As voters head to the polls, the most exciting and impactful senate race in the nation is in Kansas, where an independent candidate is threatening to shake up politics as we know it by unseating the Republican incumbent.
Independent Greg Orman is public enemy number one to Republicans today because he could upset their senate math toward a majority. And more importantly, an Orman victory could signal a broader assault against the duopoly that controls congress.
Because, if Orman enters the Senate alongside fellow centrist independent Angus King, it might create the conditions for a common sense coalition—fiscally responsible, socially inclusive—that could control the balance of power in a closely divided senate. That’s the boldest way to bridge the divides in our pathetically polarized senate. Mitch McConnell’s closing argument promise that he’ll end gridlock just can’t be trusted.
The GOP reaction to Orman’s candidacy has been predictably desperate and ugly. They’ve unleashed an avalanche of negative attacks, trying to paint the principled independent—a successful businessman and former college Republican who still lists Reagan and Bob Dole as heroes—as an extreme liberal.
Conservative journalist Byron York underscored the absurdity of these claims on a policy basis in an otherwise skeptical column by pointing out that, in a debate against Roberts, “Orman proposed doing the following: 1) Relax Dodd-Frank restrictions on community and regional banks. 2) Review all government regulation every decade to rescind regulations that inhibit business growth. 3) Lower the corporate tax rate. 4) Lower overall tax rates. 5) Raise the Social Security eligibility age for younger Americans. 6) Cut the abuse of Social Security disability payments.
“It’s all the kind of thing one often hears from Republican candidates,” York noted.
It is—because Orman is in keeping with a political philosophy that actually emphasizes a common sense balance between individual freedom of choice on social issues and generational responsibility when it comes to spending. This is entirely consistent with the Millennial generation’s independent view of politics, detailed by my Daily Beast colleague Nick Gillespie and others.
The background to this potentially revolutionary race is Governor Sam Brownback’s disastrous attempt to make his state a model for conservative governance, cutting taxes to such an extent that budget holes have deepened. That, combined with Brownback’s embrace of party purges, has driven over 70 moderate Main Street Republican elected leaders to embrace Orman’s candidacy.
While Roberts and his RNC cronies have launched a barrage of negative attacks on Orman, the independent has consistently refused to go negative against Roberts—and the GOP has been left trying to twist comments about the “clown car” cavalcade of conservatives flooding the state into an individual attack on former Senator Dole. If you’re frustrated with the relentlessly acrimonious tone of modern campaigns, Orman’s refusal to endorse negative ads should be rewarded.
As the GOTV began, Orman’s campaign has pulled together a diverse bipartisan outreach effort—perhaps the first in the state’s history. And with Robert’s sagging under a 45 percent approval rating, there’s not a lot of love for the otherwise invisible incumbent.
We’ll see tonight whether the hope of an independent carrying the centrist Eisenhower Republican mantle succeeds in Kansas. But even if you live states away from the heartland, it’s a race worth watching closely and cheering on. As Orman said in my interview with him earlier this year, “People are really turned off by what we’ve seen” in Congress: “A turn to extremism and an unwillingness to solve problems, drawing childish lines in the sand and refusing to cooperate…We need to get Congress back in the business of solving problems.”
Amen to that.