So this is sup­posed to be a midterms mes­sage from vot­ers?

The Kansas City Star - - Opinion - BY MELINDA HENNEBERGER mhen­neberger@kc­star.com

When vot­ers agree with us, they are Solomonic and so­phis­ti­cated. Wow, said a sud­denly impressed friend from Illi­nois af­ter Tues­day’s re­sults came in, “No need to won­der about what’s wrong with Kansas any­more.”

And when they don’t see things our way? As Ann Coul­ter tweeted on elec­tion night, “Kansas, you are dead to me.”

All that vot­ers in Kansas, Mis­souri and beyond told me this week, though, was that we’re not just di­vided but con­flicted and con­fused.

Kansas vot­ers — the ma­jor­ity of whom are still con­ser­va­tive — said “no way” to Kris Kobach’s full-time na­tivism and ob­ses­sion with mostly myth­i­cal voter fraud. Been here and done that, they said to the prospect of a new round of Sam Brown­back-style tax cuts.

Yet those same Kansans chose as Kobach’s suc­ces­sor as sec­re­tary of state some­one who said he’d con­tinue Kobach’s legacy, only with­out all the drama.

Yes, they opted for Demo­crat Laura Kelly’s get-’er-done com­pe­tence over Kobach’s record of bad lawyer­ing, clown­ish stunts and sim­ple fail­ure to take care of busi­ness.

But they also re­jected Brian “BAM” McClen­don, a for­mer tech ex­ec­u­tive who was ab­surdly overqual­i­fied for the job he wanted. He ran un­suc­cess­fully against Re­pub­li­can Scott Sch­wab for sec­re­tary of state, promis­ing to make it eas­ier for qual­i­fied Kansans to vote and ac­cess in­for­ma­tion. No sale, said Kansas, and that’s our loss.

It made na­tional news that the state had sup­pos­edly re­pu­di­ated Trump in elect­ing an Obama-en­dorsed les­bian Na­tive Amer­i­can lawyer, Sharice Davids, over Re­pub­li­can in­cum­bent Kevin Yoder in the sub­ur­ban and ur­ban 3rd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict.

But dif­fer­ent Kansans hugged the pres­i­dent just as hard by elect­ing Steve Watkins over for­mer Kansas House mi­nor­ity leader Paul Davis in the 2nd Dis­trict. They chose Watkins, who was bankrolled by his fa­ther, de­spite know­ing that he had en­er­get­i­cally ex­ag­ger­ated both his busi­ness and leisure ex­pe­ri­ence and dreamed up some “heroic lead­er­ship.”

When they want to, vot­ers have no trou­ble suss­ing out can­di­dates who are un­fit to serve. In ever-red­der Mis­souri, they still picked CPA Nicole Gal­loway by six points in the race for state au­di­tor over the much-sued Saun­dra McDow­ell, whose fail­ure to pay her own bills sen­si­bly mat­tered more than the ‘R’ af­ter her name. Yet by the same six points, Mis­souri­ans de­clined to pe­nal­ize Josh Haw­ley for not car­ing to do his job as Mis­souri at­tor­ney gen­eral. In­stead, they’re send­ing him to the U.S. Se­nate.

Down bal­lot, the sig­nals were just as mixed. Mis­souri vot­ers passed a bunch of the same pro­gres­sive mea­sures that Haw­ley had op­posed, in­clud­ing a min­i­mum wage in­crease and good­gov­ern­ment “Clean Mis­souri” ethics re­forms.

Na­tion­ally, the trend line is just as hard to plot. In some ways, we’re get­ting more en­light­ened, elect­ing not just Davids and the first openly gay mem­bers of the Kansas House, but also the coun­try’s first openly gay gov­er­nor, Colorado’s Jared Po­lis, and our first two Mus­lim con­gress­women, from Michi­gan and Min­nesota.

Yet racism still played a prom­i­nent role. A robo­call against African-Amer­i­can Ge­or­gia gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Stacey Abrams fea­tured an Oprah Win­frey im­i­ta­tor say­ing Abrams is “some­one white women can be tricked into vot­ing for, es­pe­cially the fat ones.” One against An­drew Gil­lum, the African-Amer­i­can mayor of Tal­la­has­see, Florida, said, “Well hello there. I is the ne­gro An­drew Gil­lum, and I’ll be askin’ you to make me gov­er­nor of this here state of Florida. My state op­po­nent, who done call me mon­key, is doin’ a lot of hol­lerin’ about how ‘spen­sive my plans for health care be.”

We’re so tribal that both some Re­pub­li­cans and Democrats would ap­par­ently rather elect a felon than a mem­ber of the other party: How else to ex­plain Rep. Chris Collins, the New York Re­pub­li­can who won re-elec­tion de­spite be­ing charged with felony in­sider trad­ing? Or Rep. Dun­can Hunter, the re-elected Cal­i­for­nia Re­pub­li­can in­dicted on cor­rup­tion charges? Or Sen. Bob Me­nen­dez, the re-elected New Jer­sey Demo­crat who sur­vived a pub­lic cor­rup­tion trial? If we ex­pected bet­ter, we’d get it.

And “Year of the Woman,” please. Glad as I am that we’re up­ping our rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Congress, I didn’t see a lot of signs that this was a post-#Me­Too elec­tion. Demo­crat Keith El­li­son was still elected at­tor­ney gen­eral in Min­nesota, de­spite al­le­ga­tions he’d phys­i­cally abused a for­mer girl­friend.

The fact that Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh was ac­cused by a woman who even the pres­i­dent ini­tially called cred­i­ble ul­ti­mately only made a mar­tyr of him. Chris­tine Blasey Ford, who is re­port­edly still get­ting death threats over her al­le­ga­tions, has had to move four times and has not been able to re­turn to work be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns. Yet ac­cord­ing to Re­pub­li­cans in­clud­ing Sen. Roy Blunt, it was Ka­vanaugh’s pub­lic suf­fer­ing that en­er­gized GOP vot­ers and made a win­ner of Haw­ley. Take that, vic­tims.

It would be nice if all of the ar­rows pointed in the same di­rec­tion. But elec­tions, like the rest of life, are hardly ever like that, even if we’d rather pre­tend oth­er­wise.

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