Politics is a funny business. It’s not meant to be because politicians, by their nature, aren’t intentionally funny.
Former President Barack Obama might be the exception. He’s actually said things during a speech that were meant to be humorous. He has the impeccable timing necessary for delivering a funny line.
Richard Nixon wasn’t funny. When he declared, “I am not a crook,” people laughed, but they weren’t supposed to.
When George H.W. Bush said, “Read my lips. No new taxes,” no one laughed. They should have.
Congressman Roger Marshall avoids debating his Democrat opponent in the upcoming general election because he considers Alan LaPolice a “perennial joke.” That’s not meant in a funny way, though we’re sure the First District congressman will get a laugh or two should he use that line during one of his town halls or on the campaign trail.
Being referred to as a perennial candidate is meant as a disparaging comment about someone who repeatedly fails in their attempts to seek office. LaPolice fits that definition in this his third campaign for Congress.
But to be fair, he is not a “perennial joke.”
Marshall had no problem appearing in debates with this “joke” two years ago when he was desperate for name recognition in an effort to unseat incumbent Republican Tim Huelskamp. At the time, it was Huelskamp who would pick and choose whether or not to participate in a debate.
Now that Marshall is the incumbent he’s exercising the same privilege. He’s only committed to appear in one debate with LaPolice and that isn’t until October.
In all honesty, Marshall could send hand puppets to a debate and be a safe re-election bet in a district that hasn’t elected anyone but Republicans since the first congressional race after Moses parted the Red Sea.
Having attended Marshall’s town halls and engaged him in interviews, hand puppets might actually offer something more substantive. Put Marshall and LaPolice on the same stage in a real debate and people might come away with a different perception as to who the real joke is in this campaign.
Put aside for a moment LaPolice’s campaign commercial in which he uses a blowtorch to scorch $2 million in “donations” which the Koch brothers and Goldman Sachs spent to elect Marshall to office and another $2 million they are spending to keep him in Congress.
“Too much? You ain’t seen nothing yet,” says LaPolice as he stands by the table of burning loot.
A little outrageous? Sure. Funny? Why not?
But when you’re a serious underdog you have little choice but to do something that people will remember. If you can’t get their attention, there’s no chance they’ll listen to your message.
And behind the blowtorch there is a message.
For example, LaPolice has suggested that the nation’s infrastructure could be rebuilt through defense spending, just as President Dwight Eisenhower established the interstate highway system as a national defense priority.
By the same token, why couldn’t national defense be used as a reason for rebuilding our power grid? If the system could be hacked by another nation (as happened with the power grid in Vermont in December 2016) doesn’t that represent a national security risk?
“When you spend money on infrastructure that’s a jobs program,” noted LaPolice during an interview in 2016. “In the 1950s, we built hospitals and schools. What have we done since then?”
The only thing we’ve done successfully is cut taxes, shift most of our nation’s wealth to the richest 1 percent, make college unaffordable, try to deny health care to millions of Americans, allow greedy Wall Street investors to nearly send this nation into a depression and involve our military in endless wars.
What does Marshall bring to the debate? Mindless rhetoric.
He voted for tax cuts that will add $1.4 trillion to the national debt while complaining about that same debt. He is part of the Republican chorus that bashes the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, but offers nothing as a replacement for those who can’t afford skyrocketing health care.
His “plan” for balancing the budget within 10 years is by “increasing our labor participation rate. Moving people from welfare to work will be a big component of it.”
There are no details because there is no plan.
This is what passes for solutions if you’re a congressional Republican in Kansas.
“Critical thinking and creativity is the key to our future,” says LaPolice.
Marshall is capable of neither.
Referring to LaPolice as a “perennial joke” gives the impression that the Kansas native only seeks office as a publicity stunt. That’s what the Marshall campaign wants voters to think and, unfortunately, the vast majority of First District voters won’t care enough to learn otherwise.
Marshall will get away with it, not because he’s willing to look at difficult issues in a different way or take a stand against policies that don’t benefit the majority of people he’s elected to serve, but because he’s a Republican in the First District.
The real “joke” in this campaign is on voters who will instinctively choose party over policy.
Rod Haxton is publisher of The Scott County Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.