The November elections are likely to define the course of this country for far longer than the next four years.
In 1994, voters throughout the country called for a change in the way Washington is run. They wanted a severe cutback in the growing federal government intrusion into the lives and activities of most Americans. Voters put enough Republican Senate and House candidates in office to give the nation a GOP-controlled Congress.
The "Contract With America" outlined the Republican position on a wide range of issues, and voters showed their support of these proposals at the ballot box. The impact of this voter message was recognized by President Bill Clinton and other Democratic leaders, and there was an almost-immediate shift in their public political philosophy.
Clinton and his fellow liberal Democrats were quick to try to convince the public they were abandoning many of their liberal positions. It was a footrace among many Democrats to see who could appear to move more quickly to a moderate, middle-of-the-road" political position. They realized the public was sick of the years of Democratic control of Congress, and the only way they could hope to be re-elected was to move to a more conservative stance.
The GOP-controlled House and Senate tried to carry through on most of the pledges outlined in their "Contract," but time and time again, Clinton vetoed the efforts. In the process, Clinton and his fellow Democrats moderated their positions on issues. The pressure of a GOP Congress forced Clinton and the Democratic House and Senate members to change their stands on issues and, by taking a more conservative position, actually strengthened their support among many Democrats and some Republicans.
A GOP Congress was one of the major factors in helping Clinton move to a more middle-of-the-road posture and subsequently steal some of the thunder from the GOP. He gave his approval to the issues he liked and believed would play well with the public and opposed efforts that did not have much public support.
He played it both ways, depending on what would be the most popular with voters and, in so doing, tried to picture the Republicans as uncaring and insensitive to the needs of the people. The lawmakers calling for major reforms and greater fiscal accountability were called "radicals" and "extremists."
Voters placed GOP lawmakers in Congress to bring about long-overdue changes, but when House and Senate members followed through on some of these matters, they were portrayed as trying to take food out of the mouths of schoolchildren, denying aid to the elderly and many other similar actions. It wasn't true, but the national media was accommodating and helped the Clinton Administration scare the public.
In November, the public will show whether it still supports the concepts of the "Contract." Republicans fulfilled many of their 1994 campaign pledges, but when it came time for some sacrifices, many citizens claimed the cuts were too severe or should be imposed on others rather than on themselves.
If Democrats should win control of the House and Senate, and if Clinton should be re-elected, there will be no stopping the Democrats in their goal to develop a more sweeping welfare nation and to have government play an increasing role in the lives and actions of all Americans. The temporary illusion of a more moderate Clinton and a middle-of-the-road Democratic Congress will be shattered and abandoned in an instant.
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Here in Kansas, it seems egos have gotten in the way of sound politics. Kansas Republicans should be making an all-out effort to win both vacant U.S. Senate seats and the four U.S. House seats.
Unfortunately, the good of the party has been shoved to the sidelines, and various elements within the party seem more concerned about getting their candidate elected than in making sure a Republican wins the race.
As a result, they are giving Democratic candidates a far better chance of winning seats in Congress.
The Brownback-Frahm race is a perfect example. Rep. Sam Brownback was quick to announce his candidacy for the seat being vacated by presidential hopeful Bob Dole.
However, Gov. Bill Graves who had been gaining increased support and stature for the job he had been doing in guiding the state appointed Lt. Gov. Sheila Frahm to fill the Senate vacancy.
Since then, Graves and Sen. Nancy Kassebaum have been strong in their support of Frahm rather than remaining neutral during the primary campaign period.
Many are asking why Graves and Kassebaum would take such action, and there is no easy-to-understand explanation.
Both Frahm and Brownback are able candidates, but voters should be asking themselves which person is likely to give Kansas the best representation in Washington. Which would be the most effective and respected senator? Which candidate has the best background and experience to make a difference in Washington?
Unless there is something terribly wrong with Brownback, it is difficult to understand why Graves muddied the water by naming Frahm to fill the Dole vacancy after Brownback had announced his candidacy.
If the goal is to have a Republican in the Senate to take the place of Dole, why weaken the GOP effort by splitting the party in the primary election? It doesn't make much sense, unless Brownback has done something to anger both Graves and Kassebaum. Lacking that, it looks as if the governor wants to name the next senator, rather than to have Kansas voters make the selection.
This is not the way for the GOP to remain strong and in control of Congress after the November elections. GOP leaders should hope this type of activity is not being repeated in other states around the country.
If it is, it offers Democrats a far better chance of taking back control of Congress and retaining the White House.
This would not be good for the country.