The Corner

Kansas’ ‘Fire Beier’ Campaign Disappears in a Cloud of Smoke

How bad is 2010 looking for Democrats? So bad that Kansas is ready to turn into a conservative Republican bastion.

This will be news for those whose information about Sunflower politics comes from Thomas Frank’s 2004 liberal fairy tale, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Published two years after Kathleen Sebelius’ first gubernatorial victory, the book, described here, is a city slicker’s manual. It’s a standard text for helping Manhattanites, as the NY Times explained only a few days ago, understand how “Republicans had come to dominate the state’s elections by exploiting social values.”

Right. It just took six years. For the last half-century, the governor of Kansas has usually been a Democrat, and never a conservative. RINOs have ravaged the political landscape and colluded with Democrats to keep conservatives at bay since Ike broke par. No more. In a matter of days, the present governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer — all Democrats — will soon be lobbyists or hobbyists.

It’ll be a good day for Republican conservatives. Except for one thing: The victory will be a hollow one because the state’s laughably liberal supreme court — packed by generations of RINOs and Democrats — will be unchanged. And that means a lot of the problems that people think they are voting to solve will remain.

It takes three branches to make good government. Kansas has a legislature and an executive branch — and a judicial stump, dead at grassroots-level and hard to trim. In just the last five years, the state’s supreme court has bankrupted the state by usurping the legislature’s role and massively overfunding an inefficient, big-government, union-dominated education bureaucracy. It has sheltered abortion providers from scrutiny by harassing state investigators sworn to enforce Kansas law. It has interpreted the state constitution, which forbids gambling, as meaning the state of Kansas can operate casinos all over the state because, um, they sell lottery tickets. It reliably mandates spending increases and coddles liberal lawyer friends while making some of them rich. Some of its wacky judicial decisions — including a hilarious rant by Justice Carol Beier, described here — are so embarrassing the justices condemn them themselves. 

No conservative has ever sat on that court. Its justices are not confirmed, nor are they elected. They are nominated behind closed doors by a clique of state lawyers and then they’re appointed to the court by the governor. It’s a club of BFFs in big black muumuus. Citizens don’t even know the names of these appointees, let alone their backgrounds or qualifications, until they read about them in the paper. In case a voter has a question, a Potemkin commission, described by Caleb Stegall here, spends $700,000 of taxpayers’ money annually running ads in support of retention and endorsing every single judge in the state. You can read more about the state’s marsupial judiciary here.

This year, voters have an unprecedented opportunity: four of the justices — including Beier and a justice who was caught plotting spending increases with sympathetic RINO lawmakers — are up for retention. But there’s not even a whisper of a voter uprising. The near silence on what should be a key election issue is reported (with mild amazement, even) in this piece in the Wichita paper. Conservatives (specifically, conservative lawyers) dropped the effort to unseat the justices long ago, as this year-old Kansas Liberty report explains. “Fire Beier!” should have been a catch-phrase at every conservative campaign appearance this year. Maybe conservatives were afraid the “fire” part intruded on free speech.

Even if there had been a problem for Beier & Co., a pro-retention group led by some bank’s lawyer was standing by. Local liberals have already sprayed Round-Up on the grass roots. Somebody even grabbed the URL “,” apparently in order to rob opponents of a nifty little ditty. Other than a modest effort led by Kansans for Life, this key issue is being given birther treatment and simply ignored.

The good news for Thomas Frank is that for the foreseeable future, his question (well, actually William Allen White’s century-old question purloined by Frank and others) will finally have a clear, real-life, common-sense answer, although it’s not one he would give: What’s the matter with Kansas? The state’s supreme court.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...


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