Monday, July 17, 2017

Until Democrats Can Start Winning Seats In Kansas Again, They'll Never Be A National Party Again


Trump won Kansas' 4th district-- around Wichita-- by a big margin: 60.2% to 33.0%. But KS-04 isn't really Trump country. In the caucuses, Cruz came in first 7,963 (58.3%) to Señor Trumpanzee's 3,012 (22.0%). That same day Bernie swept every district in Kansas. He won the 4th with 69.8%-- 6,588 votes to Hillary's 2,846-- but with more than twice as many votes as Trump got! Think about that for a moment. Many in Kansas saw Bernie as the answer to their hopes and their fears... but by November they ultimately judged Hillary as the greater evil compared to Trump. While Trump was coming up with his 60.2% of the vote in KS-04, the incumbent Republican congressman, Mike Pompeo, was being elected over Democratic challenger Dan Giroux 60.7% to 29.6%. But soon after the election Trump appointed Pompeo CIA director, triggering a special election in what was regarded one of the safest Republican districts in America. But it wasn't quite as safe as the GOP (and the DCCC) assumed. After beating a conservative anti-Choice, Republican-lite candidate in the primary, Jim Thompson, a Berniecrat, won Wichita (the biggest city in the state) and Sedgwick County outright. The district-wide total saw Estes with 64,044 (52.2%) and Thompson with a startling 56,435 (46.0%), the best showing a Democrat has had in this district since 1992.

Goal Thermometer It's worth noting that Thompson got no help from the Democratic Party, which considered him "too progressive." He raised $832,716 to Republican Ron Estes' $540,743. Paul Ryan made sure to even that out. The NRCC poured $227,400 into the "safe district" and Ryan's superPAC put in another $49,998, much of it going into smearing Thompson. The DCCC responded with... crickets-- not one thin dime and not a cent from Pelosi's worthless PAC either. As of today, Blue America is endorsing Jim Thompson for the 2018 congressional race. We asked him to introduce himself by explaining how he plans to build on his strong 2017 showing. If you like what he has to say, please consider clicking on the thermometer on the right and contributing what you can to his very grassroots can-do campaign.

A Guest Post From Jim Thompson

“I don’t understand, Daddy! Didn’t Trump say those awful things about women?” These were the words I heard from my eleven-year-old daughter, Liberty, on November 8, 2016 as we watched the election results come in and saw our nation change one state at a time. She, like most Americans, did not understand how Donald Trump could be elected President of the United States after the things he had said and done. Because I did not fully understand it myself, I had no answer for her. I woke the next morning with a sense of fear for her future and the future of our country. For the first time in my life, I gave serious consideration to running for office myself. Initially, my thought was to seek election for a local office to affect change in my community and build from the ground up.

After former Congressman Mike Pompeo was nominated to be the new CIA Director, two friends of mine approached me and encouraged me to run for Congress in the special election scheduled for April 11, 2017. I had previously talked with one of them about running for office, though I had never considered such a monumental task as seeking an open congressional seat. Both of these friends are disenchanted Republicans who were as appalled as I was at the election of Trump. One of them, a political science professor, sent me a Facebook message explaining why he thought I should run for Congress, pointing out that Bernie Sanders had won Kansas by a 2-to-1 margin against Hillary Clinton.

My family and I are Berniecrats. My wife and I caucused for him in 2016 (for the first time in our lives) and we were delighted when our daughter Liberty took an interest in politics because of his inspirational message. In a time when big money ruled politics, along came an unassuming older man from Vermont who spoke from his heart, refused to take money from PACs, believed in social programs that provided a safety net, and wanted to empower working people rather than further enrich the elite. He showed that politics should be about people rather than party because we are all Americans.

The message so proudly trumpeted by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other progressive powerhouses inspired me to get out from behind my keyboard and channel my energy further into the political process. I had never been a politician or run for office before 2017. But seeing the trajectory our country was on lit a fire in me I simply could not ignore. The entreaties from my friends, and the resounding success of Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign here in Kansas, convinced me I needed to step up and fight for the values I hold dear. Twice in my life, I had sworn to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and I felt it was time to stand up and do so again.

During the Women’s March on January 20, 2017, the whole world saw an unprecedented uprising-- the effects of which we will not understand for generations to come. Here in Wichita, women like Brandi Calvert, Jane Byrnes, Tamber Lee, Briley Meek, and Jessica Nicolet brought together 4,000 women in downtown Wichita to demand that their voices be heard. Even on that chilly day, thousands of women came out to stand in solidarity. It was at that point, I knew the power to make a truly competitive Democratic run for Congress in KS-04 was possible. I formally announced my candidacy a few days later, and, after a hard-fought nominating convention, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the Democratic candidate.

Our special election was an unparalleled experience in recent Kansas history. Never before has there been so much engagement at the grassroots level. An army of volunteers from all over the state, and the country, rallied behind our campaign with the hopes of sending a message to the establishment and bringing genuine change to Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of individuals from across Kansas and all over the United States donated to our campaign, ultimately breaking a historical record for any congressional race in Kansas. Our final contribution average was just $28.00.

Special elections are strange. They require the construction of an entire campaign in the course of weeks, not months. Thus, we had just 60 days to run a full congressional race. Luckily for us and other special election candidates who have fought hard to flip “unwinnable” red districts, there is a seemingly bottomless well of grassroots momentum out there right now. People who were never involved in politics before have been driven to step up for the first time to knock doors, make phone calls, and contribute small-dollar donations. Those efforts have fueled so much of the change seen across the country since last November. I feel the same energy so many of these incredible people feel. Our experience during the special election prepared me, and our campaign, well for a full congressional run. It also taught us many lessons.

We learned Democrats must do better in rural areas to engage with voters there. Our rural communities are an integral part of Kansas’ 4th congressional district. In the same way many states are treated as “flyovers” in this country, many counties in Kansas have been ignored by Democrats. We have paid a steep price for that mistake. Our rural brothers and sisters are really no different than people in the cities. We all want a job that pays a livable wage, the chance to educate our children, and to have access to affordable healthcare. Many Kansas farmers and residents of small towns feel abandoned by the current administrations in Topeka and in Washington, D.C. I want to change that.

The refusal to expand Medicaid and control healthcare costs has resulted in rural hospitals closing all across Kansas. On the campaign trail, time and again I heard horror stories about the effects of community hospitals closing. Hospital closures create a vicious cycle in which former hospital employees seek jobs elsewhere and leave their rural communities behind, leading to a domino effect of rural flight. As the children of these employees leave with their parents, schools are forced to close. Local businesses which depended on the people from these hospitals and schools are no longer be able to keep their doors open. What was once a thriving community becomes a ghost town. We must stop this. First, we need to expand Medicaid in order to support our rural hospitals. Secondly, we need to support education in our state so schools no longer face the threat of closure due to budget cuts.

Our campaign also taught us all politics are local; no event is too small and no voter is too unpersuadable. We learned there is a population of activists out and they are hungry for a mission. We learned there are people in even the deepest red states and districts that will respond to a common-sense progressive message. 2017 was just the dress rehearsal, and 2018 is the opening night. We showed the world what we can do with just 60 days; imagine what we can do with 16 months.

Most importantly, however, we learned unity is the only way to overcome the current Republican stranglehold on our state and our congressional district. A former Democratic candidate for Congress from my district encouraged me to run, but told me some of our worst enemies would come from within our own party. His warning proved to be prophetic. At the outset, we saw petty power struggles and resentment sew division in the Democratic ranks at the local, state and federal levels. Luckily, our party ultimately came together during the special election and I am confident we will see the same unity again in 2018. Regardless of whether you supported Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders during the 2016 primary, we must put these divisions behind us and move forward with a unified front.

As I was on the campaign trail during the special election, people would often ask me, “What will you do when you get to Washington to help change the state of our politics?” I told them many of the same things I have written about above. People deserve access to adequate and affordable healthcare. All Americans deserve quality, affordable education to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Our veterans and active duty soldiers, men and women that have put their lives on the line to protect our most basic and essential liberties, deserve to be taken care of when they return home. Lastly, civil rights for every American must be protected; this includes our rights to freedom of speech and, equally as important, unfettered voting rights for all American citizens.

As a small business owner, I saw firsthand the devastating effects of the rising costs of health insurance before passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I also recognize the system that exists now is not perfect and the cost of healthcare is still too expensive. However, the solution is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Republicans want to repeal the ACA, but they have been unable to do so even with a majority in Congress. Instead they are now pushing for passage of the the American Health Care Act (AHCA). If Republicans pass the AHCA, more than 22 million American men, women and children will lose health care. Nonpartisan analysis shows passage of this legislation will result in the deaths of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens, with some estimates putting the number of deaths on par with the American death toll from the Vietnam war. This is unconscionable.

I also have seen the devastating effects of the lack of healthcare in my personal life. Several family members have died from early bouts with cancer, and my father died of a heart attack at 58 years old. These family members might still be with us if they had access to preventive health care. My brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2011. He was lucky and received care from the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Norman, Oklahoma. He survived, but he has been financially devastated with more than $500,000 in health care costs. He now carries a debt which he can never pay off.

My appreciation for the value of universally available quality education was also informed by my own personal experiences. Growing up poor, it was a teacher who helped change my life. Charles Tweed was an English and Theatre teacher at the last high school I attended. Thankfully, he took me under his wing and convinced me of the importance of education. More importantly, like every good teacher, he taught me self-respect and that I could be somebody in life, despite the poverty from which I came. He gave me the self-confidence to put myself out there. Because of him, I went on to be Senior Class President and, ultimately, became the man I am today.

Mr. Tweed was tough on me when I needed guidance and he gave me a shoulder to lean on for support whenever I asked. When I graduated, he helped me get a scholarship to the University of Central Oklahoma. He attended my graduation from law school, my wedding, and he supported me during the special election. He is why I am so supportive of teachers and education. But for him, I would not be here. Thus why I am so troubled by the current attempts to dismantle our public education system. If these attempts are successful, stories like mine will no longer be possible.

Education benefits not only the person receiving the education, but it helps our society as a whole. We must increase educational opportunities across the board-- and not just at universities. We must continue to encourage programs like Helmets to Hardhats which provides union apprenticeships and on-the-job training for veterans transitioning from the military to civilian life. A skilled labor force is a must for our economy as is the ability to transition that labor force into new areas of expertise like renewable energy.

Even though I had a scholarship to the University of Central Oklahoma that paid most of my tuition, it was still a struggle to make ends meet. Accordingly, after my freshman year, I enlisted in the U.S. Army Infantry in 1990. While in basic training at Ft. Benning Georgia, I was selected to go to the 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Old Guard” or Presidential Honor Guard, and was stationed in Washington D.C. My duties as a member of the Old Guard included ceremonies for Presidents Bush and Clinton and other foreign dignitaries visiting the United States. Our most important missions, however, were the burial details in Arlington National Cemetery for our nation’s veterans and active duty soldiers who had passed away. Other than being a father and husband, there is no greater honor in my life than having been a part of paying our country’s final respects to its fallen heroes.

Since law school, I have been an advocate for veterans’ issues. While at Washburn University Law School, I started the Veterans’ Legal Association of Washburn (VLAW). This program was designed to help both incoming students from the military, police, and first responders, as well as veterans in the Topeka Community. I am proud to say it is still active today at Washburn University. As a member of the Wichita Bar Association, I organized its participation in the Veteran Administration’s annual Stand Down event for several years. This incredibly important program helps homeless veterans all across the country and our participation helped homeless veterans find legal advice and counsel.

Another issue I want to champion, if I’m fortunate enough to represent Kansas’ 4th district, is improved mental health services for veterans. PTSD continues to be a silent killer of our men and women in uniform with 22 veterans a day taking their own lives. Unfortunately, my own family suffered through the tragedy of suicide when my former brother-in-law took his own life after struggling with PTSD. I had to help explain to my 12 year old niece what her father had done. I hope no one ever has to do that again, but I know they will. If we have enough money to go to war, then we sure as hell should have enough money to care for our sons and daughters when they return. They protected us, and it is our duty to protect them now.

After law school, I chose to enter the legal field as a civil rights attorney. In my professional life, I have seen some of the worst abuses those in power perpetrate on those least able to defend themselves. Subsequently, I’ve learned we must stand up to government abuses regardless of whether they come in the form of excessive force by the police or voter suppression by people such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. For years, I have watched Secretary Kobach experiment with voter suppression tactics in my home state and, time and time again, his efforts have been rejected by the courts.

Now, President Trump has asked Secretary Kobach to adopt these tactics nationally under the guise of his so-called “Election Integrity Commission,” based on widely debunked theories of voter fraud. Make no mistake-- this commission is an effort to suppress votes nationally and simply cannot be allowed to stand. Since the election of President Trump, we have seen an unprecedented attack on our democracy and on our civil rights. In addition to his efforts at voter suppression, President Trump encourages the suppression of free speech for individuals and the press. A free and unrestrained media is essential to a free democracy, especially when Congress fails to do their part in our system of checks and balances.

The President has also repeatedly attacked women who have criticized him for his lecherous conduct. Because of his behavior, language condoning sexual assault has been accepted as the new norm for Presidential conduct and waived off as “locker room talk.” However, women’s rights are not a stand alone. They are civil rights-- not to be held aside as unique or special, but to be fought for and to be respected as inalienable. Thus, it is shameful that we still have not passed the Equal Rights Amendment and women continue to be paid less than men-- among other things.

These are the things that inspired me to run on that chilly day in January 2017. I understood a new political awakening had occurred and millions of my fellow Americans had finally awoken to a new reality. We live in trying times; times that test our values and our most deeply held convictions. I want the America I know and love to continue to exist for generations yet unborn. My vision of America is one in which we all stand equal. I want all men and women to feel they are endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When candidates run true to their values and don’t shy away from a strong progressive platform, people will follow. A common mistake Democrats make all across the Midwest and the South is to run establishment candidates who parrot many Republican talking points. We proved that thinking is misguided. Voters can smell a politicians spewing horse manure from a mile away. Voters all across the spectrum-- including Democrats, independents, and moderate Republicans-- will respond to a genuine message delivered with passion and authenticity. There is no reason to run as Republican-lite candidates; we need to run as Big D Democrats and we need to do so proudly. I am a living, breathing example of the success of progressive programs that helped to feed and to house me as a child and to educate me as an adult. If we are to lose in 2018, then let us lose while standing up for progressive values, rather than kneeling to the corporate establishment. Together, we can change this country for the better. Together, we can lead a movement that will help generations to come. Together, we can be the change we seek. Now, will you stand and fight with me?

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At 6:32 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Thank you Mr Thompson for your incredible post my condolences to you & your family on your Dad you said a mouthful on what is wrong with the Democratic Party today it's Nancy Pelosi & the Donors who don't want real progressive candidates running the party with real issues & all they care about is Money & keeping the status quo well i think it's fair to say the entire nation has had enough & i'm hoping Justice Democrats, Our Revolution etc takes charge & defeats The Establishment & The Democratic Party will be a People's Party again & not the Money/Status Quo Party best wishes to you & your family sir.

At 7:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you sir! If we win the heartland, we will take the heart out of the ultra conservatives tearing this country apart. I appreciate your support and condolences.

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Skip Kaltenheuser said...

Thanks for the bitter-sweet, Mr. Thompson.

I've seen a lot of transitions in Kansas, most of them embarrassing. Your post was a ray of hope in Koch-ville. My first job out of law school was as a democratic asst. AG for the state. Loved it, but not for as long as I'd have liked. The AG was followed by a political rival across the state line to a Joplin motel and sighted with a woman who vaguely resembled the AG's wife. Ignoring the wheat field godfathers' instruction to say he did it, he's sorry and he'll devote his life to public service - great advice and think on who else didn't take it - he stood in front of the press with the woman and his wife saying the woman was a close friend of the family. That cooked his goose in Kansas and after the election - we were all fired on Christmas Day - I was on a month train pass looking for work on the East Coast.

I still keep tabs on dismal developments like Gov. Brownshirt and the rest of the Koch takeover. We used to have sane, moderate Republicans, (Meet Alf Landon!). I did keep my Kansas registration for years so I could vote against Bob Dole - an entertaining wise-guy but a lethal Nixon hatchet-man who had no bottom-line when politically threatened.

Kansas had a good run of Democratic governors and Democratic members in the legislature, even a Democratic Congressman now and then, of various vintage.

Not much now, even moderate Republican state legislators were systematically purged. I've no doubt Koch disciple Mike Pompeo was recruited to the CIA post to damp down those pesky intelligence community and Pentagon warnings of climate change as a grave national security threat. West Point and Harvard Law, go figure. A tragic dumb-down on behalf of his Koch overseers. How sweet if the DCCC came out of its coma and gave you an assist in striking a breadbasket blow against the Koch empire.

In an era when a Koch Kansan leads Trumpster's voter suppression disgrace, your post is a reminder of Kansas roots that included fighting against slavery years before the Civil War was declared. I believe the first socialist newspaper, The Appeal to Reason, was in Girard, Kansas. The state was initially a magnet to settlers fleeing religious and political oppression across Europe, and they were put to the harshest tests wild frontiers could offer, followed by the Dust Bowl and financial predators. Nothing cocky about those who persevered.

Not all those roots have been yanked out. You sound like a guy who can tap them.

Best fortunes on all fronts.

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our progressive roots run deep as you point out. Kansas history is full of examples of our state setting the example. We are leaving the winter of our discontent as Brownback will be gone soon and Democrats and moderate Republicans learn to once again work for the betterment of our state. Kansas is entering a spring of progressivism and I am optimistic for our future.
James Thompson

At 6:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have kin in KS. I have my doubts. Brownback was a known quantity but got re-elected. Every year more and more voters go Koch/Nazi.

I know there are a lot of disenfranchised lefties there who have had nothing to vote for in years. But the democrap party isn't the answer, as THEY have been part and parcel to the problem along with the kochs.

Are there enough of them to nudge aside all the kochzis? I have serious doubts.

If you think that brownback being term-limited means a fresh start... look again at the party that is presumed to be opposing the kochs. then remember what they've not done in decades.

Now... how optimistic can you be?

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All politics are local and Republicans voters are very loyal. They will not abandon their brand unless it threatens their life or liberty. To win in Kansas 4 the demographics require that a non-Republican candidate win about 3% of the Red electorate. A great candidate like Jim Thompson must find that issue that reinforces both Progressive Values and attracts these highly informed Republicans. This issue will determine the outcome of the election, which brings us back to the first law......all politics are local. Jim Thompson is the man that can unlock Kansas 4 for all of the voters.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to see you expand your comments about mental health services for our veterans to include all people. I absolutely believe we need to provide appropriate mental health services to veterans but we have a mental health crisis in our entire population.....I spent my life savings getting appropriate treatment for my teenage daughter who needed inpatient treatment for where in the state of Kansas will you find that level of care for those severely sick with eating disorders so I had to take my daughter to Oklahoma and leave her there for months only seeing her on the weekends. It was not the best solution possible but it was the best solution available at the time. Kansas let us down.....if you want to address mental health services I implore you to address them for everyone not just veterans.


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