Kansas’s Kris Kobach: Rightwing Voter Manipulator, Suppressor, and Demagogue

Voting Rights
Kris Kobach

New Orleans  I’ve been watching Kris Kobach closely for the last four years, ever since he claimed in the Topeka newspapers that he was running to become Secretary of State in Kansas in 2008 to stop ACORN from committing “voter fraud,” even though ACORN did not have an operating office, organizer, or registration program in the state at that time, and he knew it.  At the least Kobach has stood prominently in my mind as a shorthand definition for pure and simple demagoguery.  Reminiscent of the classic Clint Eastwood line in great movie, The Outlaw Josie Wales, that is exactly what Kobach teaches young girls – and boys – in Kansas and, tragically, throughout the United States.

Kobach is also a case study for how something can go so horribly wrong when one is given exceptional tools but has no idea about how to responsibly use them.  An education at Harvard, then a scholarship at Oxford in political science, and a tour of Yale Law School, with time as a judge’s clerk and a mischief maker in the post-9/11 Bush Justice Department has sent him on a crooked path, complicated by the fact that he clearly has no moral compass.  Kobach has become ALEC and the right’s go-to-guy for hater legal theories.  He was responsible for much of the Arizona’s anti-immigrant 1070 legislation.  In his Kansas campaign he had coupled the “menace” of ACORN with his hate of immigrants who would to his lights be voting fraudulently with ACORN’s “help.”  He has also been a key legal figure in the push for voter IDs across the country.  For Kobach now all he has is his rightwing hammer and everything is simply a nail.

Ryan J. Reilly in a short piece for TPM shared remarks by Kobach at a panel at the far right Heritage Foundation in Washington that was co-sponsored by an arm of the Tea Party.  In a classic piece of McCarthy-esque demagoguery of “blaming the victim,” he tried to make ACORN the “goat” for the right’s success in pushing voter IDs to suppress the vote now:

This issue really didn’t reach the public consciousness … until after the 2008 election cycle, when there was so much focus on ACORN,” Kobach said. “That one group was just all over the news media and people started hearing about it.

Well, yeah, people like Kobach made up fabulous fantasies founded on baseless exaggerations and untruths to sully ACORN’s longstanding and successful voter registration programs to make ACORN the hammer to hit their nail, which in 2008, and even more so now in 2012, is solely meant to depress the vote.  Any means justifies the ends, which is also a classic definition of having no moral core.

Reilly reports that Kobach further gave some props to Republican candidate John McCain, but what he was really doing was patting his own back for his tactical success at putting McCain in a corner where he infamously claimed in a debate with Obama that ACORN was on the verge of stealing the election.   You have to give Kobach and his buddies some grudging credit for their guiding principle:  if you are going to tell a lie, then tell a big one!

Kobach credited heavy coverage of ACORN, which also took some shots from then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain, with inspiring legislators in various states to implement new laws.

The TPM headline refers, accurately, to “ACORN Hysteria” and Reilly notes, correctly, that ACORN got a bum rap since it had no choice but to turn in ALL registration forms by law:

ACORN, like all voter registration groups, was required under many state laws to turn over all applications it received even if it believed they were illegitimate, though the organization said it flagged suspected fraudulent cards to election officials.

Kobach knows all of that, not that it matters.  He was on an evil mission and used ACORN to stir his pot and ACORN was unable at the time to have the true story told.  It’s no surprise that Kobach is from Wisconsin and spent many years of his youth there or that his father had put them there selling cars.  Wisconsin’s Senator Joe McCarthy obviously became a model for Kobach and he learned something as well about selling clunkers.  They may not drive far, just as he moans and groans about the unfairness and stupidity of the courts in ruling much of his anti-immigrant legislation unconstitutional along with the current reverses in the courts for some of his voter ID suppression, but the dealer doesn’t care as long as he gets the case and gets them off the lot.

This is a dangerous man on an evil mission with the motto that everything is fair in war that lacks any notion of love for democracy and is principles.  He is obviously good at what he does and can get his hater-bills off the lot, but we simply must do everything to prevent them from gaining any speed or any more distance in the direction he is trying to steer people – and parties – along this bad road.