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Dave Helling: Changes start by winning elections

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 1, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to appoint his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to the state Court of Appeals caused liberal hearts to flutter.

No one appears worried about Stegall’s qualifications for the appeals bench, which are many. Instead, the lawyer is – gasp – a conservative, just like Brownback.

“This is a glaring example of Washington-style cronyism alive and well in Topeka,” harrumphed Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

Some Democrats want Brownback to release the names of other potential appeals court nominees, presumably because they believe the other picks would be less conservative than Stegall.

Why would they think that? Isn’t it more likely that every name on Brownback’s list would come from the political right?

Here’s an important concept: Elections have consequences. In 2010 and again in 2012, Kansans elected conservative lawmakers and a conservative governor. It’s reasonable to assume they expected, and support, a conservative judiciary, too.

If Kansas Democrats are really worried about the appointment of conservative judges, their remedy is to get more votes. Instead, they’re trying to subvert Brownback’s choice by relying on process, not politics.

This is a common approach, and not limited to Democrats.

Republicans in Washington, D.C., are now arguing over a plan to defund the Affordable Care Act. Some fringe Republicans are muttering about impeachment.

Less than a year ago, of course, voters had a chance to accomplish both objectives by electing Mitt Romney. Instead, they re-elected Barack Obama, by a comfortable margin.

Perhaps the GOP should focus on actually electing a Republican president in 2016 instead of pursuing efforts to circumvent the voters’ decision last November.

None of this means elected representatives should abandon their views to the executive branch, or ditch their responsibilities for addressing issues of community concern.

But surely one reason for our dysfunctional government is some lawmakers’ belief that the electorate doesn’t really know what it’s doing – one reason you hear a lot of claptrap about “low-information voters.”

Winning elections is hard work. Candidates and parties must identify supporters, get them registered, raise money, sharpen the message, get voters to the polls.

Then the people decide. Then there’s another election, and they get to decide again.

Dave Helling writes for the Kansas City Star.

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