It all sounds so idyllic: an independent Washington, free from the stringent party restrictions that have characterized US politics. A Washington that inspires the confidence of the people it governs, as opposed to never-ending scorn and ridicule. No one has capitalized on this “greener pastures” dream of government more than the Independent candidate for Senate in Kansas, Greg Orman, who claims complete independence from the evils of partisan politics. He has an enchanting persona, he exudes confidence, and he’s ready to go to Washington as a “problem solver, not a partisan.” Greg Orman definitely appears to be the kind of candidate that can transform our broken politics in Washington, but what does he have to say about the issues?
Orman is first and foremost a businessman and has laid out comprehensive plans to create jobs and reform our tax system in a way that crosses party lines and takes the best ideas from the left and right sides of the aisle. To spur job growth and innovation, Orman is determined to enact policies that restore confidence in the economy. Orman insists that tax policies should protect the most vulnerable, but also argues that every American citizen should pay federal taxes. This kind of taxation system appeals to voters from across the political spectrum. It is noble to put out a bipartisan platform in an era of intense partisanship—though the chances that Orman will be successful are slim. Orman understands that slashing the budget isn’t in America’s best interest given the fragility of the economic recovery, but unlike most Democrats, he recognizes that the current growth in debt is unsustainable. It is currently estimated that the federal debt will reach 100 percent of the economy by 2035. Orman’s insistence that Congress balance the budget now is reassuring to millennials, the generation paying for past expenditures.
Orman is gaining attention for other issues as well. He has promised to propose legislation to impose term limits on legislators. That promise generates buzz in a state where people feel that their current senator is out of touch and too much of a Washington insider. Orman insists that no one should serve more than twelve years in Congress and that politics is not a career, it’s a civic duty. He goes so far as to promise his constituents that he will serve no more than two terms in the Senate, even if he is unable to enact legislation mandating these limits.
Not everyone is so fired up about the changes Orman seeks: the incumbent, Senator Pat Roberts, and the Republican establishment have been critical of Orman’s credibility as an independent candidate. They’re quick to point out that Orman has a record of swapping sides. As a young adult, Orman was quite active as a young Republican, but became disenchanted with the party when he saw how quickly the surplus spending piled up at the federal level and he switched to the Democratic Party. Orman seriously considered a run for the Senate as a Democrat the last time Roberts was up for reelection in 2008.
Orman’s flip-flopping doesn’t really undermine his credibility—he often acknowledges his history of party-switching on the stump and uses his experience to explain why he’s running as an Independent. Despite his explanation, it’s certainly understandable that skepticism of Orman’s current beliefs could arise given his inconsistent past. Senator Roberts’ team has been busy pointing out holes in Orman’s policy prescriptions. The Republican ads playing in Kansas accuse Orman of refusing to take sides on the Keystone pipeline. Additionally, electing a candidate who many suspect intends to caucus with the Democrats could be disastrous for voters hoping for a Republican majority in the Senate. These arguments could go far in convincing a deeply red state like Kansas that a vote for the Republican establishment is a secure vote for their state’s future.
Orman is right—we need to put differences aside and come together as a united legislative body to enact laws that will be both socially tolerant and fiscally conservative. Our Congress lacks the motivation even to hold an extra session to vote on whether America should enter another Middle Eastern war against the ISIS terrorist group. Into this lackluster body walks Greg Orman. He’s doing everything he can to alienate himself from both parties, hoping to gain support of those voters turned off by the immature and unprofessional behavior Congress has exhibited. It’s a bold move, but when you’re a multimillionaire financing your own campaign, you can afford to be a bit more independent. It’s true that there’s a risk in electing a truly unattached politician. Orman has yet to reveal towards which side, Republican or Democrat, he leans closest, as is evident in his refusal to disclose with whom he will caucus. Kansans will have a tough decision, but it’s imperative that they weigh their options. Sure, with a vote for Roberts, the people know what they will get, but as polls have shown, many voters are dissatisfied with that outcome. A vote for Orman is a leap of faith into new territory for Kansas. While there are two Independents in the Senate right now, both caucus with Democrats. Candidates on the campaign trail love talking about how they are detached from the parties, but truly unattached candidates in the Senate are rare, as few can withstand the strong tides of party leadership, campaign finance, and other pressures. Only time will tell if Orman is the candidate to test those waters.