www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Paying for schools -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Joining forces for Orman -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Research before voting -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Davis is moderate? -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The most important election in your lifetime -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Huelskamp stands out -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Kansas farm interests -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

Keeping unfounded reports from 'going viral' -10/19/2014, 1:21 PM

The age of cynicism -10/18/2014, 9:02 AM

Preventable diseases -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Second term needed -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Kansans deserve better -10/17/2014, 10:28 AM

Officially killing Americans -10/17/2014, 10:27 AM

New era at FHSU -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Roberts is right choice -10/16/2014, 10:01 AM

Crumbling Constitution -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Redbelly's future -10/16/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas deserves better -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Remember to vote on Nov. 4 -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

You almost feel sorry for Sean Groubert -10/15/2014, 10:23 AM

Register to vote -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Living on that 70 percent -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

New bullying problem for schools: parents -10/14/2014, 10:14 AM

Cheerios, marriage equality, the Supreme Court -10/13/2014, 9:49 AM

Wedded bliss -10/12/2014, 5:54 PM

Who is the real fraud? -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Teenagers 'make some noise' -10/12/2014, 5:08 PM

Not so private property -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Federal funding -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Teacher indoctrination -10/10/2014, 10:01 AM

Vote Republican -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Non-partisan politics -10/9/2014, 9:49 AM

Teen driver safety week Oct. 19 to 25 -10/9/2014, 9:04 AM

FHSU party -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Poverty in America -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Let the women serve -10/9/2014, 10:11 AM

Time for new direction -10/8/2014, 9:49 AM

Improving Kansas economically -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Water abusers -10/8/2014, 9:35 AM

Play safe on the farm -10/8/2014, 9:34 AM

Where the money comes from -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The president's security -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

Marriage equality -10/7/2014, 10:24 AM

The sins of the father are visited -10/6/2014, 9:02 AM

Cannabis in America: The bottom line -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -10/6/2014, 9:20 AM

Gov. shields wealthy from paying for schools -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

Passionate protest in defense of civil disorder -10/5/2014, 2:07 PM

October is time for baseball and, of course, film premieres -10/4/2014, 2:16 PM

Alley cleanup -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Will the West defend itself? -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

Find another school -10/3/2014, 10:01 AM

It's better now -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

The answer is to bomb Mexico? -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

Falling revenue -10/2/2014, 9:17 AM

School facilities -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Look ahead, not back -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Secret Service needs to step up its game -10/1/2014, 9:27 AM

Roosevelts were true leaders -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Moral bankruptcy -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

Expect some sort of change in Topeka -9/30/2014, 9:18 AM

'A tale of two countries' -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

The last of the Willie Horton ads? -9/29/2014, 9:59 AM

Finding answers to the future of Kansas -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

College: Where religious freedom goes to die -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Honoring Hammond -9/28/2014, 2:20 PM

Do statistical disparities mean injustice? -9/26/2014, 9:53 AM

World university rankings -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Kansas experiment -9/26/2014, 9:52 AM

Two anti-choice parties -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Not in the same old Kansas anymore -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Domestic violence -9/25/2014, 10:03 AM

Back to war we go -9/24/2014, 9:55 AM

Piling on the NFL -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Emma Watson looking for a few good men -9/24/2014, 9:54 AM

Renter runaround -9/23/2014, 7:32 PM

Enough is enough -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

Life of politics in the state -9/23/2014, 9:02 AM

What is and is not child abuse -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Cannabis politics and research -9/22/2014, 9:30 AM

Future of The Mall -9/21/2014, 6:14 PM

Multiculturalism is a failure -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

State education rankings -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Kobach gone wild -9/19/2014, 9:52 AM

Bias prevents civil discussion of education issues -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Immigration is American -9/18/2014, 9:35 AM

Costs to states not expanding Medicaid -9/17/2014, 10:14 AM

Medicare threats -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Green fields in northwest Kansas -9/17/2014, 10:12 AM

Consolidation by starvation -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

School mergers tricky -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Hotel tipping -9/16/2014, 9:54 AM

Abuse video revealed nothing we didn't know -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Lessons from 13 years ago -9/15/2014, 9:20 AM

The zero option -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Why branding ISIS matters -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

School efficiency -9/14/2014, 1:31 PM

Favors and loot for sale -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

The 'college experience' -9/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Ellis schools -9/11/2014, 10:10 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

An erosion of authenticity

Published on -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

These three little words work magic in marriage and in politics, but Kansas voters should never expect to hear Gov. Sam Brownback utter them: "I was wrong."

A few weeks ago, 95,000 Republicans gave Brownback's unknown primary opponent their vote. That was three of every eight Republican primary voters, the second largest anti-incumbent vote for governor in more than 50 years.

Many observers have explained this discontent with Brownback as a protest vote. Republicans were expressing their opposition to the governor's tax experiment that has brought on unprecedented deficit spending, depleted balances, soaring debt and downgraded credit, higher sales taxes and property taxes, lagging economic growth, and inadequate funding of the state's primary obligation, public education.

Opposition to Brownback's policies on these issues and others likely does explain much of his dismal primary showing. However, Kansans' view of Brownback fell sharply early in his governorship, well before his tax experiment took hold.

Brownback's approval ratings plunged into the mid-30s shortly after his first year in office and, based on recent polling, have not recovered. More than 50 percent of likely Kansas voters express an unfavorable view of Brownback.

Two and a half years of photo ops, press releases and shallow rationalizations from the governor's office have not shaken these low ratings. Nor has a million dollars of TV ads underwritten by undisclosed donors on Brownback's behalf.

In his uphill struggle for re-election, Brownback might be facing something more fundamental, more personal, than policy and that is an erosion of authenticity, the ability to face reality and admit a mistake. To say: "I was wrong." Examples abound.

Early last year, when Brownback was talking up his tax cuts, he used state spending numbers that were $2 billion off the mark. Did the governor take responsibility and tell Kansans he had made a mistake? No, his budget director took the fall, saying he, not the governor, was to blame for bad numbers.

More recently when the two pre-eminent national bond rating agencies stated tax cuts had placed Kansas on an unsustainable course and downgraded state debt, did the governor acknowledge reality, that adjustments might be required? No, he declared the rating agencies were wrong; they did not understand that economic growth would produce abundant new revenues.

And when state tax revenues plummeted by $700 million last year, $330 million more than the governor and state lawmakers had budgeted only a few months ago, did Brownback say he had erred? No, of course not. He said Obama was to blame.

Effective leaders build trust through actions that show authenticity and accountability. That trust enhances leadership and allows followers to forgive and forget missteps along the way.

Contrast the credibility Pope Francis has cultivated through acts of humility and transparency in 17 short months with the faux apologies offered by the former pope on Muslims, or Bush on torture, or Clinton on sex.

Brownback's actions have eroded his authenticity.

Given this personal deficit, Brownback and his campaign strategists now realize the only hope for re-election is to relentlessly hammer their Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, and try to drive Davis' standing with voters even lower than the governor's.

This onslaught already has begun, and Kansas voters should gird themselves for a barrage of half-truths, distortions and spin throughout the next two months. Voters will be challenged to sort through this bombardment and determine who to trust with the state's future.

H. Edward Flentje is professor emeritus at Wichita State University.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.