There’s a story about Jason Kander that one of his top aides loves to tell.
On election night last November as the clock ticked toward midnight, the Kansas City Democrat was taking one more look at the results of his showdown race with Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. By then, the outcome was clear: Kander was about to lose by 3 measly points a race he thought he would win.
In Missouri, he had outperformed the presidential candidate of his own party, Hillary Clinton, by 16. But no matter. A campaign that absorbed nearly two years of Kander’s young life had reached what might have been a shattering conclusion.
But Kander wasn’t shattered. He had no regrets then, nor now. No self-pity. Instead, he was already moving on, and the time to talk next steps would come right away — the next morning even — over breakfast with top aide Abe Rakov.
“What time we meeting?” Kander wanted to know. And then off he went into the next day of his life.
Kander rolls that way. At 35, he comes across as every bit as unflappable as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In the chaotic world of big-time American politics, Kander moves only one way, and that’s forward.
Well, now he knows what’s next.
This week, Kander announced the formation of a voting rights advocacy group, Let America Vote, designed to halt voter suppression across the country and serve as a counterweight to the efforts of Republicans such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
“I decided I was just tired of my side of the argument not trying to win the public debate,” Kander said. “I think we have a very strong argument: Trying to keep people from voting is very un-American.”
Kander is right about that. Democrats typically haven’t been nearly as aggressive on this front as Kobach and President Donald Trump. After all, it was Trump who famously, and erroneously, claimed recently that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast in November — all of them for Hillary Clinton.
“None of ’em come to me,” he said. “None of ’em …”
Kander is right about something else, too. Trump may not care whether his claim is accurate. The president may have another objective, which could be to get his fabrication out in the public arena and allow folks to kick it around. The strategy gets the idea that illegal voting is rampant out there in the ether, and it makes passing voter suppression laws that much easier.
Even if it’s all malarkey.
Discouraging voters is now a strategy that’s run out of the White House. It’s interwoven in the fabric of the Republican Party. These days, lawmakers in Virginia, Iowa, North Dakota and Michigan are weighing bills that would, in Kander’s view, make voting tougher.
Kander has some heavy-hitters on his board, including Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama’s former spokesman who hails from Kansas City; Jon Favreau, Obama’s former speechwriter; and Martin Luther King III.
Let America Vote will only add to Kander’s burgeoning national profile. He’ll be all over the country talking up his issue, and on national TV, too. Don’t kid yourself: The next time an important office opens up back home in Missouri, he’ll be at the top of every Democrat’s list, thanks in part to his new cause.
But Kander isn’t talking about next races. Not now. “What’s going on in the country is so dire from my perspective that it’s all hands on deck,” he said.
The 2016 election? That’s ancient history. This dude just keeps rolling.