Governor Brownback, it’s time to walk away.
As a convert to Catholicism — someone who wasn’t just born into the faith, but chose it — maybe think of it this way: It’s time to follow the selfless and historic example of Pope Benedict XVI and step down from the job, ceding power not because you have to, but for the good of the faithful.
Or in this case, for the good of the good people of Kansas, who as we’ve argued before, need a real, full-time governor and not one who’s waiting for his ride.
The job you’ve been waiting on might or might not materialize now, we know, and you do, too.
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That’s because those in your own Republican Party didn’t put a vote for your confirmation as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom on the Senate calendar by the end of the year.
They did not simply run out of time, either. After all, you were nominated by President Donald Trump in July, and dozens of other long-deferred votes on appointments were cleared in a flash before senators left town for the holidays.
Was it something you said, at that confirmation hearing for which you appeared so ill-prepared?
Was it something you did, or undid, like protections for state employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?
That’s definitely why Democrats decided to delay the vote. And perhaps why one or two of those Republicans who will be running for reelection next year weren’t eager to have to defend a vote for you.
Then again, maybe all the excuses of how the year just got away from your former Senate colleagues — very busy, very busy — were not just excuses. Maybe you’ll be renominated and will get the job, too.
That’s the best possible outcome, since by all accounts, the role was made for you, and vice versa.
After all, you and former Rep. Frank Wolf, the Virginia Republican who drafted the bill that created the post of U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom almost 20 years ago, were the first Americans to visit Sudan’s Darfur region as the Janjaweed militias burned villages and gang-raped women out gathering firewood. The two of you were not only among the first to call what was happening there genocide, but are among the all too few who understand that it’s not over, even now.
There are moderate Muslims and Christians who’ve hidden from religious extremists in caves in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains who know your name, Governor Brownback, and are grateful that you’ve heard of them, too.
That’s why we’re confident you’d be a zealous advocate for some of the world’s most oppressed people.
In fact, the same stubbornness that made you so unwilling to ever acknowledge that your tax cuts had failed would serve you well in that role.
And the tortured Buddhist Falun Gong detainees whose organs are reportedly being harvested in that same country, where their fellow inmates include human rights lawyers and Christian pastors jailed for singing “Jesus loves you.”
But to come back to the governorship now, after handing off many of the important duties of the job to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, would not be in the state’s best interest. If he’s your hoped-for successor, don’t disadvantage him further by dragging this out. Especially with the state of the state address coming up, along with the new legislative session and the new budget.
Colyer has been patient, and so have we. But we wrote before that if nothing happened by the end of the year, you really need to either give up the governorship or get back to it. The problem with the latter option at this point is that you’ve made clear your heart is no longer in it, and the feeling’s mutual. Still, we believe you do care about your state and its people.
As you know, Benedict stepped down because he loves the church, and saw first-hand that in John Paul II’s final days, he couldn’t be the steward his flock needed. Benedict vowed not to let that happen in his pontificate, and he didn’t. Instead, he did what someone at the top of an organization only rarely does. He gave up control willingly.
Kansas needs new leadership as much as oppressed religious minorities around the world need your passion for their situation. We do wish you the best in that capacity, or in anything else you choose to do.
But as a fictional victim of religious persecution in pre-revolutionary Russia — yes, in “Fiddler on the Roof” — asked God to “bless and keep the tsar, far away from us,” we wish you well, too, far from Topeka.