Ad Astra Per Aspera: A Star Turns Red Kansas Blue

Scott Swenson

To the stars through difficulties is the Kansas state motto. One star has been steadily rising in Kansas, leading her party and state through difficulties often brought on by social conservative ideologues and an agenda that distracts many politicians from doing what they were elected to do, govern. Governor Kathleen Sebelius, winning her second term in a cake-walk, is a bona fide national leader with accomplishments forged of collaboration and pragmatism. She did that without dodging or compromising her beliefs on difficult social issues in red state Kansas. As an unapologetic pro-choice Catholic, she places social issues in the larger context of issues that genuinely matter to the vast majority of people, like education, the economy and health care. But she does not ignore them.

Sebelius does not define herself by focusing on social issues. She starts from a place of inclusion and collaboration, understanding that America is a pluralistic democracy that must have space within the law for people to make private decisions based on individual beliefs and values. She makes government work not by forcing her beliefs on others, but by respectfully disagreeing where she must, and reminding people she was elected to serve all Kansans.

To the stars through difficulties is the Kansas state motto. One star has been steadily rising in Kansas, leading her party and state through difficulties often brought on by social conservative ideologues and an agenda that distracts many politicians from doing what they were elected to do, govern. Governor Kathleen Sebelius, winning her second term in a cake-walk, is a bona fide national leader with accomplishments forged of collaboration and pragmatism. She did that without dodging or compromising her beliefs on difficult social issues in red state Kansas. As an unapologetic pro-choice Catholic, she places social issues in the larger context of issues that genuinely matter to the vast majority of people, like education, the economy and health care. But she does not ignore them.

Sebelius does not define herself by focusing on social issues. She starts from a place of inclusion and collaboration, understanding that America is a pluralistic democracy that must have space within the law for people to make private decisions based on individual beliefs and values. She makes government work not by forcing her beliefs on others, but by respectfully disagreeing where she must, and reminding people she was elected to serve all Kansans.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius did not just win a second term in red state, socially conservative Kansas, she won in a landslide of her own creation, and carried with her Attorney-General elect Paul Morrison defeating meddlesome Phill Kline, and Congresswoman-elect Nancy Boyda (D-02) defeating do-nothing Jim Ryun. Thomas Frank, in What's the Matter With Kansas, called Sebelius' first win, "a fluke." Those who have been watching her since her early days in the legislature never doubted her.

Her efforts to make new Democrats of brutalized moderate Republicans were aided by Congressmen Dennis Moore (D-03) who just won a fourth term in a seat previously held by the GOP for 38 years. State Party Chairman Larry Gates has long held this vision for Kansas Democrats even though it took him a while to see it realized, and led by Governor Sebelius, Kansas shows candidates can win and be true to their beliefs. In her case, pragmatic, progressive, and pro-choice.

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Her second term might have been a footnote in a national election with landslides of Biblical proportion, but what she has done for the Democratic Party in Kansas cannot be ignored nationally. In a year when everyone is a genius, Sebelius reaches star status.

Kansas has been embarrassed by a passing era ushered in by Operation Rescue's "Siege of Wichita" in 1991 and during which the Rev. Fred Phelps has been channeling Carrie Nation, replacing Nation's axe-wielding bar room tirades against liquor with Phelps' fag-bashing pickets protesting gay rights. Kansas social conservatives evolve from Phelps' hatred one step up the food chain at a time. The Kansas Bored of Education briefly gave President Bush reason to think teaching Intelligent Design in place of science was important for 21st Century learning. Phill Kline led a crusade against medical privacy and teenagers making out. Jim Ryun has done nothing in Congress except be a warm body for social conservative votes. The man in whom the party of Landon, Eisenhower, Capper, Pearson, Dole and Kassebaum trusted with that proud political heritage, Senator Sam Brownback, has Presidential ambition. But unlike Bob Dole who led the Kansas GOP and ran for Vice-President and President as a moderate, Brownback remade the party in his own image. The result could not be more clear: Brownback will need to run for higher office because Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has ensured he could not win reelection in his Kansas home.

Contributions to the national political landscape of that significance cannot be ignored.

Governor Sebelius will benefit from the national landslide as some pundits now predict that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will decide to stay in the Senate; a legislative body perfect for her intelligence, tough-minded political style and where she could be Majority Leader and have impact on the nation for as long as she served.

Governors are where the people have been finding their Presidents, and Sebelius' gubernatorial roots go back one generation to her father, Governor John J. Gilligan of now Democratic Ohio.

Governor Sebelius has been a model of pragmatic, intelligent, thoughtful, coalition-building, solution-oriented, public service. She is more pragmatist than charismatic, but her dedication manifests in a centeredness that reminds people of what leadership is at a moment when the wild passions of social conservative ideologues and single issue voters have taken this nation off course. She is a model for mealy-mouth Democrats who cannot figure out how to say what they believe about social issues like abortion, while she works for smart public health policies that increase the potential for people to make smart choices about reproductive health, thus reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. She says:

As a Catholic, I believe that abortion is wrong. But Governors take an oath to uphold the Constitution – and the Supreme Court has spoken. The only thing we can do, under the law, to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and offer alternatives to pregnant women. Doing that has reduced the number of abortions in this state 11 percent during my term. I will work hard to see that trend continued.

That being said, politicians have spent a lot of time and energy debating this topic and it is time we move on to the issues that face every Kansan, every day such as ensuring better schools, safer streets, and a growing economy.

She has proven that social conservatives may talk about reducing abortion, but Gov. Sebelius has done it and remained solidly pro-choice. Moreover, in a state where social issues have distracted many, she has remained focused, unapologetic about her views, and consistently successful at reminding Kansans that they elected her to run the state well, not dictate morals.

Social issues have been the most divisive and have derailed government from functioning by focusing people on fear rather than healing, hate rather than hope. Governor Sebelius recognizes that the government that governs best, leads by example and is responsible and accountable. She is leading a quiet revolution to return accountability to government that may well usher in an era that will focus less on what divides us, and more on what unites us as Americans.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?