With elections approaching, Kansans let candidates get away with empty entertainment

October 7, 2022 3:33 am
Susan Quinn at legislative forum

Susan Quinn appears at a forum for legislative candidates this week in Topeka where only candidates from one political party attended. With elections approaching, she writes, how much do we actually ask of the candidates running to represent us? (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Susan Quinn is an engineer in northeast Kansas.

This week, I attended a forum in Topeka for candidates running for the Kansas House of Representatives from Shawnee County. I had hoped to see my district’s representative there, but he didn’t attend. No need to come out when one, you’re unopposed, two, there’s a supermajority in power so no need to work with the other side, and three, we frankly didn’t plan to get much done anyway, so why talk about it?

Now, that’s an exaggeration. I personally know my representative, and he’s a good guy. I don’t think he’s opposed to working across the aisle; it just doesn’t seem to happen all that often.

I think I know why. We ask so little of substance from our representatives. We want them to say the right words and entertain us. They know what will get them re-elected, and they aim to please.

Are you well-informed about our national politics? Do you read the newspaper, keep up on Twitter trends, and know what’s happening around the world? How many hours a week do you spend on being politically informed? Nowadays, our representatives focus more on public relations and marketing their brand to appeal to their base than on understanding the issues and making headway on them.

But if we treat politics like a spectator sport, that’s what we’ll get: a whole lot of showmanship that leaves you feeling empty. All those clicks and likes will get you more of the same gridlock. All the while problems continue to mount until they become overwhelming and possibly too late for resolution. Wells are drying up, folks. The water crisis is real.

At the forum this week, all the candidates who attended were from one party. While I was glad to hear from them, I was left wanting much more.

– Susan Quinn

At the forum this week, all the candidates who attended were from one party. While I was glad to hear from them, I was left wanting much more. I can be hard to please, I guess. But still. One of the speakers tried to fire up the crowd, but he didn’t make me smile as much as shake my head with sadness.

Why was only one side of the aisle there? Why do we have “sides” of the aisle in the first place? What can we do when neither side appears to want to work together?

I’ll tell you what you do: Pick up the phone. I mean it. Figure out who your reps are and call them. Let them know that you are watching, and you want to see movement on the issues that matter to you. Tell them that you vote and that you’ll be watching how they vote.

Next, get on your shoes because you’re going to be busy. You are going to leave the house and talk to people you care about and get them engaged in voting. Have an honest-to-goodness conversation with them about what matters and help each other get informed. Don’t know where to start? Use the resources on the Kansas Reflector’s Election Page to get started. Call me up if you need help. If I don’t know the answer, we’ll find it together.

You need a plan to vote this time and every time. Yes, every single November there is an election. Not just on even-numbered years. There is an election every year, and you need to cast an informed vote every year. If you don’t, good luck with that water issue.

Yes, I know I don’t farm, but I eat. Last time I knew, the crops we like to grow still take water. How are we planning to have food if we haven’t got water?

Until we work together, we’ll continue to get more of the same and continue to do 5% of what we could have done.

We tell our children to share and work together. “Play nice!” we say. But we don’t know how to talk with others anymore. Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe it’s just me getting older and less tolerant of the changes I’m seeing. We’ve had a rocky three years since January 2020. I’m not sure our current trajectory will take us where we want to go. But we’re going.

As they say, buckle up buttercup.

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Susan Quinn
Susan Quinn

Susan Quinn works as an engineer in northeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, born and raised in the Emporia community. She enjoys art, theater, gardening, reading, you name it. She loves her community and enjoys volunteering most of all.