Political storms are gathering for the coming elections, so forget that tired adage about quirky Kansas weather. It isn’t likely to change for awhile.
The barometer has begun to fall. The August primary horizon is restless, dark with the promise of word-slinging and wind-driven pollutants. Through polling day, November 6, Kansans are advised to be ready with slickers, helmets and scoop shovels.
A voter’s responsibility will be sorely tested. He or she must keep a sharp eye for promises that should be kept and a keen ear tuned to hopes that can be joined. A clear head will distinguish between prospects that can be met and the folly that assures a dream world for all.
Kansans once did this with aplomb. In 1956, when a nation returned Kansas’ favorite son, Dwight D. Eisenhower of Abilene, to the White House in a Republican landslide, Kansans split their ticket in record numbers and elected a Democratic Governor, George Docking, for the first time in 20 years.
Twenty years later another favorite son, Bob Dole, was running for vice-president with Gerald Ford on the GOP ticket. Kansas again delivered a faithful majority. But at the same time, rural townships, urban wards and prairie precincts were voting 65 Democrats into the Kansas House of Representatives, a majority of the 125-member House, which later elected as its speaker Rep. John Carlin, of Smolan, the first Democrat to hold that title in 64 years.
Carlin later would become one of the state’s most popular governors, elected in 1978 and 1982, a chief executive who worked with the Republican House and Senate majorities; they would achieve landmark legislation – in taxation, social reforms, economic development, foreign trade, among others – that would dramatically change life in Kansas.
The mix and contrast in this segment of history was preceded, and followed, with other elections. Each was distinguished because voters had kept eyes sharp, ears tuned and heads clear; they would sort clear prospects from suspicious claims.
The dedicated voter cares less about hard-line political fanaticism and more about what is best for the citizens at large, the community that strives to be better, to offer promise to the next generations.
Kansas was part of a larger community of states that until recently had sought a new and noble national purpose, one that fostered federal laws expanding the definition of freedom in society. We exalted independence in our economy while promoting interchange in a global market.
The notion that the government was the umpire between rich and poor, rural and urban, business and labor, male and female, creed and race, was nothing strange to Kansans. Equity and justness were common goals.
We would, as would other states, share in the incubation of historic disasters. The state and federal government have been pushed by invisible groups, motherly hypocrisies, and the swollen forces of agencies that demand legislators and chief executives be moved by morality rather than reality.
We have learned that a prudent and progressive life in Kansas and in America can be wrested from our control. But in the 2016 elections, Kansans faced the foul weather, turned into the storm and began a return toward fairer climes.
This course can continue. A voter’s clear head avoids the melancholy drama, the fierce energies of accusation and demand, the terrors of wild scenario. The sharp eye sees the practical objective above political partisanship. The keen ear separates fact from myth.
Kansans have recovered some of the talent that places public interest above political partisanship. The trick now, as the storms of another election gather, is to find more of that talent, and more voters to embrace it.
‒ JOHN MARSHALL