publisher's note
August 6, 2004


Searching for something to vote for
by Bruce Rodgers

Like tens of thousands of area citizens on Aug. 3, I didn’t vote. Admittedly, I felt a little guilty, as through the years I’ve been a fairly consistent voter. But this time I made a conscious decision not to go to the polls. My reason, like many I suppose, is that I really had nothing or no one to vote for.

I live in Kansas, Prairie Village. There wasn’t a city issue on the ballot, the county commissioners in my district weren’t up for reelection, my state representative, a Republican, had no challenger either within his own party or from the Democrats and the state senate race in my district was between two Republicans while the Democratic candidate was unopposed.

As a registered independent in Johnson County, I could have gotten a Democratic ballot and voted, but I would have had exactly one vote to cast, for the Democratic guy running for the state senate.

The Democrats in Johnson County are so puny and inconsequential; it appears running as Democrat in any race has about as much prestige as getting one of the “special envelopes” from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. And it’s strange in a way that the Democrats are so weak considering Dennis Moore has been in Congress for two terms, and has a good shot at being reelected in November.

Why don’t the Democrats build their presence in Johnson County around U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore? Could be because Moore has a habit of running away from is Democratic roots come reelection time to attract moderate Republicans. Hard to build a party presence when the main party officeholder in the county (not counting Wyandotte or Douglas) seems real shy about embracing the party come election time.

On Aug. 3, I could have given up my independent voter status and asked for a Republican ballot. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans don’t have an open primary. Becoming a Republican in order to vote against conservative Republicans is something I’ve done in the past. Afterwards, I would always re-register and return to my independent status. But it was somewhat of a hassle and a little disingenuous.

Being an independent in Kansas means come primary time, there isn’t much of a choice. With Democrats perennial lost wanderers of the political prairie in Kansas, and with the state’s restrictive laws on third-party access, it isn’t likely to change much.

In neighboring Missouri, the politics surrounding Aug. 3 were more interesting. And there’s bound to be some wash over of issues from Missouri to Kansas, namely the constitutional proposal outlawing gay marriage. Unfortunately, I predict the margin of support in voting to place an opportunity for discrimination and bigotry into the Kansas Constitution will be greater than the 70% in support in Missouri.

Forget terrorism. What this country is really afraid of is gays and lesbians getting married. Sad that we ignore real threats to freedom and buy into imaginary scenarios based on ignorance. But it is indicative how much religious beliefs have captured the domestic agenda with social conservatives determining the extent of rights afforded individuals. Gay marriage, alone, could be the issue that determines the reelection of George W. Bush.

Unfortunately, the issue’s so-called “values” determinant will also — along with a host of other social conservative causes including abortion, school prayer, intelligent design and school vouchers — dampen the Democratic message and push the party rightward. Add to that the fact that the Republican Party no longer formulates its policies among party standardbearers. Such intellectual pursuits have been taken over by conservative think tanks coupled with toleration for the emotional appeals of those issues tied to social conservatism.

Those elements, and the institutional barriers erected to hamper third-party involvement on the ballot, will continue to have independents searching for something or someone to vote for.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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