On this snow day, let’s consider a flurry of worst-case scenarios for Kansas and our country

February 2, 2022 1:30 pm

Snow covers a landscape north of Topeka. With the Kansas Statehouse shut down, opinion editor Clay Wirestone’s thoughts have turned to worst-case scenarios (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

With snowfall having closed down the Statehouse and schools in northeast Kansas, my mind turns to happy thoughts. Such as: What will you do when the worst happens?

Kansas and the rest of the United States are on the brink of some awful outcomes right now. I wonder if we’ve all spent enough time thinking about what we’ll do when (or if) they happen.

Trump returns: Republicans have relished dunking on Joe Biden for much of the last year. What will they do when Donald Trump returns as the GOP nominee in 2024? Will they continue to stand by the attempts of a would-be autocrat to regain office?

Abortion access: Roe v. Wade will almost certainly be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. What will abortion advocates in Kansas and across the nation do to protect women’s health? On a related note, Kansans will decide in August if the state constitution includes the right to an abortion. What will happen if we decide it doesn’t?

Variant threat: More COVID-19 variants will emerge. Some may escape our current vaccines, which means we’ll need to wait several months for new ones to be rolled out. Are businesses and governments ready for the inevitable disruptions, especially if those variants sicken huge swaths of the population or cause more severe illness?

Governor’s race: Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has managed better than you might expect for a red-state Democrat, but she faces a serious challenge from Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt in this year’s gubernatorial race. Has her party figured out what to do if she loses?

Interest rates: The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates soon to fight a rising tide of inflation. That almost certainly means further stock market gyrations. Depending on how fast those rates go up, the country may tip into recession. Are state legislators ready for the hit to Kansas’ economy that will follow?

Toxic anger: The political extremism that has riven our country has only deepened. Coming almost entirely from the right, this toxic anger has permeated school boards, elections administration and public health. What will everyday folks do when they realize the reliable cornerstones of their lives have been dynamited by radical reactionaries?

I could go on. Climate change has intensified. The Ogallala Aquifer shrinks by the day. Our state’s foster care system still struggles.

The news media does the best it can at covering these stories, but it can’t fix them for you. Too many advocates have forgotten what the news media is for. We’re not here to help your favored party or candidate win at the ballot box. We can’t create a desired political outcome. We tell you what happens. Through commentary sections like this one, we share opinions and advice. But making the change happen — that takes everyone.

Enjoy the snow day. May you have sunnier thoughts than I.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone serves as Kansas Reflector's opinion editor. His columns have been published in the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, along with newspapers and websites across the state and nation. He has written and edited for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, and cnn.com. Before joining the Reflector in summer 2021, Clay spent four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.