In 2000, a wealthy Kansas businessman named Greg Orman decided to write a book. It was going to be called Good Politics Is Bad Policy, and it would explain the distressing phenomenon he perceived—the misalignment of politicians’ incentives with the country’s needs.
Writing a book turned out to be even harder than making millions, and it was never published. But the problem Orman had diagnosed didn’t get any better.
“We’re still sending the worst of both parties to Washington—people who seem more interested in getting reelected than they do in solving problems,” Orman, a tanned, youthful-looking 45-year-old with gelled-up dark hair, said on Wednesday. He was speaking in a windowless room at the top of a bank building in Wichita, to an audience of about 40 retired teachers on folding chairs. “They draw childish lines in the sand, they refuse to cooperate, and as a result, inaction has replaced leadership when it comes to solving our most pressing problems.”
Orman, an independent candidate for Senate, suddenly became the most intriguing person in politics last week, when a court allowed the Democratic candidate to withdraw from the ballot, making Orman the principal opponent of Republican Senator Pat Roberts. This development, in a race nobody expected to be competitive, has shoved into the spotlight an unknown candidate whose pitch against partisanship resonates with a conflict-weary electorate.