Trump’s initial months in office.

Mr. Estes, 60, the state treasurer, overcame the challenge by Mr. Thompson, a Wichita civil rights lawyer, and won by a count of 53 percent of the vote to 46 percent, according to unofficial results, to fill the seat in the district that was vacated by Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director. In a race more than a year before the midterm elections, Mr. Estes was initially expected to cruise to victory in a district that his party has held for more than two decades and that Mr. Trump won by 27 points.

But after internal Republican polling last week revealed Mr. Estes’s lead was in only the single digits, the national party scrambled to rescue his campaign — and effectively conceded that even seats in the reddest corners of the United States are not safe at a time when Democrats are so energized against Mr. Trump.

In his victory speech late Tuesday, Mr. Estes took aim at those who thought he might lose.

“The pundits were talking about — this wasn’t a seat we were going to win,” Mr. Estes said before several hundred people in a hotel ballroom, “that we were going to lose a Republican seat, that it was a special election, that it was a chance for the Democrats, they were motivated, there was a lot of angst against the president. But we really showed the pundits tonight, didn’t we?”

“We’re going to continue that process that started in November and make the changes in Washington,” he added.

Mr. Estes said he hoped his victory would set the tone for the other special elections to replace members of Congress who took jobs with the Trump administration. But many officials in his party, who were up anxiously watching the returns late into the night on Tuesday, hope to avoid any more surprisingly stress-inducing races.

While Mr. Thompson fell short, his unexpected strength represents a warning shot toward Republicans. And it will galvanize Democrats’ candidate-recruitment efforts for next year’s campaign.

The surging energy on the left was on display on Tuesday night when the early and absentee vote returns were tallied in the district’s largest county and revealed Mr. Thompson to have staked out a considerable lead. But Mr. Estes overcame that deficit thanks to his strength in the more rural parts of the district and among Election Day voters.

Until last week, few in either national party were paying attention to this race. A special election in an Atlanta-area House district that was almost evenly divided in last year’s presidential campaign was the contest receiving millions of dollars and extensive news coverage. The first indications about the country’s political landscape would be gleaned there, it was thought, not in the Wichita-based seat.

But then the House Republican campaign arm released a venomous ad accusing Mr. Thompson of favoring abortion rights for gender selection. Soon after, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas scheduled an election-eve rally for Mr. Estes on Monday. And Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded automated get-out-the-vote calls.

A “super PAC” aligned with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, also intervened, paying for live-turnout calls to likely Republican voters. All told, national Republicans spent about $150,000 on the race.

“Mr. Estes did not beat us,” Mr. Thompson told supporters after the race was called. “It took a president of the United States, the vice president, the speaker of the House, a senator coming into our state and a bunch of lies to drum up a vote.”

He used his remarks to announce he would seek the seat again next year.

Many political observers are comparing Estes’ narrow win to the more than 30-point win that Pompeo won in 2016 as a sign of the impact that President Trump could be having on the GOP as a whole, but there are several reasons to take any of those observations with a grain of salt. For one thing, the turnout for this Special Election was, unsurprisingly, much smaller than the turnout on Election Day last November. According to the unofficial results, there were 120,897 votes cast in yesterday’s Special Election. By contrast, there were more than 275,000 votes cast last November and more than 208,000 votes cast in the mid-term election in 2014. Second, there is a decided difference in a long-term incumbent being on the ballot and an open seat such a was the case in this race, so a direct comparison between the two. Third, it’s possible that the race in Kansas may have been affected by growing dissatisfaction with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican who is heavily disfavored right now notwithstanding the fact that he was elected to a second term in 2014. Taking all that into account, while it is true that Republican turnout does seem to have been down far more than Democratic turnout in this particular race, drawing any conclusions about 2018 from these results is premature and misplaced.

Bill Scher at Politico, who also looks ahead to a race next week in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, offers further caveats for Democrats and political pundits seeking to draw a lesson from these results:

The hypothesis that a progressive economic populism can fully flip a white working-class district from red to blue remains unproven, especially when confronting a competing right-wing populism that intertwines protectionism with promises of deportation and environmental deregulation. In fact, Thompson’s populist pitch hit a wall similar to the one Hillary Clinton’s pragmatist campaign did. The only part of the Kansas district that Thompson won outright was urban Wichita; he failed to make a significant dent in the surrounding rural areas.

Meanwhile, the Democratic hope in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, the buttoned-down Jon Ossoff, is running a campaign that’s more pointedly anti-Trump and more ideologically moderate than the one we saw from Thompson. A recent ad shows Ossoff silently tweeting that we should “fix Obamacare, NOT repeal it” as well as “cut wasteful spending” and, instead of pining for the jobs of the past, “attract more high-tech jobs.” He ends by tweeting, “I’ll stand up to Donald Trump … he should act like a president.”

Georgia 6th does not resemble Kansas 4th in the slightest. The district is not economically hard hit. It includes affluent Atlanta suburbs and more than half the voters are college graduates. Trump barely edged Clinton there in November. A pitchfork populism would not be the right fit for the district. A poll from Atlanta’s 11Alive News found Ossoff’s current lead is based on “young, educated and affluent” voters who like his “talk of high-tech jobs and economic development.”

(…)

Such is the Democratic challenge in building a blue wave. As the Clinton campaign learned the hard way, what works in the college-educated suburbs is not what works in the working-class manufacturing hubs and farm towns. The close Kansas contest may give Democrats a morale boost, but they have yet to solve the biggest political puzzle of all: a message that transcends America’s entrenched political, economic and cultural divides.

It may well be that Democrats are on an upswing that will materialize in gains in the 2018 midterms. President Trump’s job approval numbers, for example, could prove to be a noose around the necks of marginal districts, but it is far too early to say whether or not this will be the case when the midterms roll around in nineteen months. Even if it does continue, though, it’s not at all clear that this will result in any increase in the odds that Democrats will recapture either the House or the Senate at that time. In the Senate, for example, there are few Republican seats that one can say at this point are even close to being vulnerable, not even enough for the Democrats to gain the three seats they would need to take control of that body. In the House, the number of competitive seat is relatively small and Democrats would need to pretty much sweep every one of those seats, and win more than that, in order to even come close to the twenty-five (25) seats they’d need to take even narrow control of that body. Is it possible that could happen? Sure it is, and the odds are that Democrats are likely to gain at least some seats in the House in the midterms based on history alone. At this time, however, it’s far too early to be either making predictions or pointing to the results of one Special Election a evidence of a trend.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Alameda says:

    When it comes to Kansas voters, there’s no putting lipstick on that Kansas pig.

    Clearly a majority Kansans still want to stay the Brownback ‘Back To Zero’ (BTZ) course, one that is replete with significant tax cuts and reduced funding of many state programs including their public education system.

    Never mind that the Kansas economy has been mired in stagnation and widening deficits since Brownback and the Republican Kansas legislature went all in on BTZ. The voters and their legislators believe that the pain and damage is unfortunate but a necessary price to pay to reduce the scope of government.

    The Kansas BTZ movement is the model, the template, for the current “Freedom” Caucus and many other Congressional Republicans. This group of radical Republicans wants to bring Kansas to Washington.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Kansas once again votes against it’s own interests. Hey, but what’s education, or even food on your table, when it comes to ideology???
    Trump tweeted:

    Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/852138509355933697
    Every thing about that is a bald-faced lie, except the fact that Estes won.
    He did not win easily; Trump won Kansas by 27 points…Estes only by 7. In a deep-red state.
    Dems didn’t spend heavily.
    And they never predicted a win.
    Can Comb-over Donnie say anything without lying???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. SenyorDave says:

    As a Democrat I hope that the national party didn’t waste much money on this race. The good people of Kansas have decided to go down with the GOP ship, namely the SS Brownback. The Republicans have pretty much bankrupted the state, but Republicans continue to win there. The people of Kansas get the government they deserve. But I’m sure the Koch brothers got a nice tax cut as part of the deal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Tony W says:

    My family hails from Kansas – and I still say “screw ’em”. If they are going to vote for Republicans let ’em suffer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. James Pearce says:

    Democrats are likely to gain at least some seats in the House in the midterms based on history alone.

    It saddens me that Democrats think they can point and laugh their way into gaining seats in Kansas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    There is a big show-down coming over sanctuary cities. Comb-over Donnie wants to de-fund them.
    I say that if he wants to do that, then the states with those cities (read Cali and NY) should stop funding the Federal Government.
    The welfare queen red-states, like Kansas, will really have some serious problems then.
    Kansas takes 12% more from the fed than it sends in taxes.
    Cali and NY send 21 and 22% more than they take, respectively.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. al-Alameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    It saddens me that Democrats think they can point and laugh their way into gaining seats in Kansas.

    It saddens me that Republicans think they can run Kansas into the ground with absolutely no electoral consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  8. Anonne says:

    @al-Alameda:

    It saddens me that Republicans think they can run Kansas into the ground with absolutely no electoral consequences.

    Fixed that for you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. James Pearce says:

    @al-Alameda:

    It saddens me that Republicans think they can run Kansas into the ground with absolutely no electoral consequences.

    Sure, that bugs me too, but it makes no sense to think that Democrats gain when Republicans fail. I mean, Kansans have two options when “Republicans run Kansas into the ground.”

    A) They can vote for more Republicans and hope for something better.
    B) Or they can vote for people who openly and unapologetically and proudly say things like “screw em.”

    Don’t be surprised when they pick A.

    I mean, it’s no surprise Republicans

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  10. An Interested Party says:

    A) They can vote for more Republicans and hope for something better.
    B) Or they can vote for people who openly and unapologetically and proudly say things like “screw em.”

    Don’t be surprised when they pick A.

    I mean, it’s no surprise Republicans

    I would imagine that most voters in that Kansas congressional district received quite a different message from local Democrats about who they should vote for…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. george says:

    Its about team sports. Your quarterback might be an idiot, the running backs might be half crippled, the offensive line might not be able to block a drunk staggering down the street. It doesn’t matter, for most people they’re going to cheer what they consider to be their team.

    Its not about policies, its not about what people run on – most voters don’t know and wouldn’t care even if they did. Its about supporting the home team. The way to win is not to come up with better policies, its to come up with an individual they like enough to vote against what they think their team is. Obama was able to do that, but after he left people went back to their home team.

    People on sites like this (including me) think voters are aware of the issues, or of what a candidate campaigns on. My last visit to the old stomping ground down south convinced me that’s not the case for most of the population. What did most people think about Trump and Clinton? Nothing at all, actually, when I spoke to them. Not one in five could say a single thing either had said or promised (well, some remembered Trump from his reality TV show so they remembered him saying “You’re Fired). They voted the way they voted because that was the team they always voted for. For about half that meant not voting at all, because there was no team in the Election Games that they identified with. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Alameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    B) Or they can vote for people who openly and unapologetically and proudly say things like “screw em.”

    Actually, they’re (people who openly say ..) saying “Republicans are screwing you”.

    I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t lay this at the hands of so-called condescending Democrats (whomever they are).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. James Pearce says:

    @al-Alameda:

    I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t lay this at the hands of so-called condescending Democrats (whomever they are).

    I don’t either. James Thompson is a pro-gun pro-veteran rural booster who in another era might have been a Republican, and his showing in the race reflects that more than it does the Democrats picking up after Brownback’s mess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  14. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @george: This all day. That’s why I’m predicting the Trump will get re-elected. Avg voter does not care about policy. The care about an image they can identify with and personal charisma. Policy failures by Trump or Republicans do not make Democrats look more attractive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    I agree we shouldn’t read too much into this. At this point two years ago, Clinton would have led Trump by twenty points in the polls (actually, she was heavily favored to beat Jeb Bush). It’s a sign of how bad things have been for the Democrats that a defeat is seen as a moral victory.

    Clearly a majority Kansans still want to stay the Brownback ‘Back To Zero’ (BTZ) course,

    I don’t think so. He’s one of the most despised governors in the country. This was not a close district. We’ll see what happens in the next state election. However, as is always the case, it’s not enough for the Republican to be unpopular. The Democrats need to give people a reason to vote for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. george says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Yup. Though if the Dems can find someone with the charisma of Obama again they’ll beat Trump; I’m convinced Obama would have won a third term if he could have run again (mind you, so would have Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan).

    The GOP establishment fought against Trump in their primaries – they absolutely didn’t want him, they wanted one of their policy guys like Cruz or Jeb Bush. The Dems will similarly fight against any charismatic potential candidate too. Maybe charisma will win through for the Dems (like it did when Obama beat Clinton in the primaries); then Trump can go down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  17. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    B) Or they can vote for people who openly and unapologetically and proudly say things like “screw em.”

    While I’m not familiar with all of Mr. Thompson’s campaign ads, I can’t find anything from his campaign that even comes close to resembling this.

    Or are you talking about the commentors? I don’t think any of them were running for Congress in Kansas, and its doubtful too many Kansas voters are reading OTB, at least not enough to swing an election (with all due respect to the authors).

    I kind of get what you mean–that liberals can be smug and condescending. Sure. But you are also reading comments on a blog. Generally online comments are not a great yardstick with which to judge broad categories of people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. Tony W says:

    I literally said “screw ’em” – and I’ll stand behind the statement.

    Look, as part of the investor class I am WAY better off personally with Republicans in office. My portfolio is up well over 10% just in the few months since Trump was elected, and only now are things leveling off as people realize he is too weak and incompetent to implement many of his blustering promises.

    We are trying to have a society here. I don’t believe in pulling up the ladder behind me. I believe in voting my morality over my pocketbook. From what I have observed Republican morality centers on selfishness and greed and circling the wagons around those who espouse hate for anybody who is ‘different’. North Carolina Republicans just yesterday tried to do away with gay marriage in defiance of federal law. What is the point of such action other than pure evil?

    So, that’s not what I stand for, and I’m sure as hell not going to apologize for my frustration with people who care nothing for their neighbors – particularly as they self-righteously proclaim themselves to be the moral authority, wrapping themselves in their flags while reading from carefully curated sections the of bible.

    This quote keeps coming up – but I’ll use it again here:

    “The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of whom will volunteer to live with his/her family in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  19. al-Alameda says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I don’t think so. He’s one of the most despised governors in the country. This was not a close district. We’ll see what happens in the next state election. However, as is always the case, it’s not enough for the Republican to be unpopular. The Democrats need to give people a reason to vote for them.

    You’re right, Kansas Democrats can’t win by saying that they’ll do a better job of managing Kansas than a failed Republican governor and complicit Republican legislators, primarily because there are not enough Democrats in the state of Kansas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Generally online comments are not a great yardstick with which to judge broad categories of people.

    Well that’s debatable… How many times do we dip into TAC to take the temperature of our conservative friends? I certainly wouldn’t write any papers citing blog comments, but they do have their uses.

    But Kansans don’t need to read blog comments to know how the “coastal liberals” view them. They recognize when someone is describing Kansas as experienced in Kansas or describing what they read in the Thomas Frank book. They know a lot of urban liberals would consider a week in Wichita to be tantamount to torture. It’s “flyover country.”

    And what’s worse, they know that the preoccupations of “the left” (and I really hate to use that term) just do not apply to their lives. They don’t have a big gun violence problem, so they’re not motivated by gun control. It’s a mostly white state, so there goes the diversity stuff. It’s a rural farming state, so there’s goes any union stuff. They’d love some infrastructure spending, but what Democrat currently in office wants to spend any money on Kansas? (Would Tony W and the rest of the Kansas haters support that or is the state too much of a “welfare queen?”)

    And what’s sad is ten years ago, I would have argued that of course Democrats would better serve Kansans but now I must concede they’re not interested in serving them at all. Attitudes like “screw em” are a big reason why.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  21. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    But Kansans don’t need to read blog comments to know how the “coastal liberals” view them.

    And we “coastal liberals” don’t have to read blog comments to know how Kansans view us. All we have to do is listen to their GOP leaders blather on about what’s “real America” and what isn’t–and to them it’s pretty damned clear, coastal America isn’t.

    Maybe “screw ’em” isn’t the most productive attitude to have, but holy shit, it surely goes both ways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. al-Alameda says:

    @James Pearce:

    They’d love some infrastructure spending, but what Democrat currently in office wants to spend any money on Kansas? (Would Tony W and the rest of the Kansas haters support that or is the state too much of a “welfare queen?”)

    It is interesting that states like Kansas, ones that complain most about government and taxes tend to be states that send to Washington less money than they receive from Washington.

    California – a state that ‘flyover’ people mock variously as nutty, gay, diverse, progressive, and not-real-America – gets back from Washington about 80% of what it’s taxpaying residents send to Washington.

    This ‘aggrieved, victimized-by-liberals, flyover folks’ stuff is practically locked in as a permanent talking point now. To which I say, it’s a two way street. People in flyover country mock and derisively run down liberals on the coasts at least as much, if not more than, they’re on the receiving end of it. Conservatives market their self-proclaimed victimization and phony outrage really well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  23. Tony W says:

    @James Pearce: Dude – my people, my family are from Kansas. My grandfather, like his father, was a wheat farmer there. They drove into the “big city” (Wichita) to go shopping once a month. Wildcats vs. Jayhawks conversations were common around the dinner table as I was growing up. I have a deep love for the people of Kansas.

    I’m just done caring more about their welfare than they do for themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. Gavrilo says:

    Are you familiar with google.com?

    Kansas actually gets back less than California. Whether you calculate it as a percentage of what they pay in federal income taxes or as the percentage of federal aid comprising the state’s general revenue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  25. george says:

    @Tony W:

    That quote assumes those fifty to seventy million Americans actually know what the issues presented by the various candidates are. My own informal survey suggests that 90% of them couldn’t tell you a single issue either candidate stood for to save their life, that they have as much knowledge and interest on the issues as they do about how turbulence is represented in climate models, and the problems in numerically solving the Navier-Stokes equations on a global model. Have an opinion on climate change? Sure, they’ll take the opinion of their team. Actually look at the models (they’re online for the most part, both the code and the theory behind them)? Not a chance, much easier just to cheer for the team.

    They vote who they vote for because of the team label; its naive to think they how a candidates policies affect themselves as individuals, let alone people in a different community. People who are interested in politics think everyone follows it. Its really not true, which is why almost half the people don’t bother voting at all, and most of those who do vote for the same party every election, usually without knowing anything about what any candidate is saying.

    I just talked to about thirty Trump voters back home; only two of them knew anything Trump had said other than “You’re fired”. They voted for him because they either figured it was time for a change (Obama was nice, but he’s gone so might as well get the other side in), or because their parents had voted Republican decades ago and they did it automatically, like cheering for the Packers even if they couldn’t name a single player on the team.

    We’re making this far too complicated, its really much simpler – people don’t care about politics, and will go to great lengths to avoid thinking about. They’ve been told they have to vote because people a long time died to get the right to vote, but they don’t think that extends to actually spending even a minute listening to any of the politicians. Seriously, in real life (as opposed to Internet forums) most people can’t tell you a single thing either Trump or Clinton said. Its weird, and as I said, it’d be hilarious if the consequences weren’t so bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  26. Gavrilo says:

    @Tony W:

    I have a deep love for the people of Kansas.

    I’m just done caring more about their welfare than they do for themselves. But, they’re all just a bunch of ignorant rubes too stupid to know what’s good for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    How many times do we dip into TAC to take the temperature of our conservative friends?

    Fair point, to a degree. I will claim that I have never done this (indeed, its hard to associate Dreher’s views with most Christians I know here in deep red Indiana), but yes, it is common to use online pools of commentors as a yardstick. How about this–its just as inaccurate when one does it for TAC as much as when one does it for OTB or Balloon-Juice.

    Let me try to rephrase the point I was trying to make (and upon review, admittedly did not come close to making):

    -You (accurately, IMO) think that the liberal knee-jerk condescension of flyover country/red states, and the general smugness of liberals is impeding their ability to ever connect with a voter not already on their side. They are constantly decrying the actions of red state governance, while not providing any thought whatsoever as to what to do about the issue.

    -You try to correct this error by condescending, and smugly suggesting that whatever liberals are doing, its wrong, without ever providing any thought as to what to actually do about the issue (with the exception of a semi-recent comment regarding the Supreme Court Fight, although if memory serves you started that comment with a remark about it being in hindsight).

    -Because of this, it often appears that the fight you really care about is ensuring that OTBers know they are smug, condescending, and generally wrong, in the same way that it often appears certain commenters only desire is to punch rednecks. (I’m not arguing about the accuracy of this statement, as I acknowledge my smugness.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. Tony W says:

    @george:

    My own informal survey suggests that 90% of them couldn’t tell you a single issue either candidate stood for to save their life,

    Agreed.

    Watching Bernie Sanders travel around and address Trump voters in his latest series of town halls has been amazing to watch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Maybe “screw ’em” isn’t the most productive attitude to have, but holy shit, it surely goes both ways.

    So the cycle should just continue, as all the tits get the tat?

    Years ago, I could have said to the farmer from La Junta, “Yeah, I know your free market Republican rep convinced you to sell all your water rights, promising that you can use the proceeds to buy all the Mexican beets you want, but he is screwing you over.”

    Now what do I say? “Yeah, the Republicans are going to screw you over, but you know what? You deserve it and no, I’m not going to help you.”

    @al-Alameda:

    People in flyover country mock and derisively run down liberals on the coasts at least as much, if not more than, they’re on the receiving end of it.

    I guess the difference is that people from flyover country are equipped to survive in the urban liberal enclaves, while the folks from the urban liberal enclaves would be overcome with existential despair if forced to spend any time in flyover country.

    This ‘aggrieved, victimized-by-liberals, flyover folks’ stuff is practically locked in as a permanent talking point now.

    I’m not saying they’re victimized by liberals. I’m saying that liberals just don’t care about them. Attitudes range from indifference to open hostility.

    If anything, they’re being “victimized” by conservative Republicans, and liberals can’t even deign to give a shit.

    @Tony W:

    Wildcats vs. Jayhawks conversations were common around the dinner table as I was growing up.

    Rock Chalk all the way. (With no “Woo!”)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  30. Neil Hudelson says:

    @al-Alameda:

    People in flyover country mock and derisively run down liberals on the coasts at least as much, if not more than, they’re on the receiving end of it.

    I wish I could this 1,000 upvotes. I’m a progressive political operative who lives in Indiana, and whose biggest campaigns have involved South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Colorado (but when it was less purpley), and rural California. It turns out people like to mock other people who aren’t part of their tribe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce:

    but now I must concede they’re (Dems) not interested in serving them at all.

    Sorry, no, not true. And can you point to where Hillary said anything like “screw Kansas”? There is the infamous “screw W VA”, but that was a pro W VA statement out of context. And it’s hard to compete with a guy who just lies about coal jobs.

    Kansas has a firearm death rate of 11.4 per 100,000 per year. New York 4.2, CA 7.7, IL 9.5. Data for 2015 via the CDC, age corrected. They have a color coded map. It looks like a red state map. Kansas has a gun problem, they just refuse to see it.

    That said, guns are something I would propose Dems prioritize fairly low. It hurts them and there isn’t really much they can accomplish. I’d also propose they lay low on gay rights, as that’s largely won, and more by gay activists than Dems, showing the gays can protect themselves now. Especially were Dems in power. Unfortunately, court cases and Republicans will keep pushing this stuff up.

    I expect that under Dems KS would get at least their fair share of infrastructure money, I expect they have a lot of interstate per capita. Of course that’s not the same as saying KS will recognize they got the money. I don’t recall what KS did about Medicaid expansion, but Obamacare was intended to help KS a lot.

    It’s a truism that people vote based on perceived tribal affiliation. The Rs and the CEC have done a very effective job of redefining “elite” as anyone you feel thinks he’s better than you, whether you have any evidence or no. That allowed Trump, a NY hereditary billionaire, to win the votes of the anti-elitist tribe. No amount of pro-Kansas policy is going to change that. Dems need to recruit gun toting veterans who know how to appeal to KS tribalism and choose their issues and words carefully.

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  32. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Now what do I say? “Yeah, the Republicans are going to screw you over, but you know what? You deserve it and no, I’m not going to help you.”

    I would like to help them understand the GOP will screw them over, but they don’t want to hear it. They will say I’m a not-real-American who is trying to instill the eeeevil socialism and I can just fvck directly off and take any offers of help with me.

    After hearing that a few times, I will likely conclude they are willingly accepting their screwing-over and figure they want it that way. So, yes, they deserve it and I’m not going to help them.

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  33. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    You try to correct this error by condescending, and smugly suggesting that whatever liberals are doing, its wrong

    Oh, I’ll cop to being overly critical of Democrats and the left, but it may have something to do with the election of a complete dumbass that we all know has no business being in the White House.

    @gVOR08:

    And can you point to where Hillary said anything like “screw Kansas”?

    “Basket of Deplorables,” maybe? In hindsight, that hurt Hillary more than the “Grab em” tape hurt Trump.

    @Mikey:

    So, yes, they deserve it and I’m not going to help them.

    I saw a clip of Chief William Parker (of LAPD fame) saying something similar about the people of Watts in the 60s. Not sure I’d follow this logic to that end. I think I’d force myself to have a little more compassion, even if I wasn’t really “feeling it.”

    You know, for philosophical reasons.

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  34. al-Alameda says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Are you familiar with google.com?
    Kansas actually gets back less than California.

    You’re right, I misread the table on this picked up tax stats for Kentucky.
    Still, the biggest winners are Red States like Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, SD, SC, W VA. Generally, Red States are more dependent than Blue States. It’s not surprising.

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  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    It’s worth noting that, between more moderate Republicans winning primary challenges and Democrats flipping seats, 2016 was not a good year for Brownback & Co. in the Kansas legislature.

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  36. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: I’m simply respecting their wishes first and foremost.

    That I don’t have a bottomless reservoir of hands waiting to get slapped away matters too, though.

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  37. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    I’m simply respecting their wishes first and foremost.

    I dunno.

    I see echoes of how the right treated blacks and the LGBT community in how the left treats rural whites. And what makes it really sad is that lefties should know better. They are, after all, the ones who have made it much more difficult (impossible?) to subjugate minorities.

    Slam them every day of the year, but on election day, they’ll get their say.

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  38. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    I see echoes of how the right treated blacks and the LGBT community in how the left treats rural whites.

    Looking down one’s nose at someone may be less than noble, but it’s nowhere near the kinds of discrimination the right is still pushing hard to achieve. How do we “echo” that? We’re not out there trying to keep Joe and Jane Kansan from marrying each other.

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  39. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    How do we “echo” that? We’re not out there trying to keep Joe and Jane Kansan from marrying each other.

    This is how: You concoct justifications –of questionable merit– to excuse the “screw em” attitude.

    You justify red-lining policies by pointing to the criminal tendencies of the “darker races.” You justify not spending any money on AIDS research because…well, it says in my book that the wages of sin is death. Refugees? Screw em. They “might” be terrorists.

    I’ll resist that approach because I’m not just on Team Liberal. I’m actually a liberal.

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  40. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: I say “screw ’em” because they want me to. They are entirely happy being who and where they are, and will respond to anything I say by telling me to go away. Who am I to tell them they’re misled? I believe that, sure, but in the end they’re grown-ups making their own choices.

    That’s very different from telling them they can’t live where they want or marry who they want or vote in the next election because they can’t clear the significant hurdles to voting I’ve put up. I’m letting THEM make THEIR OWN choices, not making the choices for them.

    The one thing I do allow myself that I’ll admit isn’t ennobling is contempt for those who have looked down on black Americans who are poor and addicted (and often actively worked to keep them that way), but suddenly cry out for America’s sympathy when they themselves become poor and addicted. Sorry, white people, it’s not only important when it happens to you.

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  41. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m not saying they’re victimized by liberals. I’m saying that liberals just don’t care about them. Attitudes range from indifference to open hostility.

    You know how when you’re trying to rescue a drowning swimmer, and they keep thrashing and clawing and trying to climb on you and generally making it impossible to save their lives?

    That’s how I feel about Trump voters.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t still think they are worth saving, but (a) damn, they make it hard, and (b) I will punch them in the head a few times if that’s what it takes.

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  42. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    The one thing I do allow myself that I’ll admit isn’t ennobling is contempt for those who have looked down on black Americans who are poor and addicted (and often actively worked to keep them that way), but suddenly cry out for America’s sympathy when they themselves become poor and addicted.

    Poverty and addiction has been a problem in white, rural America for decades, if not centuries. The liberals of yesterday were willing to put their energies into helping them without expectation of electoral reward. They did it because they were philosophically inclined to believe that everyone has equal claim to “life, liberty, and property” and poverty imperils all of that.

    And I keep harping on this point, but racializing it –especially in lily white Kansas– is folly. I mean, what do you think is going to happen when you go into a state where white people outnumber POC by 20 to 1 with your “Sorry, white people” shtick? You think that’s really going to be met with success?

    @DrDaveT:

    Doesn’t mean I don’t still think they are worth saving, but (a) damn, they make it hard, and (b) I will punch them in the head a few times if that’s what it takes.

    And hey, I’m with you on that. If we have to bop em to get them in the boat, let’s bop em. I’m just saying let’s not take their life preservers.

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  43. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    I mean, what do you think is going to happen when you go into a state where white people outnumber POC by 20 to 1 with your “Sorry, white people” shtick? You think that’s really going to be met with success?

    Success? There’s no chance of that anyway. They’re not going to vote Democrat no matter what. There’s literally nothing a Democrat could say that would sway 99.9% of them. It’s already obvious whose policies would most benefit the white working class, and much of the white working class still wants nothing to do with them. These people are simply too full of Fox News bullshit and racial animus. After reaching across the aisle only to have my hand slapped away again and again and again and again and again and…well, I can only conclude my outreach is neither welcome nor wanted. So, like I said before, I respect their wishes and go away.

    Maybe one day they’ll realize they’ve been conned, and at that point I will be ready to welcome them with open arms. One can only hope.

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  44. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Success? There’s no chance of that anyway. They’re not going to vote Democrat no matter what. There’s literally nothing a Democrat could say that would sway 99.9% of them.

    If that’s true, it says more about the Democratic party than it does about the people of Kansas.

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  45. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: Nonsense. If Dems show up in Kansas and talk real reform that will help working- and middle-class Kansans, they get the same response as if they showed up in drag waving rainbow flags. Kansans won’t vote for them either way.

    Don’t try to B. S. me with “that says more about the Dems.” Ridiculous.

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  46. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    If Dems show up in Kansas and talk real reform that will help working- and middle-class Kansans, they get the same response as if they showed up in drag waving rainbow flags.

    Show up in small town Kansas with a platform calling for a $15 minimum wage, card check, criminal justice reform, and all the other issues urban Dems hold so precious, and it won’t actually be obvious that these things will help them. A case must be made, and if it’s a weak case, a different case must be made.

    Implement a $15 minimum wage in Colby, Kansas and it will have the opposite effect that it would in a highly populated urban center. It’s not unthinkable that national chains, faced with higher costs and lower profits, would abandon the market. They won’t abandon the big city, even if with the cost imposition of higher wages. So yeah, Dem policies are great for big, diverse cities….but they work differently (and less “greatly”) in small towns.

    It seems to me that Dems are making a deliberate choice not to serve small towns, much like McDonalds might make if they had to pay a higher wage. This is a good thing?

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  47. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    Show up in small town Kansas with a platform calling for a $15 minimum wage, card check, criminal justice reform, and all the other issues urban Dems hold so precious, and it won’t actually be obvious that these things will help them. A case must be made, and if it’s a weak case, a different case must be made.

    Nope.

    Here’s where I agree with Mikey — that the Right Wing Infotainment Brainwashing Machine has effectively preempted any approach to winning over states like Kansas on the basis of facts, logic, or “making your case”. You can’t fight religion with science, not head-on. You can’t explain to Hare Krishnas that their beliefs are nonsense and their organization a pyramid scheme.

    The liberals lost when the GOP made this about emotion and Alternative Facts, and made it stick.

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  48. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    It seems to me that Dems are making a deliberate choice not to serve small towns, much like McDonalds might make if they had to pay a higher wage. This is a good thing?

    Dems have tried. “Not welcome here.” What are they supposed to do? They can’t force people to pull the lever for them. Policy proposals are irrelevant because too many rural whites won’t vote for them if they also help minorities.

    Look at the research. Rural whites love most Democratic policies, but only if they’re separated from the Democrats. Because to them Democrats = support for blacks and gays. Racism and homophobia trump (pun entirely intended) solid policy every time. There’s no “different case” Democrats can make in that situation because doing so would mean abandoning fundamental Democratic principles.

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  49. James Pearce says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The liberals lost when the GOP made this about emotion and Alternative Facts, and made it stick.

    I can’t really disagree that liberals lost when the GOP made it about emotion, but I do not agree that this is a tactic only they can use.

    @Mikey:

    Dems have tried. “Not welcome here.” What are they supposed to do?

    Work harder. It’s may not be possible, but it’s necessary. (Yes, I just quoted McConaghey.)

    And by work harder, I don’t mean work harder calling them racists and homophobes. I mean work harder in giving them something to vote for. How many elections do Democrats need to lose before they get this through their head?

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  50. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    And by work harder, I don’t mean work harder calling them racists and homophobes. I mean work harder in giving them something to vote for. How many elections do Democrats need to lose before they get this through their head?

    It doesn’t matter. Even if we don’t call them that, they still don’t vote for Democrats. Even if we give them something they’d vote for 100% if we didn’t give it to them. Because they simply won’t vote for people who pledge to protect minorities and gays.

    All you have to look at is the people who love the PPACA but hate Obamacare. Same thing, of course, but put the N-word President’s name on it and suddenly it’s bad.

    Dr. Dave is right, there’s no case one can make to reach someone who is engaged in that level of motivated reasoning.

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  51. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    Because they simply won’t vote for people who pledge to protect minorities and gays.

    Overestimating their racism and homophobia has led us to underestimate our chances.

    I mean, I know that Westboro is based in Topeka, but of the 125K people who live in Topeka, only about 40 of them go that church, and they’re all in the Phelps family. Have a little faith in your own philosophy.

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  52. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce: I don’t know if I’m just not being clear enough, but I don’t feel you are fully getting my point. We’re talking about a demographic group for which Democratic aims, taken separately from issues of race, have great appeal, but when coupled with Democratic views on racial equality, suddenly can’t claw their way out of the basement. The only differentiator is the racial component.

    We can’t get the white working class on board without dumping minority support, but we’re not going to dump minority support because it’s part of what makes the party what it is.

    Please tell me how you propose to square that circle, because at this point I’m at a loss.

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  53. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    when coupled with Democratic views on racial equality, suddenly can’t claw their way out of the basement.

    Yes, I agree. Where we diverge is on the reason why rural whites do not like Democratic views on racial equality.

    You say it’s because of their inherent racism.

    I say it’s because the Dem position on racial equality is basically “Sorry, white people.” And yes, I know it will be hard for me to find a Democrat running for office saying “Sorry, white people” but it’s real easy to find rank and file Dems who have no filter when it comes to saying blatantly racist crap to and about white people.

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  54. An Interested Party says:

    I say it’s because the Dem position on racial equality is basically “Sorry, white people.”

    If this allegation is actually true, what position should the Dems take when it comes to racial equality?

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  55. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    If this allegation is actually true, what position should the Dems take when it comes to racial equality?

    Emphasize racial equality over than racial justice. We can, at least, agree on what racial equality means.

    Fighting for racial justice, on the other hand, is a recipe for strife.

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  56. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce:

    Emphasize racial equality over than racial justice.

    The two are fundamentally intertwined. You can’t achieve the former without exercising the latter. Period.

    Fighting for racial justice, on the other hand, is a recipe for strife.

    You’re right, it is–because those who benefit from privilege will never give it up willingly.

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  57. James Pearce says:

    @Mikey:

    The two are fundamentally intertwined.

    So says a certain academic theory…

    And no, racial justice isn’t a recipe for strife because “those who benefit from privilege will never give it up willingly.”

    It’s because no one agrees on what “racial justice” even means. Most of the time, attempts to achieve it are deemed “not good enough.” We tell the Native Americans, hey, sorry for slaughtering your people: here’s a reservation. We tell black Americans, hey, sorry for enslaving you: here’s 40 acres and a mule. When we tell white Americans, hey, sorry for taking your privilege, that’s what they’re going to say too. “Not good enough.”

    Racial equality, on the other hand, is real easy to understand. It’s easy to apply. It’s easy for everyone to find some merit in it. We get to say, “Hey, sorry it’s so awesome for everyone.”

    And, look, I realize that most of this is science fiction. I know just how racist our society really is. But the principles I stand for are racial equality, not racial justice. Because racial justice is a load of bunk.

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