We had planned this week’s Donald Trump Love Thy Neighbor award for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who continues his relentless campaign to keep Jim Crow in and the ethnics out when it comes to voting in Kansas. But Kobach, it turns out, has earned higher status and recognition, a George Wallace-Bull Connor Tea Bag for advancing states’ rights.
In a recent letter to much of Capitol Hill, Kobach insists that Kansas and other welfare states – those grabbing far more in federal aid than they give in federal taxes – have an obligation to bite the hand that feeds them. He commanded the Congress to approve legislation that creates a multi-state compact with members’ authority to sidestep the Affordable Care Act. In 2014, the Kansas Legislature voted to join the compact and put the state in charge of federal health care programs in Kansas, including Medicare. The idea is that Kansas would create its own health care system, using Medicare funds collected in Kansas. Or it could use the Medicare funds for something else. Congress has not yet granted permission for the compact, but nine state legislatures, including Kansas’, have already voted to join the compact. The others are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Why Kobach, our Secretary of State, is involved in a federal health care issue speaks clearly to his devotion as a citizen, his metamorphosis as a Renaissance Man, the DaVinci of Obama detractors, a Tea Party Leonardo of boundless energy and imagination.
“As a former professor of Constitutional Law who recognizes the unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), I feel that it is my personal duty to do everything possible to stop Obamacare in the wake of the Supreme Court’s two erroneous decisions sustaining it,” Kobach wrote in a letter to 94 members of Congress, and to senators from the nine states whose legislatures have moved to join the compact.
“It is the only legal path that we have left to end Obamacare and to restore our Constitution, short of a future Act of Congress to repeal it,” he wrote. No issue, it seems, is beyond our secretary of state. He is, at base, the state’s chief records clerk. Birth certificates, corporate papers and annual reports, and administration of the Uniform Commercial Code are among his duties; the secretary is the state’s chief election officer and is responsible for voter registration. The office also regulates lobbying and campaign finance in conjunction with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
FIVE LONG years ago, Kobach built his climb into public office on a fraud, the specious claim that Kansas elections were turning counterfeit. He must be elected to save us from disaster, he said; without his vigilance aliens (from Mexico, we were told) would swarm into the state like ants, pack the polls and sabotage our elections. Before he rode into Kansas, Kobach spent time in Arizona beating the desert sage to roust “illegals,” hone his pitch on voter fraud and sharpen his quill for writing Jim Crow back into that state’s voting laws. Next were Alabama and Kansas. Alabama, where Bull Connor and George Wallace remain states’ rights icons, was an easy sell. But Kansas, less receptive to snake oil, took some convincing. Kobach bleated and whined: the unwanteds were flocking over the prairie like locusts; polling stations swarmed with imposters and tricksters. Just how these pretenders had thrown elections – and for whom – was never explained. It didn’t matter. People swallowed the lie and, like rubes returned to the barnyard, backslapped themselves to celebrate a vote for purity. Kobach was elected and reelected to protect us from something – what, exactly, we’ve never quite known. Most important to Kobach was that he have a high office, one that braced his power, that gave him visibility, credibility, control. Kobach, through several rounds in court, has ensured for Kansas the “two-tiered election” – one for those with proven “citizenship” who can vote in all state and federal races, and one for those who registered with the federal form (legitimate until Kobach declared it impure), and will be allowed to vote only in federal races. The registrations of roughly 30,000 people who have not passed Kobach’s citizenship litmus test remain “in suspense” at Kobach’s office. No one knows, even now, how much progress they’re making to prove their citizenship.
BY OCTOBER 2012, his second year in office, Kobach had established his Prairie Fire Political Action Committee to channel money to his favorite candidates. Kobach’s PAC was seen as unseemly because, as the state’s chief election officer, he supervises local and state elections and candidates, and enforces election and campaign finance laws. That he would select and finance favorites seemed corrupt, to be mild. Nonetheless, it’s legal in this state. Kobach favors candidates who take a dim view of civil rights, especially when they apply to Mexicans or other minorities who think they have a right to vote. (This practice is thickened with misdirection and delusive, even ambiguous phrases such as “voter fraud” or “illegal immigration.”) In the 2013 legislative session, Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, offered a measure to force Kobach to dissolve his PAC, which spent $30,000 on his favorites for the House and Senate in the 2012 election. The House preferred elections run in the style of the old southern sheriffs. Ward’s measure was defeated, 72-42.
BEFORE HIS leap into health care, Kobach, among other avowals, declared that the federal government couldn’t regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept in Kansas. In January 2014, he challenged the federal government’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species, a status that would deny ranchers the freedom to use land as they see fit. It’s all a matter of state’s rights, he said when he filed for reelection in 2014. Kobach admits he moonlights for the cause, referring to it as handling “outside work” during his spare time. A secretary of state should be interested in health care, alien voters, gun rights and the lesser prairie chicken as the “keeper of state sovereignty,” someone whose signature is necessary to make proclamations and appointments official. “The secretary of state, more than any other official other than the governor, is the guardian of state sovereignty,”
Kobach said. “It’s absolutely important for the secretary of state to step forward when state sovereignty is at risk.”
Fear is power for a demagogue. People in fear long for the great protector, a leader to save them from today’s evil, those vague but looming threats ever-incubated and packaged in a great lie. Kansans have been kept frightened and obedient by a fear of “socialism,” which their so-called leaders tell them is on the march everywhere, along with a fear of the punitive income tax, a tool of oppression that has cowed and enslaved the working class and freedom loving citizens for generations. Kobach is writing new chapters for his Book of Fear under headings of The Ethnic Voter, The 2nd Amendment, Right to Life, Obamacare, even The Lesser Prairie Chicken, among others. His greatest adversary is truth: that there is no voter fraud and has never been; that no entity, federal or otherwise, hopes to take away our guns; that the matter of abortion has never belonged on the public agenda in the first place; that the Affordable Care Act, even with flaws, is embraced by millions who otherwise would have no health insurance and by millions who can now pay for it; that a chief election officer who sluices money to pet candidates is an embodiment of corruption; that the poor maligned prairie chicken has never once plotted to deny farmers the right to plant crops or ranchers the freedom to raise cattle; it just wants to live, and grow. With truth on one side and Kobach on the other, why is the choice so difficult?
– JOHN MARSHALL