From the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week: Todd Johnson, president of the Wichita Metro Crime Commission. This audio presentation was recorded on June 21, 2019. The accompanying visual presentation is available below.
If President Trump is going to exceed his presidential standing over his predecessors, he has to overcome his Bush league challenge, writes Karl Peterjohn.
Trump’s Bush League Challenge
By Karl Peterjohn
President Trump’s government closing battle is déjà vu all over again but not in the way the liberal media is covering it. If President Trump is going to exceed his presidential standing over his predecessors, he has to overcome his Bush league challenge. This Bush 41 challenge and comparison goes back almost 30 years ago.
In 1988 George H.W. Bush repeatedly promised, “…read my lips, no new taxes.” This became his signature campaign issue as then Vice President Bush used this promise to defeat his northeastern liberal Democrat opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, in a landslide. Bush won 40 states with 426 electoral college votes including wins in states like, California, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut. Bush won with over 7 million more votes than Dukakis.
A key reason for this success was Bush’s read my lips promise. Bush repeated this promise from the convention until the end of that campaign. Bush’s convention acceptance speech repeatedly promised to reject the Democrat-controlled House and Senate demands for higher taxes. A couple of years later the liberal media demands for compromise, combined with fraudulent congressional promises to end fiscal gridlock, consigned Bush’s “read my lips” promise to the congressional rubbish bin. Outside the D.C. beltway, “read my lips” became a political boat anchor around the Bush 41 presidency when he flipped. The swamp was delighted when spending soared. Despite federal taxes being raised, the federal debt, both on the books and off, continued to grow.
In 1992, “read my lips, no new taxes” became a ready source of political ridicule, first from the liberal media that had previously demanded “compromis,” to end “gridlock,” and then from the GOP primary challenger Bush faced, conservative Reaganite Pat Buchanan, and even more so in the fall campaign from Democrats. The “read my lips” fiscal flip-flop became another reason for unhappy independents to leave Bush, and many flocked to Ross Perot’s third-party candidacy. Bush received over 10 million fewer votes in 1992 than he had in 1988. Contrast that vote shift with Bill Clinton receiving over 1.8 million more votes than the hapless Dukakis.
The only Republican congressional leader opposing this GOP cave on raising federal taxes during the Bush 41 presidency was a young Georgia congressman, then GOP house whip, Newt Gingrich, who denounced this tax hike “compromise” and was roundly blasted by the liberal media, GOP moderates under Bush, and in the congress, for his trouble. Gingrich’s position did resonate with his congressional back-bench colleagues, and soon Gingrich moved up becoming the GOP minority leader in the house. The speakership arrived for Gingrich a couple of years later. Bush’s switch was fiscal surrender that the Democrat congressional majorities happily approved, and the soon to be ex-president Bush signed into law.
“Build the wall,” is Donald Trump’s equivalent of “read my lips.” If he is truly going to go down as an outstanding president, President Trump cannot cave on this campaign promise. For many Trump voters, immigration and border control is their premier issue. Now that the federal courts immigration meddling, combined with the caravan invasion from the south this issue is bigger than it was in 2016. These Trump voters will walk away if he fails the Bush challenge and reneges on his campaign promise.
That is why the leftist dominated House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s control, is adamant that Trump cave. The wall issue is the political key to breaking the Trump coalition of working and middle-class voters who believe that borders matter, and that illegal immigration must cease. This is the top issue going into the 2020 presidential contest.
The argument against real border security, whether it is walls, fences, immovable barriers, or whatever other euphemism being sought by the budget negotiators is the key. Democrats voted for it just a couple of years ago, but Trump campaigned and won on it. Walls work around the world, and the best-known case is the way Israel stopped the Palestinian Islamic terrorists Intifada that was infiltrating terrorists out of the west bank, or Gaza.
The White House has fences. Walls/fences/barriers surround the Obama and Pelosi residences. I suspect they keep their doors locked too. Time will tell if President Trump is able to succeed in locking in his top campaign commitment, or he will follow in the footsteps where his 41st predecessor gave away his critical campaign key to his opponents.
Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2018. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas?
Also, don’t miss these notable episodes of WichitaLiberty.TV in 2018:
- Sound money and private governance
- What Was Really the Matter with the Kansas Tax Plan
- John Todd and the fight against blight
- Dr. Tom G. Palmer and the causes of wealth
- Dr. Wolf von Laer of Students for Liberty
- Larry Reed, Foundation for Economic Education
- United States Senator Dr. Tom Coburn
- Russ McCullough, Ottawa University and Gwartney Institute
- Congressman Ron Estes
- Project Wichita
- Author Lenore Skenazy, “America’s Worst Mom”
- Judge Kevin Smith and foster care
In Wichita, three Community Improvement Districts to be considered. In Community Improvement Districts (CID), merchants charge additional sales tax for the benefit of the property owners, instead of the general public. Wichita may have an additional three, contributing to the problem of CID sprawl.
Dale Dennis, sage of Kansas school finance?. Is the state’s leading expert on school funding truly knowledgeable, or is he untrustworthy?
Unemployment in Kansas. New Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer proudly cites the low Kansas unemployment rate, but there is more to the story.
Greater Wichita Partnership asks for help. Wichita’s economic development agency asks for assistance in developing its focus and strategies.
Metro Monitor evaluates the Wichita economy. Metro Monitor from Brookings Institution ranks metropolitan areas on economic performance. How does Wichita fare?
What Was Really the Matter with the Kansas Tax Plan. A book by Dave Trabert and Danedri Herbert of Kansas Policy Institute explains the recent history of taxes and the Kansas economy.
Growing the Wichita economy. Wichita leaders are proud of our region’s economic growth. Here are the numbers.
Property under attack in Kansas. Local governments in Kansas are again seeking expanded power to seize property.
Kansas government data may not be available. There is a movement to increase the transparency of government in Kansas, but there’s much to be done, starting with attitudes.
Mayor Longwell’s pep talk. A column written by Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell ignores the reality of Wichita’s economy.
Sedgwick County’s David Dennis on economic development. Following the Wichita Mayor, the Chair of the Sedgwick County Commission speaks on economic development.
Employment in the states. An interactive visualization of the civilian labor force, employment, and unemployment, for each state.
Employment in metropolitan areas. An interactive visualization of labor force, employment, and unemployment rate for all metropolitan areas in the United States.
Wichita city council public agenda needs reform. Recent use of the Wichita City Council public agenda has highlighted the need for reform.
Kansas personal income. Personal income in Kansas rose in 2017 at a rate one-third that of the nation.
Naftzger Park private use plans unsettled. An important detail regarding Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita is unsettled, and Wichitans have reason to be wary.
Kansas and Iowa schools. Should Kansas schools aspire to be more like Iowa schools?
Kansas highways set to crumble, foresees former budget director. Duane Goossen, former high Kansas government official, says the state’s highways are in trouble. What is his evidence?
In Wichita, spending semi-secret. The Wichita City Council authorized the spending of a lot of money without discussion.
Wichita property tax rate: Down. The City of Wichita property tax mill levy declined for the second year in a row.
Project Wichita right to look ahead at city’s future. We can understand self-serving politicians and bureaucrats. It’s what they do. But a city’s newspaper editorial board ought to be concerned with the truth.
NAEP 2017 for Kansas, first look. A look at National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores for Kansas and the nation, grade 4 reading.
Project Wichita, remember Visioneering Wichita. As Project Wichita gets ready to gather information and set goals, let’s be aware that we’ve done this before, and not long ago.
Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2017 is $4,222,182. As in years past, a truthful accounting of the finances of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita shows a large loss.
NAEP results for 2017 available in interactive visualizations. When properly considered, Kansas often underperforms the nation in the most recent assessment of “The Nation’s Report Card.”
Business patterns in Kansas counties. Census data shows that some counties in Kansas are growing faster than others.
Effect of NCAA basketball tournament on Wichita hotel tax revenues. Hotel tax collections provide an indication of the economic impact of hosting a major basketball tournament.
State government tax collections. An interactive visualization of tax collections by state governments.
Wichita tourism fee budget. The Wichita City Council will consider a budget for the city’s tourism fee paid by hotel guests.
Kansas GDP falls. For 2017, the Kansas economy shrank, and just two states performed worse.
The overcriminalization in the charges against Michael O’Donnell. The indictment against Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell smells of overcriminalization.
State highways. Kansas has a lot of highway miles compared to its population. Interactive visualization included.
Wichita metropolitan area population in context. The growth of population in Wichita compared to other areas.
Lawrence has it. Wichita doesn’t. Despite promises, Wichita fails to inform citizens on important activities of its government.
State and local government employee and payroll. Considering all government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many compared to other states, and especially so in education.
Personal income in Kansas and Wichita. Personal income in Wichita and Kansas has declined.
Wichita in Best Cities for Jobs 2018. Wichita continues to decline in economic vitality, compared to other areas.
Kansas school standards remain high. Kansas school assessment standards remain at a high level, compared to other states. This is a welcome change from the past.
Downtown Wichita business trends. There has been much public and private investment in Downtown Wichita. What has been the trend in business activity during this time?
Wichita property tax still high on commercial property. An ongoing study reports that property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation.
Sedgwick County jobs. Sedgwick County had fewer jobs in 2017 than in 2016.
Kansas teachers union compliance instructions released. If you’re running for office in Kansas and want the support of the teachers union, here are questions you’ll need to answer their way.
Airport traffic statistics, 2017. Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2017.
Wichita and Midwest income. A look at income in Wichita compared to other Midwest cities.
Wichita jobs up. Wichita employment trends are positive for three consecutive months.
Kansas tax collections. If Kansas government doesn’t have enough money to meet spending requests, it’s not for the lack of collecting taxes.
Project Wichita survey. The Project Wichita survey is about to end. Will it have collected useful data?
Wichita business press needs to step up. If a newspaper is going to write a news story, it might as well take a moment to copy and paste information from a city council agenda packet. Especially when what is missing from the story is perhaps the most important information.
Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC mailing. In a campaign for Sedgwick County Commission, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC whips up a lie in order to criticize a candidate.
An endorsement from the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. When the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee endorses a candidate, consider what that means.
The Wichita Mayor on employment. On a televised call-in show, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell is proud of the performance of the city in growing jobs.
Taxers prefer Hugh Nicks for Sedgwick County Commission. Those who supported higher sales taxes in Wichita also support one Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican candidate exclusively.
Ranked-choice voting in Kansas. A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018.
Wichita school spending, according to the Wichita Eagle. A recent editorial by the largest newspaper in Kansas misinforms its readers.
Wichita Eagle argues for higher taxes. The Wichita Eagle editorial board wants higher taxes. Relying on its data and arguments will lead citizens to misinformed and uninformed opinions.
Business improvement district proposed in Wichita. The Douglas Design District proposes to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government (but doesn’t say so).
Wichita Eagle calls for a responsible plan for higher taxes. A Wichita Eagle editorial argues for higher property taxes to help the city grow.
Wichita being sued, alleging improper handling of bond repayment savings. A lawsuit claims that when the City of Wichita refinanced its special assessment bonds, it should have passed on the savings to the affected taxpayers, and it did not do that.
Local government employment in Kansas. Kansas has nearly the highest number of local government employees per resident, compared to other states.
Wichita checkbook updated. Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list.
Wichita, not that different. We have a lot of neat stuff in Wichita. Other cities do, too.
Kansas state and local taxes. Among nearby states, Kansas collects a lot of taxes, on a per-resident basis.
Wichita Wingnuts settlement: There are questions. It may be very expensive for the City of Wichita to terminate its agreement with the Wichita Wingnuts baseball club, and there are questions.
More TIF spending in Wichita. The Wichita City Council will consider approval of a redevelopment plan in a tax increment financing (TIF) district.
State government employees in Kansas. Kansas has more state government employees per resident than most states, and the trend is rising.
The use of sales tax proceeds in Wichita. Must the City of Wichita spend its share of Sedgwick County sales tax proceeds in a specific way?
Wichita economy shrinks, and a revision. The Wichita economy shrank in 2017, but revised statistics show growth in 2016.
GDP by metropolitan area and component. An interactive visualization of gross domestic product by metropolitan area and industry.
Kansas agriculture and the economy. What is the importance of agriculture to the Kansas economy?
Kansas school spending, through 2018. Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms.
Kansas highway spending. A look at actual spending on Kansas highways, apart from transfers.
Kansas highway pavement conditions. What is the condition of Kansas highways?
Pete Meitzner for Sedgwick County?. In normal times, Republicans may be reluctant to vote for a Democrat for the Sedgwick County Commission. But these are not normal times, and a vote for Pete Meitzner sends a message that we just don’t care about our economy.
Kansas GDP growth spurt. In the second quarter of 2018, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 4.7 percent, the seventh-best rate in the nation.
Sedgwick County Manager epitomizes duty, honor, country. As a Sedgwick County citizen and taxpayer, I have been distressed to see news reports about the scandals, FBI and other legal investigations, that involve this county commission. By Karl Peterjohn.
Kansas school salaries. An interactive visualization of Kansas school salaries by district and category.
Personal income in Wichita rises, but slowly. For 2017, personal income in Wichita rose, but slower than the national rate.
Kansas tax receipts. The Kansas Division of the Budget publishes monthly statistics regarding tax collections. I’ve gathered these and present them in an interactive visualization. Updated with data through October 2018.
Sedgwick County income and poverty. Census data show Sedgwick County continuing to fall behind the nation in two key measures.
It’s not the bonds, it’s the taxes. A Wichita Eagle headline reads “Wichita aircraft supplier plans 45 new jobs with $7.5 million bond request,” but important information is buried and incomplete.
Efficiencies in Sedgwick County government. A document that hasn’t been made public details savings achieved in Sedgwick County over a recent period of nearly three years.
Sedgwick County tax exemptions. Unlike the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County has kept track of its tax exemptions.
Starlite loan isn’t needed. The Wichita City Council seems poised to enter an unnecessarily complicated transaction.
Kansas tax credit scholarship program. An op-ed in the Wichita Eagle regarding school choice prompts uninformed and misinformed comments.
Following, from Karl Peterjohn, an account of why the Wichita Pachyderm Club is a valuable civic institution. The candidate mentioned in the article is Renee Duxler, running for Sedgwick County Commission District 1 (map is here). On her Facebook page she wrote “Proving once again that Democrats and Republicans can share ideas and thoughtful discussion within the same spaces … this gal ‘infiltrated’ the Wichita Pachyderm Club for a great presentation by Kyle Bauer, of KFRM radio, on the history and future of agriculture here in Kansas. They were very gracious and welcoming, and I enjoyed the experience immensely. Let’s keep the conversations going Sedgwick County!” Of note: Her opponent, Wichita City Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita), said he was “troubled” that the Pachyderm Club had a member who supported Duxler instead of him.
Political civility in our age of thuggery
By Karl Peterjohn
I want to protect the identity of the Democrat candidate who made the decision to attend the October 12 Pachyderm Club meeting in downtown Wichita. I am concerned that retribution from the leftist loons and Alinskyite thugs that inhabit the extremist, but increasingly mainstream wing of the Democrat Party could be substantial. This is not a partisan statement. A couple of days ago I saw an online report where a Pennsylvania Democrat was forced to resign his party position because of his pro-American beliefs.
While I was presiding as the substitute president, I had the task of introducing elected officials and during elections, candidates running for office. This is routine with anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen candidates in attendance as we were about four weeks away from an election.
I was informed that a Democrat candidate was attending this GOP meeting and I was asked to include her in the candidate introductions. In our current age where GOP members of Congress have been shot and assaulted by socialist and leftists (Steve Scalise and Rand Paul), where GOP offices from Manhattan to Wyoming have been vandalized this month, where GOP candidates in Minnesota have been physically attacked while campaigning, it would have been easy to decline this request. I considered doing this.
However, there should be civility in our public affairs, despite odious comments to the contrary from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, about civility being only for progressives, liberals, and leftists. Dare I say it, we increasingly live in a country and period of time where good political manners, are the exception and not the rule. Now the Pachyderm rules are clear, with all GOP candidates being endorsed for the general election ballot, but no position taken in contested primaries. The rule on public introductions is not clear, was left to the presiding officer, no matter how temporary he happens to be, at the podium.
When I got down to the Democrat candidate’s name I went ahead and introduced her to the Pachyderm Club members and guests. I did point out her party affiliation, and contrasted the Pachyderm’s polite treatment of this Democrat candidate with the vile statement from the Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder that violence, in the form of his admonition, “… kick them,” in attacking Republicans is increasingly the political standard today.
The Wichita Pachyderm Club has occasionally had democrats as speakers. I pointed this out. A prominent Wichita Democrat, Professor Mel Kahn, has spoken to Pachyderm and the informational speakers, whether they are talking about Plato, Alexander Hamilton, or at this meeting, agriculture in Kansas, do not have a partisan political subject. This speaker, KFRM radio’s Kyle Bauer, could have just as easily provided his excellent agriculture presentation to Democrats, Libertarians, or any other group of Kansans interested in this important part of our state’s economy (This is a free plug for Mr. Bauer who provided an exceptional agriculture presentation).
I believe that the Pachyderm Club provided an example of civility in the public policy arena. This is Kansas nice. Sadly, this is increasingly the exception in today’s toxic political climate where conservatives and Republican elected officials are harassed in public, harangued at restaurants, in office hallways, town hall meetings disrupted, and general nastiness under Representative Maxine Waters admonitions promoting thuggery are increasingly commonplace. I must admit, that in the past the Pachyderm Club has taken steps to make sure that disruptions, and disruptive behavior, did not occur from non-members who opposed a speaker at one of our meetings. How sad.
The Constitution of our country is the outline of how we govern ourselves. The states, and the localities and governmental bodies created by the states (like counties, cities, and school districts), are the public institutions we use to resolve public policy differences in our democratic republic. Our Constitution has been a model for the rest of the world since it was enacted in 1789. Other nations resolve their public policy differences by other ways, using other means. These often conflict with the liberty our Constitution and its amendments, tries to establish.
It has been said, that politics is a form of war by other means. We had one civil war, with over 600,000 killed and hundreds of thousands permanently injured, and that is a part of our nation’s history when our differences could not be resolved politically. Violence and thuggery should not be part of our future, but it is a present problem, and a growing threat to our republic.
I am glad that civility was alive and well at the Pachyderm Club on October 12. I hope that this becomes a model for other public meetings by other groups in the future. I am afraid that this political civility was an exception, but it does deserve public notice since the local news media was not in attendance.
A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018.
Most elections in America utilize plurality voting. Wikipedia explains: “Plurality voting is an electoral system in which each voter is allowed to vote for only one candidate, and the candidate who polls the most among their counterparts (a plurality) is elected. In a system based on single-member districts, it may be called first-past-the-post (FPTP), single-choice voting, simple plurality or relative/simple majority.” 1
Consider the recent primary election for the Republican party nomination for Kansas governor. It was close, with Governor Colyer at 40.513% of the vote and Secretary of State Kris Kobach at 40.622%. With 316,437 votes having been cast, the difference is like one vote out of every 372 votes cast.
In a close election like this, there is intense campaigning, not only among the candidates, but also among their supporters. If there are more than two candidates — there were seven in this contest — campaigning may consist of persuading voters that if you don’t vote for my candidate, you’re just throwing your vote away. Other strategic voting arguments may be made. There is, however, a way to let everyone vote for who they really like.
Simplify just a bit. Suppose there were three candidates: Jim Barnett, Jeff Colyer, and Kris Kobach. On the political landscape. Barnett is a (self-described, I believe) moderate. Kobach is far to the conservative spectrum. Colyer is somewhere between the two, at least according to Kobach supporters, as they regularly slam Colyer for not being conservative enough (whatever that means).
In the pre-election polls Barnett showed much less support than Colyer or Kobach. Also, conventional wisdom was that Barnett and Colyer are more like each other than either is like Kobach.
So, in a regular election, called a plurality election, how do voters decide? No doubt some voters prefer a specific candidate and would not consider voting for anyone else. Other voters may not be as committed, or are willing to express multiple preferences.
As an example, suppose the preferences of voters — the true preference in their heart of hearts, without any thought of strategic voting, just who they really want to be governor — looks like this:
Who wins this election, if every voter votes their true preference? Kobach.
But remember, Barnett and Colyer are more like each other than they are similar to Kobach. So Colyer supporters are likely to be thinking “Look, our candidate is so different from Kobach, what if just a few Barnett voters had voted for Colyer?” The answer to that question is if 20% (plus one) of the Barnett voters had voted for Colyer, Kobach would lose to Colyer.
This type of strategic voting is what the Colyer campaign recommended. A Colyer television ad advised ““A vote for [Jim Barnett or Ken Selzer] is essentially a vote for Kris Kobach, increasing his chance of victory” 2 Evidently, the Colyer campaign believed that the anti-Kobach vote is larger than the pro-Kobach vote, but is split between two candidates, with neither of them individually having more support than Kobach. (Ignore Ken Selzer for a moment, please.)
So what if you prefer Barnett and really dislike Kobach? Do you vote your true preference, or do you vote strategically to deny Kobach the victory? Will that strategy really work? Why can’t I vote for someone rather than against someone?
Your ballot instructions state “Select one candidate only.” But suppose the instructions were “Rank these candidates in order of preference, with 1 meaning most-preferred.” You might mark your ballot like this:
This voter is saying something like this: “I really like Jim Barnett, but if he doesn’t get a majority of votes, I prefer Jeff Colyer over Kris Kobach.”
This is ranked-choice voting. In the example above, if everyone votes their true preferences without strategic voting, 40% of voters would have marked Kobach as their first preference. But 40% is not a majority, so using ranked-choice voting, here’s what happens:
First, because Barnett has the lowest number of first preferences, he is eliminated from the contest.
Then, the counters look at Barnett voters’ second preferences, either Colyer or Kobach, and assign votes accordingly. In the example ballot above, the voter selected Colyer as his second preference. Therefore, that vote is transferred from Barnett to Colyer. If the voter had ranked Kobach second, the vote would be transferred to Kobach.
In this example, since there are just three candidates, after the Barnett votes are transferred to Colyer or Kobach, the vote-counting is over and there is a winner, or a tie. (If a contest has just two candidates, there is no need for ranked-choice voting, unless there is an alternative to vote for “none of the above.”)
Who would win in this example? If it true that Barnett is more like Colyer than Kobach, it is likely that Barnett voters mostly ranked Colyer as their second preference. So Colyer would have a majority, and wins.
The actual situation in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary was more complex, with seven candidates. But ranked-choice voting works the same, although it may take several rounds of counting to determine the winner.
The results of the Republican party primary are nearby. As you can see, the top four candidates received 97.8% of the vote. Were votes for candidates other than Colyer or Kobach wasted votes? What if those who voted for Barnett, Selzer, Kucera, Ruzich, or Tutera had been able to indicate their second preference?
In the Kansas primary there were other major contests with multiple candidates: House of Representatives District 2 for Republicans, House of Representatives District 3 for Democrats, and governor for Republicans and Democrats. Looking forward to the general election, there will be five candidates for governor, one each from the Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties, and two independents.
- Wikipedia. Plurality voting. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plurality_voting. ↩
- Stephen Koranda. Colyer Ad Says Some Candidates Could Spoil Race for Kansas Governor. Available at http://kansaspublicradio.org/kpr-news/colyer-ad-says-some-candidates-could-spoil-race-kansas-governor. ↩
In the campaign for a Sedgwick County Commission position, character is an issue.
On his Facebook campaign page for Sedgwick County Commission, candidate Hugh Nicks wrote: “This election is about numerous issues, with jobs being #1. But quality of character is a strong second.” 1
A value that Hugh Nicks promotes on his campaign website and in printed material is “Debate respectfully.” 2
It’s richly ironic that Nicks makes character an issue, because his campaigning is rife with outright lies and logic-twisting distortions about his opponent Richard Ranzau.
And if Hugh Nicks values respectful debate, he could elevate the discourse by stopping the lies.
This campaign has gone beyond the usual character-bashing and self-promotion we expect.
It’s not only Nicks himself that is campaigning dishonestly. The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC is also lying and distorting.
It’s true that the Chamber PAC is campaigning for Nicks (and against Ranzau) independently. The PAC speaks for itself.
But if Hugh Nicks is aware of the dishonest campaigning by the Chamber PAC, there’s nothing to stop him from publicly denouncing and disavowing the Chamber. That would be a positive display of character, showing he values truth more than holding political office.
(If Nicks is not aware, or if he doesn’t realize the Chamber PAC’s campaigning is dishonest, that itself is a problem.)
Instead, Nicks embraces and promotes the Chamber PAC’s endorsement.
Hugh Nicks, should he lose the election next week, will fade from public attention. But the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and its PAC won’t. The Chamber will still be involved in civic life and political campaigns.
That’s too bad. The people of Wichita want to trust their business and civic leaders. We want the Chamber and its surrogates and affiliates like Greater Wichita Partnership to succeed in shepherding the Wichita economy.
But the Chamber is shaming itself in this campaign.
The record of the Hugh Nicks campaign
Allegation: On July 23, 2018, Hugh Nicks wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page: “Richard Ranzau has spent the last 8 YEARS saying ‘NO’ to our safety. Voting against support for law enforcement.” An article from the Wichita Business Journal is then linked to. The subject of the article was the proposed WSU Law Enforcement Training Center.
Truth: The article reports that Richard Ranzau and all commissioners voted to defer a decision on the training center for one week. Then, Ranzau and all commissioners voted in favor of building the center. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks and the law enforcement training center.
Allegation: Hugh Nicks wrote this on his campaign’s Facebook page, referring to Richard Ranzau: “And even questioned the need for handicapped-accessible recreational options.”
Truth: Richard Ranzau asked questions about a proposed ADA-compliant fishing dock with a cost of $53,500. The next week commissioners were told that the dock cost was just $26,162, with other things like site prep, a sidewalk, and an access road adding up to $53,500. With this additional information, Ranzau and all commissioners approved the project. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks and the Sedgwick County fishing dock.
Allegation: In a campaign mailing paid for by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, Richard Ranzau is criticized: “Ranzau also suggested that Wichita annex a large local job-creating aerospace employer to generate more tax revenue.”
Truth: This claim is based on a farcical interpretation of what the commissioner actually said. Richard Ranzau did not suggest that Wichita annex Spirit Aerosystems. He merely illustrated that property taxes within the City of Wichita are higher than those outside the city. For more on this, see Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC mailing.
Allegation. On his Facebook page, Hugh Nicks accuses Richard Ranzau of “Voting against our community’s children and babies.”
Truth: Regarding the WIC program, no needy women or children went without the ability to use this program. The commission voted to reduce spending on administrative costs. The commission does not have the authority to set qualifications for participating in the program, nor does the commission set the level of benefits, that is, the amount of money and services participants receive. The county merely administers the program according to federal and state guidelines. For more on this, see Hugh Nicks: Misinformed, or lying?
Allegation: On Facebook, Hugh Nicks wrote: “He was the ONLY ‘NO’ vote for funding the Greater Wichita Partnership.”
Truth: The article Nicks uses as evidence states: “Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau took on the Greater Wichita Partnership on Wednesday, questioning why the public-private economic development coalition needs more county money to focus its strategy.” This extra funding was to pay for a consultant to focus on a strategic plan and regional strategy. It wasn’t for funding the basic operations of GWP.
Allegation: On Facebook, Hugh Nicks wrote: “He was the ONLY ‘NO’ vote for the county’s investment at Spirit AeroSystems to create 1,000 new high-paying jobs.”
Truth: In a television interview, Ranzau said that no economic development official could tell him that the incentives were necessary for the Spirit project to proceed in Wichita. One fellow commissioner said the incentive was needed to “show Spirit we care.”
- Nicks For County Commission Facebook page, July 27, 2018. Available at https://www.facebook.com/NicksForCountyCommission/posts/2027095350699179. ↩
- http://www.nicks4commissioner.com/, viewed August 1, 2018. ↩
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kansas Secretary of State Candidates. While the Secretary of State might be considered merely a bureaucratic record-keeping position, current Secretary Kris Kobach has elevated its prominence. It has also been a breeding ground for gubernatorial candidates, including Kobach, Ron Thornburgh, and Bill Graves. This was recorded July 27, 2018.
Candidates appearing in this forum are:
When the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee endorses a candidate, consider what that means.
If you’ve been following analyst James Chung — and it seems like everyone has — he’s delivered a sobering message: The Wichita economy has not been growing. “[Wichita has been] stuck in neutral for about three decades, with basically no growth, amidst the landscape of a growing U.S. economy,” he said. (In fact, in 2016 the Wichita economy shrank from the previous year, and numbers for 2017 don’t look much better.)
Chung says we need to change our ways. In his June visit he said, and the Chung Report wrote, “Every market signal points to the same conclusion: The manner in which Wichita is operating during this critical point in our history is just not working.”
So what needs to change? Chung won’t say, but here are two things:
First, there are some elected officials and bureaucrats who have presided over the stagnation of Wichita. These people need to go.
Second, there are also institutions that are problems, with one glaring example. In one way or another, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has taken the lead in economic development for many years. In recent years the Chamber ran Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. Now the effort has been split off to a non-profit corporation, the Greater Wichita Partnership.
That sounds good, but under the hood it’s the same leadership and the same methods, although with a few new hired hands.
So when James Chung (and others) says our manner of operation is not working, it’s the Wichita Chamber of Commerce and its ecosystem that must assume a large portion of blame.
Not only has the Wichita Chamber manner of operation not been working, its leadership hasn’t been working, either. In 2014 the Chamber showed charts of Wichita job growth as compared to the nation and other cities, and Wichita was near the bottom. The Chamber’s response was to advocate for a Wichita city sales tax, some to be used for economic development, but also for water supply enhancement, street repair, and bus transit improvement.
The Chamber managed the political campaign for the sales tax, and in November 2014, 62 percent of Wichita voters said no.
After this, what did the Chamber do? It had told Wichitans that an economic development fund fed by sales tax revenue was essential. Then, the sales tax vote failed. But that isn’t the only way to fund what the Chamber said we needed. The Chamber could have asked the Wichita city council to raise property taxes, and the council could have done that with a simple majority vote of its members. (Since then it has become more difficult, but still possible, to raise local property taxes.)
Or, the city could have raised franchise fees. These are like a sales tax added to utility bills. This could also have been accomplished with a simple majority vote of the council. The council could do it today, if its members wanted to.
None of these possibilities were pursued, at least to my knowledge. The Wichita Chamber of Commerce, after advocating for a sales tax it said was essential, gave up after defeat. It recommended that Wichitans vote to impose a sales tax themselves, but when it came to something it could have accomplished — new taxes through city council votes — the Chamber backed away.
The Chamber then formed the Greater Wichita Partnership. But many of the people who supported the Chamber’s sales tax are directing the operations of GWP, serving its strategic advisory team and the more-exclusive executive board.
This includes the president and CEO of the Wichita Chamber, who was also president during the sales tax campaign.
The Chamber endorsements
So when the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC supports candidates, spends money on their behalf, and issues endorsements, what should voters think?
Voters should remember that the Wichita Chamber has presided over the wreckage of the Wichita economy, its leaders still call the shots, and still wants to raise taxes, I believe.
Plus, these people will not accept responsibility for the harm they have caused.
This is a shame, because we want to be proud of our civic leadership. We want to have faith in our elected officials and bureaucrats.
But that isn’t the case in Wichita. Keep this in mind when considering candidates endorsed by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC.
The Project Wichita survey is about to end. Will it have collected useful data?
Project Wichita is “a community engagement process to identify the future we want for our home and the steps necessary to achieve it.” 1 So far it has held focus groups that collected ideas for the future of Wichita, in which “an astounding 3,800+ people 2 shared their vision in 239+ focus groups,” according to the project’s Facebook page. The survey, which is ending on July 6, is another component of the “listen” phase of the project, with “focus” and “share” phases still to come.
The survey may be taken on-line or by paper. The online survey is implemented as a number of pages, each concerning a topic. The first page is titled “Vision for Our Region: Please indicate your level of agreement with the following for developing a vision for the Wichita region. Our region should be a place that:” Following are several items like “all children have the chance to succeed.” Respondents are asked to select one of these responses for each item:
- Strongly Disagree
- Strongly Agree
The second page is titled “Strong Neighborhoods. Please indicate the importance of investing resources (time, human resources, money) in the following for developing and supporting safe and strong neighborhoods throughout our region.” A sample item is “Repair deteriorating homes to improve neighborhoods.” Respondents may choose from these responses:
- Not important investment
- Slightly important investment
- Moderately important investment
- Very important investment
- Essential investment
There is no opportunity to answer in any way other than these responses. There is no possibility of leaving a comment.
The question of the importance of investment continues with slight variation for six more pages on these topics:
- Economic Advantage and Opportunity
- Cultural Arts
- Attractions and Entertainment
- Education; Community Wellness
- Wichita Riverfront and Downtown Development
Then a page titled Regional Perspectives: “Please tell us your thoughts about the following regional questions” where participants are asked to indicate their degree of agreement or disagreement with the following:
- I think an increase in population would make the Wichita region thrive.
- I am optimistic about the future of the Wichita region.
- I think the Wichita region has to be willing to change to keep and attract the next generation.
Then there are some demographic questions.
First, the responses that the project will collect are from a self-selected group of respondents. There is no way to guarantee or know that the respondents are a representative sample of area residents. The focus groups had the same problem. This has been a problem with Wichita’s outreach in the past. In 2014 the city was quite proud of its engagement and positive response regarding the proposed city sales tax. Then, on election day, 62 percent of voters said no. 3 (Of course, those who vote are also a self-selected group of respondents. On the sales tax question, 103,290 people cast a vote. 4 For that year, the Census Bureau estimated there were 283,780 people of voting age in Wichita. 5 So 36.4 percent of the eligible voters made the decision for the rest, voters and non-voters, and also for those too young or ineligible to vote. But when we ask to settle issues by voting, voters are the people who make the decisions.)
Another problem has to do with the preface to the many questions asking about the importance of making investments in various things. What is missing is whose resources are to be invested? Yours? Mine? Someone we don’t know?
Related is that almost all the items participants are asked to rate are things that almost everyone agrees are good. Who could not strongly agree with investing so that “all children have the chance to succeed?” I suppose that some people might select “Very important investment” instead of “Essential investment” for some items. That might produce a shade of difference in the importance of items.
What would really be useful, however, is asking participants to rank the importance of investing in each item, from most important to least important, with no ties allowed. Instructions might be worded like “Rank the importance of investing in the following five areas. 1 is the most important investment, while 5 is the least important. You must assign a rank to each item, and there may be no ties.”
Then, to make things really useful: Ask participants to produce rankings for the importance of public sector investment, and separate rankings for the importance of private sector investment.
Understanding and distinguishing the difference between public and private investment is vital. When people believe that others will be paying, there is no limit to what people want. Milton Friedman knew this: “When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends. And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you.” (For more, see Friedman: The fallacy of the welfare state.)
People recognize this. Remarks left on Facebook on the Project Wichita page 6 included this by one writer:
Just took survey! One would think “they” want to convert Wichita or Kansas to socialism. I’m a liberal conservative Democrat and yet questions are very concerning and disturbing.
Following up, the same person wrote:
Applaud the effort however many of the questions concerning me as it relates to governments role in community and well-being of such. … At what point should community and individuals be primarily responsible for many of the topics you address in your survey?
Another Facebook user wrote:
Your survey is great but you left out a very important piece of information. WHO is going to provide the money for the investments that are queried in your survey? A lot of areas need investment of funds but, those funds should come from the private sector, not public sector. As a result of the inability to discern a difference in the source of required investments, the survey is somewhat useless.”
Yet another from Facebook:
Each of your questions should be followed by the question, “How much are you personally willing to pay for this line item” or “Which government service should be eliminated to pay for this line item”. Your list will get quite short when people are asked to spend their own money rather than other people’s money.
These basic defects preclude this effort as being serious social science research. Yet, that is likely how it will be presented, especially since a university agency is involved.
Of note: Project Wichita has no official opinion as who should pay for these investments. Cynics — that is, realists — believe that programs like Project Wichita are designed to convince citizens to support increased taxes or debt issues to be repaid with future taxes, with those future taxes undoubtedly higher.
One reason for this suspicion is that portions of the Project Wichita process are being managed by Wichita State University’s Public Policy and Management Center. 7 Its director and its associated academics have a clear preference for higher taxes, at one time writing a paper advising cities to create “more willing taxpayers.” 8
Other people and companies that Project Wichita identifies as part of the “Vision Team” (or “funders”) also made large contributions to the campaign for a Wichita City sales tax in 2014:
- Allen Gibbs & Houlik, L.C.
- Jon Rolph and his company Sasnak
- The Chandler family and Intrust Bank
- GLMV Architecture
- Emprise Bank
- Spirit Aerosystems
- Commerce Bank
- Equity Bank
- Cox Machine
- Westar Energy
- Professional Engineering Consultants
- Star Lumber
- Bothner & Bradley and its principals
- Lubrication Engineers
- Jeff Fluhr, head of Downtown Wichita and now also Greater Wichita Partnership
Some of these companies regularly receive economic development incentives from the City of Wichita or do business with the city. Some are subject to the city’s regulations such as zoning and permitting.
It’s difficult to digest all this without concluding that Project Wichita project is designed to develop a case — an appetite — for higher taxes. That’s even before realizing that the driving force behind Project Wichita — according to word on the street — is Jon Rolph, who was the chair of the campaign for the Wichita city sales tax in 2014. Further, Project Wichita is sharing offices with the Greater Wichita Partnership and Downtown Wichita, two organizations always in favor of the expansion of government.
Besides general problems with the survey instrument, there are these problems with individual items:
“Improve the current public transit system (e.g. expand routes, expand hours).” There may be support for spending public funds on this, even if it means raising taxes. This was one of the uses for the proposed Wichita city sales tax in 2014. It was bundled with other items, and voters defeated the tax.
“Make flights from Wichita Eisenhower National Airport more affordable.” We’ve spent a lot doing this. The city and the airport say the programs have been successful.
“Increase direct flights from Wichita Eisenhower National Airport.” This is an area that could use improvement. The number of departures and the number of available seats on departing flights has been underperforming the nation, despite much investment in the forms of tax-funded subsidies for airlines. There is also a new airport terminal.
“Offer more diverse entertainment options (e.g. music festivals, restaurants, theme parks).” There are many people trying to figure out what type of restaurants are wanted in Wichita, and where. These people are motivated by profit. It’s difficult to believe that government could do a better job of deciding upon, and operating, restaurants.
“Support entrepreneurial opportunities.” There is an organization doing this, e2e. More broadly, when the city offers economic development incentives, it makes it harder for young, entrepreneurial companies to survive as they must bear the cost of incentives and compete with incentivized companies for labor and capital. 9
Under education, a topic that is glaringly omitted is school choice. Parents like having the possibility of school choice, especially parents who can’t afford private school tuition. Plus, school choice, like charter schools, could help control “sprawl,” something that is often seen as a negative factor. If parents who want to live in central Wichita could have access to school choice in nearby schools, it might counter the commonly-held perception that if you want good schools for your children, you must buy a home outside the Wichita school district.
“Provide modern performing arts center (e.g. symphony, music theater, opera) that meets the region’s needs.” and “Provide a modern convention center that attracts more conventions and events.” These are topics that Wichita will likely be grappling with soon, and in a real way. Wichita has already hired a consultant to study this issue. (More information is at Century II resource center.) A task force is studying the issue. Soon, it is quite likely that residents of Wichita or Sedgwick County may be asked to approve a sales tax to fund a convention center and possible a performing arts center. Or, citizens suffer the implementation of Design Build Finance Operate and Maintain (DBFOM), or P3. In this model as applied to Wichita, a third party would do all the work of designing, financing, building, and operating a convention center and possibly a performing arts center. Then, the city simply pays a fee each year to use the center, called an “availability payment.” This is simple a way to disguise long-term debt. See Wichita about to commit to more spending. Bigly. for more about this.
Cynics — that is, realists — believe that programs like Project Wichita are designed to convince citizens to support these taxes or debt issues. (By the way, the convention center business is a poor way to build a city’s economy. See Should Wichita expand its convention facilities?.)
- Project Wichita. Available at https://www.projectwichita.org/. ↩
- With the population of the city of Wichita at about 388,000, (U.S. Census Bureau. 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates), nearly one percent participated. ↩
- Sedgwick County Election Office. Available at https://www.sedgwickcounty.org/elections/election-results/2014-general/. ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- U.S. Census Bureau. 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. ↩
- Available at https://www.facebook.com/ProjectWichita/. ↩
- “Volunteers wanted the regional 10-year vision and action plan Project Wichita process to include big discussions from as many people as possible. So Wichita State University’s (WSU) Public Policy and Management Center team built a custom process for gathering input across the region. The process includes focus groups with individuals and organizations, gathering feedback at diverse community events, online surveys and robust social media engagement.” Project Wichita. Process. Available at https://www.projectwichita.org/process. ↩
- Misty Bruckner is the Director. A few years ago Brucker she and her colleagues co-authored a paper titled “Citizen Attachment: Building Sustainable Communities. See http://www.gfoa.org/sites/default/files/GFR_OCT_10_24.pdf. My reporting on it was titled Wichita needs more, and willing, taxpayers. An excerpt: “Increasingly, citizens are retreating from their responsibilities to community and demanding more from government than they are willing to pay for. But changes in local government behavior can be instrumental in reversing this trend, by strengthening citizens’ commitment to the well-being of their communities. Citizens who are committed to community are more willing to accept responsibility for the well-being of their fellow citizens and are also more likely to join with government and other parties to improve their communities. Citizens who are committed to community are also more willing taxpayers — that is, when government demonstrates that it can be trusted to invest public resources in ways that strengthen the community. The central thrust of this model is getting citizens and governments to work together, but realistically, many communities will require new revenue — including additional tax dollars — if they are to assemble the critical mass of resources necessary for meaningful change. Accordingly, citizens who are willing to pay increased taxes are an important component of building sustainable communities.” (emphasis added) ↩
- See Weeks, Bob. Job creation at young firms declines. https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/job-creation-at-young-firms-declines/. Also: “Part of the cost of these companies’ investment, along with the accompanying risk, is spread to a class of business firms that can’t afford additional cost and risk. These are young startup firms, the entrepreneurial firms that we need to nurture in order to have real and sustainable economic growth and jobs. But we can’t identify which firms will be successful. So we need an economic development strategy that creates an environment where these young entrepreneurial firms have the greatest chance to survive. The action the Wichita city council is considering this week works against entrepreneurial firms.” Weeks, Bob. Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-grant-property-sales-tax-relief/. ↩
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kansas Governor Dr. Jeff Colyer, who is also Candidate for Kansas Governor. This is part of a series in which all major Republican candidates will speak. Recorded May 18, 2018.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State and Candidate for Kansas Governor. This is part of a series in which all major Republican candidates will speak. Recorded May 11, 2018.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Ken Selzer, Kansas Insurance Commissioner and candidate for Kansas Governor. This is part of a series in which all major Republican candidates will speak. Recorded May 4, 2018.
Showing monthly value and 12-month trailing moving average.
A column written by Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell ignores the reality of Wichita’s economy.
For example, he wrote how Wichita is a “thriving city in a brand new age of possibility.” Construction and change is everywhere, he said.
The problem is this: Even though there seems to be a lot of construction and change, Wichita isn’t thriving.
There are several ways to gauge the economic health of a city. Jobs are probably most important, especially to politicians, and jobs data is available on a frequent and timely basis. And when we look at Wichita’s growth in nonfarm jobs, we see Wichita lagging far behind the nation.
It wasn’t always that way. Nearby charts show the ratio of Wichita job growth to the nation. When the line is above the value one, it means Wichita was outpacing the nation.
Wichita has done that many times — growing faster than the nation. But that hasn’t been the case recently. In fact, as the charts show, the ratio of Wichita to the nation is sinking. Wichita is falling farther behind.
But despite this evidence, the mayor wrote, “In the coming years, we’re going to continue our growth pattern, and we need passionate individuals supporting and expanding upon our efforts.”
I sincerely hope the mayor is not aware of the poor performance of the Wichita-area economy. Because if he is aware, and he promises to “continue our growth pattern,” we’re in for continued trouble. Did you know that the Wichita-area economy shrank from 2015 to 2016? That is, we produced fewer goods and services in 2016 than in 2015, after accounting for inflation. 2 Is this the growth pattern the mayor promises to continue?
Finally, the mayor issued this plea: “We can’t be complacent in our comfort. We must reconcile our vibrant history with a limitless future. Let’s shed the stigma of what we have been and embrace the vibrant mantle of what we’re becoming.”
First, anyone who’s complacently comfortable is uninformed or unbelieving of the statistics regarding the Wichita economy.
Second, “what we’re becoming” is a low-growth area, falling behind the rest of the country, with the gap growing. The opposite of “vibrant.”
Then, the “stigma of what we have been” describes Mayor Longwell and other long-time officeholders and bureaucrats. It is they who have taken responsibility for the development of the Wichita-area economy. It is their decisions and policies that have led to our slow growth. They are eager to take credit for the successes we do have. But as the mayor’s ill-informed article shows, they are not willing to accept responsibility for failure, much less to even acknowledge the truth.
For other measures of the Wichita economy, see:
- Growing the Wichita economy. Wichita leaders are proud of our region’s economic growth. Here are the numbers.
- Metro Monitor evaluates the Wichita economy. Metro Monitor from Brookings Institution ranks metropolitan areas on economic performance. How does Wichita fare?
- Greater Wichita Partnership asks for help. Wichita’s economic development agency asks for assistance in developing its focus and strategies.
- Wichita personal income up, a little. For 2016, personal income in Wichita rose, but is still below 2014 levels.
- Wichita employment up. Employment in the Wichita metropolitan area is on an upward tick.
- Longwell, Jeff. All Wichitans have a part in pushing forward. Wichita Eagle, March 4, 2018. Available at http://www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article203559924.html. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Wichita economy shrinks. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/wichita-economy-shrinks/. ↩
“None of the Above” voting lets voters cast a meaningful vote, and that can start changing things.
As a voter, would you like to express your displeasure with the choices on your ballot? Are you tired of voting for the lesser of two evils? Would you like to have a reason to go to the polls even though it seems the contests are already settled?
If so, then NOTA, or “None of the Above,” may appeal to you. In this system, candidates for offices are listed on your ballot. Then, an additional choice is added: “None of the Above.” (Sometimes the language is like “None of these candidates.”)
Politicians don’t like “None of the Above.” Appearing on WichitaLiberty.TV recently, John Fund told of how a politician worried that he might lose to an empty chair, meaning that “None of the Above” received more votes. Fund retorted that would be true only if the chair was better.
What would we do if “None of the Above” won the election, having received more votes than any other candidate?
Would the second-place candidate be declared the winner and take office? This is the case in Nevada. In this case, the “None of the Above” vote’s role is advisory, indicating widespread dissatisfaction with the candidates. But that’s a powerful message.
Or, would the election be declared to have no winner? Then, would a new election be held? Could the same candidates run again, or would they be eliminated? This would be disruptive and have the cost of holding a new election. But this is better than electing someone who can’t earn more votes than “None of the Above.”
Why is voter turnout so low? One common reason given is that some people don’t like any of the candidates, so they don’t vote. But if a person doesn’t vote, what message do they send? What statement do they make? Apathy? Disgust? Adding a NOTA choice to ballots lets these dissatisfied voters cast a vote, and a meaningful vote. There is no confusion. It says to the parties: “I don’t like the choices you’ve given me. Try again.”
Other people regularly vote. Perhaps a person votes because they really like one or more candidates. These people are able to make satisfying votes. Or if they really dislike a candidate, they can cast a satisfying vote against that person. But: What if the other candidate (or candidates) are no better, or have other problems? Must a person vote for the “lesser of two evils” in order to make a statement? What statement is that? In election results, a vote for candidate A from someone who really likes him is indistinguishable from a vote for candidate A solely because the other candidates are worse.
On the choices we had in the 2016 presidential election, Zach Ruby wrote in The Federalist:
Our government’s legitimacy is based on the consent of the governed. But our elections are structured so that the only way to withhold consent is not to vote. Low turnout may signal our disinterest or disapproval, but one of the unqualified candidates will still become president. We need a way to withhold consent through voting. That means we need None of the Above (NOTA) to be on the ballot.
With “None of the Above,” voters can take a positive step that says, “we do not consent to these choices.”
(Ruby noted that there were candidates besides Hillary Clinton and Donald trump on most ballots. But votes for third-party candidates often feel like “wasted” votes. Ranked preference voting can help in this regard.)
A vote of protest is important. Often I’ve refrained from voting for any listed candidates because I felt none were worthy to hold office. Sometimes I’ve felt that there should not be an office (Insurance Commissioner comes to mind), so I did not cast a vote for that office. It’s my own little way of protesting. In election lingo this is called an “undervote.” It has little meaning, because people undervote for many reasons. But voting for “None of the Above” gives voters a meaningful choice in instances like this.
Voting for the lesser of two evils is a choice we often face as voters. In the recent Wichita school board election, there was one contest between a thoroughly despicable incumbent and a challenger whose ideology is distinctly Marxist. Who to vote for in this instance? “None of the Above” would be a satisfying — and correct — choice. Voting for “None of the Above” sends a message that neither candidate is acceptable.
Voters who really need a “None of the Above” choice are those in Alabama. Do you want to send a liberal Democrat to the United States Senate? If your answer is no, then your only choice — if you want to vote — is to vote for a candidate facing credible charges of child molestation. That’s a choice we shouldn’t have to make. “None of the Above” voting lets voters cast a meaningful vote that says “I do not consent to these choices,” and that can start changing things.