It’s probably that I was just a naive child, but I was really rooting for Greg Orman in 2014.
Here he was, an independent candidate with a real fighting chance against Pat Roberts, an emblem of the swampy D.C. establishment, primed to become our third independent Senator after Bernie Sanders and Angus King. The polls were favorable for him, and the Democrat dropped out of the race altogether.
Greg Orman was a pretty interesting candidate at the time, not beholden to either major party and campaigning on platforms that people would actually support, rather than on whatever the national party designates is most important. In a year like 2014, where Republicans were batshit and Democrats barely had a message, it felt really attractive.
I also really liked Orman’s message that he would caucus with the majority, no matter which it was. The idea that he would represent his constituents in the best way possible and shape the Senate majority was cool to the young me. In reality, looking back, it was pretty cynical, but I didn’t realize it at that point.
Then what happened, Greg Orman?
It didn’t work.
Guess what? 2014 was a massive wave year for Republicans because almost nobody voted and Obama was a terrible president when it came to bringing people to the ballot box
And basically, no matter how much Greg Orman tried to accentuate his brand as an independent, he was still a Democrat. At least to the eyes of Kanasa voters, at least.
So Pat Roberts won, Greg Orman lost, and the entire event was reduced to a footnote. Since then no new independents have had a fighting chance at any Senate races (or House races, for that matter). And I’m not sure when that will ever happen again.
Honestly, a rich dude who has lots of money to spend on both parties and tries to win a big Senate seat with no prior electoral experience isn’t such great optics these days. Do we really want a bunch of Bloomberg-type oligarchs buying their way into power with an infinite-monkeys-on-infinite-typewriters style carpet bombing political campaign? Orman is no Bloomberg, but still. Yeah, he’d have been better than Pat Roberts, but would his win have changed anything about these disastrous last six years? I don’t know. Probably not.
Greg Orman ran again in 2018 for governor, but thanks to the changed political climate and the great fears of that nutso Kris Kobach guy, voters fled from the independent option and Laura Kelly won. Our two party system remains firmly intact and our country’s polarization continues to increase. Kinda sad, because lately he’s been more active in campaigning against the two-party system in general, which is something I will always be happy about.
I do still want to see more independent and third party candidates winning elections. Our current party system is broken to its core and we need much more diversity in our political climate to avoid the kinds of disasters we’re seeing every day (as of January 2021). Ranked Choice Vote is spreading and may very well create a brand new atmosphere to our elections. But it definitely won’t be enough to break the cycle of hatred and anti-democratic toxicity that is destroying our Republic. Not by itself.
Greg Orman was absolutely not the model for success for independent candiates. But who will be? That’s what I want to find out in the future (hopefully near future).
While we’re talking about neoliberal rich dudes, why not check out a collection of Jeb! Bush images? You’ll be happy you did.