In a breathless hit piece passing as journalism the Kansas City Star’s inevitable Judy Thomas turns to veteran smear merchant Leonard Zeskind for his take on Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach.
“Kobach is a hard-core ideologue who has no business trying to be the political leader for all the people of Kansas,” said Zeskind, an organizer of a PAC titled “Kobach Is Wrong for Kansas.”
The fact that the Star dedicates an article to the rantings of any PAC is bad enough. The fact that Thomas turns to Zeskind for an opinion is pure malpractice.
Zeskind has a history. Much of the information that follows comes from Laird Wilcox, a long time ACLU member and civil rights activist who monitors extremes both left and right.
Indeed, the Wilcox Collection on Contemporary Political Movements at KU’s Spencer Research Library is among the foremost such collections in the country. The Star has quoted Wilcox numerous times but never on the subject of Leonard Zeskind. A good thing. Wilcox is not a fan.
According to Wilcox, Zeskind first came to attention in 1973 as the Kansas City front man for The Sojourner Truth Organization (STO). STO’s primary role, according to its own literature, was to motivate the working classes “to make a revolution.”
This was more than just bong-inspired bravado. The STO unabashedly quoted role model, Josef Stalin, on the need for “iron discipline.” They played for keeps.
In 1978, Zeskind penned an article for the journal, Urgent Tasks, titled “Workplace Struggles in Kansas City.” In the article, Zeskind talks about the value of a grass roots “school of communism,” one conceived “to destroy the marketplace, not sell at it.”
That Zeskind would transform himself from a feckless neo-Stalinist into a go-to source on extremism is one of those great, only-in-America kind of success stories.
In 1989, after tales of his past had begun to circulate, Zeskind went public with his own history. Sort of. He claimed “I was never the kind of Marxist-Leninist that they think of” and argued that, in any case, socialism was no longer a “defining feature of my politics.”
Other Marxists were busily redefining themselves along similar lines. “Rather than present socialism or Marxism-Leninism as their goal,” says Wilcox, “they piggy-back it onto anti-racism which is far more popular.” This move did not represent a change of heart. It represented a change of tactics.
The Star has chosen to be fooled. Writes Thomas, “Zeskind said the PAC is nonpartisan, ‘middle of the road’ and not endorsing anyone for governor.” His website reads, “Vote against nativism, islamophobia, white supremacy, attacks on our democracy.” Middle of the road? Please.
Zeskind and one of his fellow travelers, a “community organizer” with shockingly close to no Internet presence named Zach Mueller, have posted a 15-page report that purports to document Kobach’s ties to extremists and white supremacists.
The lengths they go to make these connections are appalling. There is no nice way to say it.
“To call [Kobach] some sort of scary wannabe militia guy, I think is the kind of hyperbole that has been rather harmful to the left,” Larry Pratt, the head of Gun Owners of America, told Thomas. “And they don’t seem to get it. They don’t want to tone down their rhetoric. Just keep talking like that, and they’ll get Kobach elected for sure.”
In the meantime, the Star should hold an emergency meeting to determine how an “article” this delirious and defamatory ever made it into the paper.