Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Koufax award

Scary Grasshopper

I'm angling for the Koufax award for best series. The series I think deserves the highest award in lefty bloggerdom is my series on the extremist groups associated with the Republican candidate in the Kansas 3rd district. There are themes and lessons that I found in my research that will help people as they fight similar battles from coast to coast.

In order to understand the series, you need to understand the political geography of Kansas. For an overview of the political landscape and the political geography, I can't recommend “What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America” by Thomas Frank highly enough. To a greater extent than my series below, Frank's exploration is a national story told through the filter of Kansas politics. What happened here last summer is a small part of the story he tells, and while we all know the national story, I think that the story here in Kansas offers a ray of hope.

In short, the 3rd district covers parts of Douglas county, as well as Johnson and Wyandotte counties. By almost any standard, Johnson county is the most conservative county in Kansas, and Douglas and Wyandotte counties are the most liberal (Wyandotte is the blue-collar, African American part of Kansas City, and Douglas county includes Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas). In 1998, Dennis Moore beat the incumbent Republican, and has been a moderate voice in the House ever since.

In this election, Republicans were asked to choose between the guy who lost last time and a right wing extremist, and narrowly chose Kris Kobach, the extremist. After accusing his moderately conservative primary opponent of being a liberal, Kobach proceeded to paint the 3 term incumbent as a left-wing wacko.

(From here on, links are in chronological order to parts of the series on the blog. I'll leave the details in the posts.)

If you like to start a book by flipping through it backwards, start with my big wrap up of this series, posted days before the election.

I started out taking pot-shots at Kobach when he said some stupid things in an interview with the campus paper. Kobach managed to get me pissed off with a series of offensive and silly direct mailings.

After that, I got very interested in allegations that had been floating around that Kobach has ties to racist groups. Since I wasn't sure if this was just six degrees of separation or a genuine reflection of how he'd govern, I spent some time researching the groups in question.

One major group was Gunowners of America, headed by Larry Pratt. My travels in the bizarre world of Larry Pratt revealed his agenda: theocracy. I also found out more about some of the other politicians Pratt had put into office and used as stalking-horses for his radical agenda. In the process of this research, I got invited to talk on the local radio station, and I discovered that Pratt had also given money to a candidate my parents were working to unseat in New Jersey.

In preparation for my radio appearance, I filled in my understanding of John Tanton, the other major piece of the extremist connection.

After my brush with fame, I put together a summary of what I felt I had learned. November 1, Dennis Moore sent a letter to the Kansas City Star covering some similar territory. The next day, he won with his widest margin yet. I take all the credit.

I seriously believe that this sort of research, along with TV ads carrying allegations of connections to these groups, played a role in ham-stringing the Kobach campaign. Beating him, and the handful of true believers like him, is essential to protecting the genuine progress this nation has made. The groups that backed him were promoting candidates nationwide, some of them near you. I used this research to help a campaign in New Jersey, and it could have helped people elsewhere, too. That's why I think this is an important series, and why I'd like the Koufax.

Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest from the album Hits, Rarities and Remixes (2003, 4:26).