Elections

A Mid-Term Wake-Up Call from Kansas

Kansas congressional candidate James Thompson (Campaign ad image/YouTube)
Socialists believe they can win in Kansas. Republicans shouldn't underestimate them.

Candidates backed by socialists Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won an upset victory in her primary in New York, are hardly running the table this primary election cycle. But they are winning in unexpected places.

The latest example is last month’s upset victory by Andrew Gillum, a Bernie Sanders–backed candidate, in the Democratic primary for governor in Florida. A socialist-backed candidate, James Thompson, also won the Democratic primary in the district I represent, Kansas’s fourth congressional district, which comprises Wichita and a large swath of south-central Kansas.

Socialist luminaries Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders made a special stop in Kansas in July to stump for Thompson and to make a point: If socialists can win in Kansas, they can win anywhere. At a rally for him, Ocasio-Cortez invoked Kansas’s history of being a bellwether, going back to 1861 when it became a free state. “Kansas was founded in a struggle over the conscience of this nation,” she said. “Kansas has delivered before, and it will deliver again.”

Thompson and Ocasio-Cortez have it in reverse. Kansas is indeed a free state at its core. But it will deliver the nation from, not to, the shackles of socialism.

Thompson recently released a poll claiming that he is behind me by only four points. Normally this wouldn’t be anything to brag about. But when you’re a socialist, it’s big news.

What Thompson, and socialists across America, won’t share is what happens when voters learn about socialists’ radical agenda to raise taxes, increase spending, abolish ICE, limit Second (and even First) Amendment rights, increase judicial activism, promote abortion on demand, and restore the regulatory state. My internal polling has the race at a slightly wider margin. But when voters understand the differences between our visions, my lead grows to 19 points, which is four points higher than the +15 Cook partisan voting index for my district.

This trend has long been at work when socialists try to sell their “free” agenda. Support for HillaryCare disintegrated in 1993 when Republicans explained the policy details (who can forget those charts). As recently as 2016, the Associated Press conducted a poll that showed Americans supported single-payer, government-run health care by a margin of 39 to 33 percent. However, when respondents learned their taxes would go up, support dropped 11 points.

Socialists understand this dynamic, which is why they’ve spent a generation trying to rebrand their vision for authoritarian government-run single-payer health care as “Medicare for all.” When voters are asked to respond to this label, support increases. But support will evaporate when they see that it costs $32 trillion over the next ten years — which would double the taxes on every individual and business in America.

Socialists such as Sanders and my opponent hope a day will come when support for their agenda will be so high that it can survive a confrontation with reality. Republicans can’t afford to be complacent. Yes, socialism is loony. But it’s also dangerous. As Joe Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, recently wrote at the Wall Street Journal, the agenda backed by Ocasio-Cortez and my opponent would “bankrupt” the nation.

President Reagan wisely said, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.”

Socialism is by its nature coercive and inseparable from policies that are forcibly redistributive. Socialism is not about working people, it’s about power. It’s counterfeit compassion masking an agenda about control.

Socialists may have high hopes for success in Kansas in November. Not on my watch.

Ron Estes — Ron Estes represents Kansas’s fourth congressional district.

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