Opinion

After an unhinged election season, results in Kansas suggest a sensible streak

November 9, 2022 3:33 am

Democrats wait for election results at the watch party for Gov. Laura Kelly in downtown Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

After all the drama, all the accusations and mudslinging, election evening in Kansas was — dare I say it? — a bit of an anticlimax.

As I write this, shortly after midnight, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids won a convincing victory for the 3rd District congressional seat, proving once and for all that a determined candidate can overcome the most obvious gerrymandering. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly enjoyed a narrow lead over her challenger, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, but those rural counties counted votes with all the speed of your grandparents perusing the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. Voters appeared confused over constitutional amendments, and judges retained their seats because that’s what they always do.

Otherwise, Republicans danced to victory in a host of races, including the clownish Kris Kobach, who appears destined to become the most hilarious attorney general in state history. Gird your loins for the next four years, folks.

Nationally, the much-touted “red tsunami” failed to sweep the nation, although a GOP-majority House of Representatives will likely draw up articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden as soon as they figure out whether to target Hunter’s laptop, the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan or those aviator sunglass. Those who feared the entire nation teetered upon a precipice were able to inch off their own precipices, if only until Donald Trump’s inevitable campaign announcement.

All of this was, profoundly, blessedly, all right.

It was a relief.

It was even, for want of a better phrase, boring.

We have conceived of politics in this state and country as being a life-or-death struggle for so long that we tend to forget that once it didn't seem to matter. Those old enough to have voted in the 2000 presidential election can recall debates about how little George W. Bush and Al Gore differed from one another. 'All politicians are the same' was the grumpy refrain.

– Clay Wirestone

We have conceived of politics in this state and country as being a life-or-death struggle for so long that we tend to forget that once it didn’t seem to matter. Those old enough to have voted in the 2000 presidential election can recall debates about how little George W. Bush and Al Gore differed from one another. “All politicians are the same” was the grumpy refrain.

That wasn’t true, of course. Yet politicians of a certain era gave that impression. Whatever their party, they prized competence and ability. Whoever won a race, you could expect they would take office with the gravitas befitting an elected official.

A handful of the Republicans elected last night have those qualities. Say what you like about U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Treasurer-elect Steven Johnson and Secretary of State Scott Schwab, but they’re not lightweights. They’re not election deniers. They understand what it means to serve the people of Kansas. Do I wish that more of the folks in their party shared those qualities? Of course. But we’re fortunate to have serious people representing the state, even if their ideology doesn’t match our own.

I’ll have more to say about the results when we know more of them for certain. Yet I couldn’t write a summation of this day without thanking all of the people who made it possible.

I’m looking at the voters. I know that it’s not always simple or easy to find the time to cast a ballot, much less an informed one. Thank you.

I’m looking at the poll workers. I understand how you sacrifice your time today for the sake of democracy. Thank you.

I’m even looking at the candidates. Whatever your party, you stepped up at great personal cost to give voters a choice. I may disagree with everything you say and believe in — or not! — but you sacrificed to serve others. That matters.

We live in a self-indulgent age. The concept of public service can seem very far away on Election Day. Whichever side of the partisan divide we occupy, we too often heedlessly paint politicians and government as forces of evil. Yet so many folks simply want to help. Believe it or not, that’s true of your local journalists as well.

Win or lose, we will awaken tomorrow and do the best we can for Kansas and our country. Now, let’s get some rest.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting 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, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly 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.

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