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The Democratic Agenda Is Popular in Red America—When an "Independent" Is Preaching It

Greg Orman/Facebook

On Saturday, the Kansas City Star endorsed independent Greg Orman over incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts. It wasn’t the most surprising development of the weekend, given how far out of favor Republicans have fallen in that state over the past few years. And since I’m from the school of not caring about newspaper endorsements, because newspaper endorsements don’t change elections, I wouldn’t read too deeply into the fact of the endorsement itself.

But the accompanying editorial contained a paragraph that’s infuriating and highly revelatory in equal measure.

Orman isn’t in lockstep with liberal Democratic views, as Roberts ceaselessly claims. Orman doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act, doesn’t support amnesty for undocumented immigrants and supports the Second Amendment. But he’s also practical in realizing the health care law isn’t going to be “repealed and replaced.” He supports a reasonable path to citizenship for immigrants and endorses mandatory background checks for gun owners.

When I read that, I’m pretty sure I heard the smacking sound of a dozen Roberts volunteers palming their Kansan faces. Because as the Washington Examiner’s Justin Green noted, fixing Obamacare, creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, and mandatory background checks for gun owners are three of the sturdiest planks in Democratic politics.

Every milquetoast Democrat in the country will acknowledge Obamacare’s flaws before condemning efforts to repeal the law, will characterize a pathway to citizenship as distinct from amnesty, and will tout their Second Amendment bona fides before endorsing modest new regulations like enhanced background checks.

Yet the editors of one of the most widely read newspapers in Kansas looked at Orman’s platform and found something new and refreshing. I don’t know if they were covering for him, or are unfamiliar with Democratic politics, but in either case, it’s no less frustrating if you’re a Democrat than if you’re a Republican.

Senate Democrats are surely thrilled—they want Roberts to lose more than just about anything in the world. But if you’re a rank and file Democrat trying to break through in a conservative part of the country, or a strategist trying to elect more Democrats to the House, this underscores just how difficult it is to get a fair hearing.

There’s nothing on Orman’s agenda that isn’t on the agenda of every aspiring Democrat who’d get run out of town as a crypto-Socialist in red America. But call yourself an independent, and suddenly it all sounds so sensible.

This is perhaps a testament to the effectiveness of conservative efforts to otherize Democrats on talk radio, Fox News and so on. And next month, the fact that Orman’s getting a pass is great news for Democrats. It could even mean the difference between Dem and GOP control of the Senate. But it’s sorry commentary on the media’s ability to explain things clearly, and on the public’s ability or willingness to accurately inform itself.