Now that Republicans have complete control of the legislative agenda, they seem to think they can do anything they want and voters will just go along with it. But Tuesday’s Kansas special election painted an entirely different picture. Overreach and a disconnect with the kind of change the electorate really wants were on full display in the Sunflower State, and Republicans should be worried. Very worried.
The New York Times reports, that even though Republican Ron Estes squeaked out a win against Democratic challenger James Thompson, the victory was a narrow 7 points, in a district Trump won by 27 points.
The Kansas result is not a great sign for the Republicans, and it’s hard to dismiss.
There is always a message in election results. However, pollsters and politicians don’t always read them right. In a deep red state like Kansas, Estes should have galloped across the finish line. Instead, he limped.
Kansas voters could be saying they wanted change when they voted for Trump, but not the kind they’re getting.
Maybe voters don’t want the kind of deregulation that would set Wall Street on a path to crash the economy again and take their homes away. Maybe they are against their government being ‘Bannonized’ to the point where their water is no longer safe to drink and their air is poisoned.
It’s easy to take the EPA for granted until you get a corporate hack like Scott Pruitt at the helm and he makes it clear that he doesn’t care if you live or die. This became obvious in March when he gave the green light to a pesticide known to be toxic. What is so ironic about Pruitt’s move is that while some were applauding the U.S. bombing mission against Syria, as punishment for using sarin gas on their own people, they missed the fact that Pruitt pulled a similar move on the American people, minus the bombs. As the Washington Post points out,
On March 29, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, denied a petition asking for a ban on the use of an insecticide called Chlorpyrifos…
Chlorpyrifos belongs to the same chemical family as sarin nerve gas and works by attacking the nervous system.
Kansas voters may not be paying attention to how sick they’re going to get with Pruitt’s pro-pollution agenda at the EPA, but they were paying attention to what Congress tried to do to their health insurance. Perhaps their votes in the special election signaled that they were not happy with the Obamacare repeal and replace legislation that turned out to be little more than a scam to take their health care away in order to pay for another tax cut for the rich.
The current disconnect between the GOP and voters exemplifies the problem a lot of Americans have with the way Washington runs and why it’s so broken.
The real problem comes down to money, but not in the way you might think. Consider the entire concept of one-person, one-vote. That worked pretty well before extreme gerrymandering made votes matter less. Add to that, a 2010 Supreme Court decision that turned corporations into people that could use their money to drown out the voices of anyone who opposed their greed-centered agenda. Now, connect the dots. Once politicians were hooked on big donor cash as never before, the kind of people who ran for office began to change. Public servants became private puppets. Those private puppets were then strategically placed in engineered congressional districts that made them immune to the fundamental mechanisms of democracy.
It is this combination of corporate-class financial dependency and the redrawing of voting district lines that are tearing at the core of representative democracy. It is also breeding the kind of government dysfunction that has so deeply divided and frustrated an electorate that doesn’t really know what to do to stop it.
When voters sent Trump to Washington and gave Republicans single-party rule, they thought the government would start representing them. But just changing a few of the players doesn’t change the game.
Perhaps Americans are waking up to this now, which might explain why Estes had to fight so hard to keep Kansas’ District 4 red.
What Kansan’s said on Tuesday was that their voice and their votes are their messengers, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will not be able to ignore them for much longer.
Have your voice heard. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
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