Sunday, January 12, 2014

What's Not the Matter With Kansas

Well, it's not every day that your officemate may run for Congress. (Ok, we don't sit side by side, but we share a two-office suite with the same front door, and Jim has to walk through my office to get to his.) More specifically, my friend and colleague Jim Sherow has formed an exploratory committee to run for the U.S. House of Representatives from the First Congressional District of Kansas, the massive district in green below. Time to get the truck an oil change.
The Kansas First is currently "represented" by Tim Huelskamp, one of the most die-hard Tea Partiers in Congress. Huelskamp is so radical (he has a ZERO rating from Americans for Democratic Action) that the House Republican leadership recently kicked him off the Agricultural Committee (and mind you, the Kansas First is, by some measures, the largest agricultural producing congressional district in the nation). He's one of those Tea Partiers who vowed to find a way to shut down the government ... even after the compromise was reached to reopen it. The Boston Globe reported:

"Huelskamp, a two-term Republican congressman, is known, more than anything else, as a major irritant in Congress — a stubborn, hard-headed opponent of just about everything except bigger budget cuts. He’s so unwilling to compromise that even House ­Republicans removed him from his high-profile committee assignments. Huelskamp embodies the new intransigence that has invaded Washington, making it almost impossible to cut deals, bringing the capital to a grinding halt."

January 29 update: after the State of the Union address, Huelskamp called the president "lawless" and a "dictator." Charming.

Putting aside how poisonous radical lawmakers like Huelskamp are, Jim would be a great Congressman. Now, it's a given that this is a biased entry. After all, I wouldn't have agreed to share close quarters with Jim if I didn't think he was a great guy (hmm, then again, many in the K-State history department have windowless offices, unlike ours, so maybe I would have regardless ...). But let me just state that Jim is one of the most decent and honest people that I know. You know the type ... the kind of guy who annoyingly won't use an office envelope to pay a personal bill. (Put another way, I don't think as Mayor of Manhattan he ordered any traffic jam-ups in his detractors' neighborhoods). He also knows more about agriculture and water the great issues facing western and central Kansas than just about anybody I know. And nobody nobody loves Kansas any more than he does. Which doesn't mean that he romanticizes the place. I don't think he ever did, given that his grandfather's general store in a small KS town failed before he was ever born.

Jim's a true moderate, politically and temperamentally. If he runs, the Tea Party will of course try to paint him as a leftist, but he's essentially a Progressive in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt (whom he famously portrayed, pictured here, at the reopening of Manhattan's historic Union Pacific Depot).

In other words, Jim believes that business is, most of the time, a wonderful force for making us richer and happier, but that it also needs various checks. He understands, like T.R., that conserving natural resources is one of the key engines of economic growth. Socially, he's quite old-fashioned in some ways, but he also has the libertarian streak of an Air Force radio operator turned 1970s bartender in Wyoming (don't think T.R. ever did that). 

Obviously this is an uphill battle. East coasters reading this might consider the Kansas First the ultimate flyover country, and might not be able to name a single city in the district besides Manhattan. (If you like Wyatt Earp movies, Dodge City is in the district.) We're a district over from the Koch Brothers in Wichita, but, needless to say, they still have lots of influence around here. Still, Jim has several things going for him, besides his basic decency and intelligence and competence. Huelskamp is a very unpopular representative hence the "Anybody but Huelskamp" signs appearing in western Kansas. I'm also not convinced that he supports the Constitution; at the least, he's confused about property and contract rights. Last time I checked, free speech was protected in this country, and people had the right to protest and make a stink and say unpopular things and take their business where they want to. But remarkably, one of Huelskamp's recent mailers complains that "ideological opponents of traditional marriage and the family are targeting conservative businesses, such as Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby, with boycotts and negative publicity." Oh no you mean people chose where to spend their money ... and gasp publicized what they believed in?!!

Make no mistake Jim needs your help. As one of the astronauts said in The Right Stuff, "No bucks, no Buck Rodgers." I can't seem to embed the clip from The Right Stuff, but click here for it, and perhaps Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maquire will do just as well:

I don't need to tell you that the incumbent is going to raise more money than Jim, and if we want to build national momentum and press, we need to raise a lot of money early in the game. Please visit and please consider donating.

Also, if you are on Facebook, please like the campaign page here:

To progressives across the country, if you have that nagging sensation that liking groups and causes on Facebook isn't quite enough (but please like Jim's page ...), here's a chance to contribute to something concrete and interesting and exciting in a random part of the country. And please let me make a special appeal here to the independents, liberal Republicans, and moderate Republicans reading this. If you, like 80% of Americans, oppose the Tea Party, and are sick and tired of the excessive partisanship in Washington, and the fact that blue areas are becoming bluer, and red areas redder, then here's your chance to take a stand for the center. Let's take back this office -- for all Kansans and all Americans ... and so I can have my own office all to myself. Thanks for your time and help. 

1 comment:

  1. I hope very much that Jim Sherow runs for congress and would be happy to help in any way I can. During his time in office for the City Commission of Manhattan, his calm rationalism was very much appreciated in the community. He's the sort of person we NEED in Congress.