During the Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts was attacked by a tea party challenger for his residency status in Kansas. For years, that was defined by ownership of a duplex in Dodge City, which he leased to tenants. This year, he said he was paying rent to stay occasionally in the home of Dodge City boosters.
But Roberts' residency in Kansas has been a farce for many years. What's more revealing is the report just this week that since 2000 Roberts has attended barely one-third of Senate Agriculture Committee meetings. This from the senator who calls himself the "father" of key farm legislation.
A picture is emerging of a senator who, at age 78, is tired and cranky. He's sold his soul to extremist elements of the party out of desperation to keep his job and become a puppet of the political hacks, who have him reciting the tea party lines and doing little more to discredit his challenger than try to link him to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
That challenger is Greg Orman, who having affiliated in the past both Republican and Democrat, is making a historic run as an independent. And for those who are frustrated with the hyperpartisanship in Washington, Orman represents a breath of fresh air, in stark contrast to Roberts whose campaign is riding on an assumption that most voters aren't sophisticated enough to pick candidates on any basis other than label.
Also on the ballot is Libertarian candidate Randall Batson of Wichita.
For voters who are fixated on the sport of politics, who are consumed by the us-against-them, we-win-they-lose mentality, Orman isn't their guy. Roberts' non-stop grousing about Harry Reid is music to the ears.
But bitter partisanship and simpleton, black-and-white political warfare is getting this country nowhere. In the absence of a viable third party, we should be electing qualified, intelligent independents such as Greg Orman whenever we have an opportunity, because they don't come along often.
Orman is an eminently successful businessman who resides in Johnson County. Describing himself as "fiscally responsible and socially tolerant," he's got well-articulated, thoughtful positions on health care, tax code reform, illegal immigration and other issues. He's a natural spokesman for congressional reforms such as term limits, ending congressional pensions and lobbying by former members of Congress, and cleaning up campaign finance.
Some Republicans fear that a vote for Orman could keep the Republicans from taking control of the Senate. That's a perpetuation of the mentality that has been the undoing of Congress.
Harry Reid needs to go, to be sure. But "holding your nose" and voting for Roberts isn't the solution. Says Orman: "Both Harry Reid and (GOP leader) Mitch McConnell have been too partisan for far too long to earn my vote for Majority Leader."
This has been the trap of our partisan politics: One side wins control, the other works feverishly to make the controlling party fail, then we the voters switch horses, only to see the whole cycle repeat itself. Again and again.
Enough already. Let's send a message by sending someone other than another angry partisan to Washington to represent our interests. Let's retire a member of Congress who views the Senate as his lifetime entitlement and send fresh ideas to Washington.
Orman is clearly the better choice for Kansans and for this country.
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