The Jeffersonian: Politicks, Sports, and Culture

Friday, July 01, 2005


That's the word some of you might think of, if I were to tell you that the answer to the question, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" was, "Absolutely nothing." But Ezra makes a good case:

First off, what is the matter with Kansas? Particularly as opposed to, say, Arkansas, or Tennessee, or Oregon. Kansas has middling unemployment (that's better than the presumably right-thinking California), a per capita income firmly in the nation's middle (Arkansas, incidentally, has the lowest), a female Democratic governor, and a poverty level 2.1% below the national average. So tell me again, what's the matter with Kansas? Because though we keep making the state sound like it's crammed with abortion-hating hicks too stupid to mark the ballot that'd help pull them out of poverty, none of that's actually going on. Instead, the real problem seems to be that the state just doesn't vote Democratic very often. But on a national level, they never have, so unless there's something surprising about the state that rejected FDR rejecting John Kerry, I wouldn't get my knickers in a bunch over it.

Worse, if you were a Kansan, already predisposed against Democrats, exactly how pleased would you be by a national progressive conversation entitled "What's the Matter With You and Everyone You Know?" You'd shake your head, curse those condescending Democratic elitists, feel six times better about never voting for them, and wonder how such a nice girl as Kathleen Sebelius came out of such a nasty party as that.

So look: I wish Kansas would vote for us. If they were liberal, I wouldn't have to play the moderate every time I visit my girlfriend's family. But there is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing strange about it. They are just not voting Democrat. And, stunningly enough, their economy has survived the choice. As it turns out, which party you vote into office does not decide what the next year's unemployment numbers look like.

Democrats should stop kidding themselves. Kansans are not sacrificing their economic interests to vote Republican, at least not in any large sense. They're buffeted by the same forces we all are, and Democrats, though we can help out on health care and so forth, are powerless to stop those. And this isn't just a question of Democrats being more populist, Kansas voted against FDR! So let's stop pretending that Kansans are killing themselves by pulling the Republican lever, they're not. And let's stop looking down our nose at a state that's doing just fine. If we want to craft a better appeal, I'm happy to help. But stop pretending there's something the matter with Kansas. The problem lies with Democrats.