How can those of us outside of Kansas help prevent any more power flowing to Kris Kobach?
Kobach, for those readers lucky enough not to have to encounter him in their own electoral politics, is Kansas’ Secretary of State. He’s eyeing the governorship now that Sam Brownback is the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a rather odd job for a man who is a proponent of “religious freedom” as a tool to curtail other liberties and undermine the social safety network. As much as I think that Brownback’s ranking as one of America’s worst governors is fair, Kobach would be even worse. Like Brownback, he’s ambitious, but while we’ve been able to funnel Brownback to a relatively low-status role in the federal government, I’m doubtful that Kobach would be satisfied with that kind of next step in his own career should he win the governor’s race in Kansas. He’s recently had one foot in federal politics already, as he was a key figure on the recently-disbanded Presidential Election Committee on Election Integrity.
Kobach’s ideas are evil and the man is neither honest nor smart, but that doesn’t seem to slow him in Kansas. Oh, and he’s incompetent and lazy, as his total oblivion to the fact that a veteran’s charity of which is a board member is basically a scam organization–the very kind of organization that an a state-level politician should be fighting against, not sitting atop.
Kobach hides his assault on civil rights behind the claim that he’s fighting voter fraud, but some groups have politely pointed out that the results are discriminatory, as evidenced by the fact that people of color are overrepresented among those who have been disenfranchised.
Kobach has offered the counterargument that last year’s report that the Kansas Advisory Committee supplied to the US Commission on Civil Rights, which contains an analysis by Michael Smith, chair of Emporia State University’s political science department, detailing this looks like “it’s been written by a third-grader,” that it is poorly-reasoned, and that it contained “glaring errors.”
That is how Kobach speaks about citizens who voluntarily work as part of the federally-mandated state-level, non-partisan organization tasked with monitoring citizens’ ability to access the voting booth. It’s how he speaks about a highly respected scholarly expert in state-level politics. This is not a person who values the contributions of the citizens he is seeking to serve. Kobach is not a person who appreciates oversight or accountability. He’s also willing to use insults and vague accusations to undermine people who are critical of his work. His behavior and his words suggest that he despises people and democratic principles.
Kobach calls the evidence that his voter ID campaign racist in its implementation to be “poorly reasoned,” yet he claims innocence when confronted with the idea that the ID requirement is a poll tax because it forces citizens who can rightfully vote to pay the state for identification papers before they can do so. Rather than steering as far as he can Jim Crow era laws, Kobach is trying to get as close to them as he can. And I have no doubt that if he could re-implement the grandfather clause or the literacy test, he would. (Look at how Trump is now working to make it possible to deny American citizens born to non-citizens services such as Headstart. This is another kind of grandfather clause–to deny citizens their rights because their parents were not born here.)
Kobach does not care about serving poor Kansans (of whom there are more and more). When asked about the burden the voter ID law places on the poor, Kobach dismissed the concern, saying that whether this is a burden “depends on how you define burden.” How many people need to be burden before Kobach admits that this is burdensome? Trick question! Kobach doesn’t care if poor people or people of color are burdened. He’ll get a little bad press when the very elderly in nursing homes can’t get valid IDs to vote, but he’ll ride out the stories of denying the vote to women born before the 19th Amendment or World War II heroes.
On the one hand, you have his incompetence. On the other, his disdain for democracy and the American people. Above, Kris Kobach announces his run for the governor’s office.
Kobach shows his colors when he argues that the “majority of Kansans” support his policy. It does not matter if 99% of Kansans agree with the policy. Their opinion is not legally important or relevant to Kobach’s job. His invocation of “popular opinion” shows he’s not fit for his job. (But we knew this from his totally absurd, laughed-out-of-court attempt to invoke executive privilege–when he was not working with the executive office and, in fact, he was working with Trump before Trump was in the executive office–in refusing to turn over documents that he exposed to public scrutiny through his carelessness.)
The cherry on top of my anger sundae is that Kobach argues that rising voter registration means that there can’t be voter suppression. I am not sure if Kobach is this stupid or if he just expects us to be, but, in either case, that single statement should be enough for any thinking person to vote against him. Because you can, in fact, have some voters who are losing their right to vote even as other voters are registering to vote. You can even have more people registering than people being disenfranchised, which would result in a net gain of voters even as there are losses in particular populations, like among people of color, members of tribes, the poor, and the elderly.
My comfort is in hoping that the majority of those new voters will be dedicating their votes to those Kobach is disenfranchising. Kobach is mostly a loser (Like, he’s lost here and here and here and here and here and, just this week, here, all humiliating losses for someone who is paid to know the law.) so he should be used to it. Kansans need to nip his little bud now and send the message to other Republicans that their hostility to voters isn’t going to work.