Election results show Kansans willing to converse — but not take decisive action

November 29, 2022 3:33 am
A "vote here" sign is displayed next to a tree outside the Shawnee County Election Office

A “vote here” sign advertises Oct. 25, 2022, at the Shawnee County Election Office in Topeka. (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. David Norlin is a retired Cloud County Community College teacher, where he was department chairman of communications/English, specializing in media.

I walked doors this election. I talked to hundreds of people. My conclusion: Most are willing, even eager, to talk, and glad for the post-COVID opportunity. That’s really not in question.

What concerns me is Kansas’ historic, deep-pocketed-yet poverty-stricken, ever-darker and more fearful Republican monopoly of thought.

The big question is when the body politic will wake up. Kansas’ now-fabled August rejection of such thought showed it could be done. So did the governor’s race, and the reelection of Sharice Davids. But save those exceptions, that spell was not broken in November. Despite clear choices on the ballot, 60,000 fewer voters turned out than 4 years ago.

Krista Tippett, of the insightful “On Being” series, summed up the challenge beautifully: “Evolutionary biologists in our day are rediscovering … humanity’s superpower of cooperation. And so they are telling a completely different story than the one the West was built around: The story that we as a species have always progressed by competing and fighting and winning. It is simply not true.

“In the name of that story, we perfected systems for making an ‘us’ and an ‘other.’ We made of the natural world [and I would argue, the poor, minorities, LGBTQ folks] an ‘other.’ ”

We can no longer allow storytellers on social media and primarily for-profit news outlets to turn our comfort zones into circled wagons.

Breaking out and reaching out is important, but kumbaya moments don’t rule out pointing a finger — not a gun — at those who exploit our division for profit.

A master practitioner of the art is the charlatan pseudo-lawyer who will soon serve as our primary law enforcement officer, despite his profound disrespect for every citizen’s voting rights and his court-ordered remedial legal education.

Breaking out and reaching out is important, but kumbaya moments don’t rule out pointing a finger — not a gun — at those who exploit our division for profit.

– David Norlin

This is balanced by a female Democratic governor who can apply brakes to a Legislature that rolls over citizens’ will and well-being. Thankfully, Laura Kelly will be in Topeka, keeping the Statehouse at a safe velocity.

But why do we always have to settle for, “It could have been worse?”

Some very fine candidates will not make a needed difference in state government — because their names didn’t have an ‘R’ by them.

Myopia pervades Kansas’ legislative leadership and our Washington, D.C. delegation. They battle elimination of sales taxes on groceries till they finally “compromise” on partial and delayed tax relief. They decry inflation, but in an era when mega-grocers Kroger (Dillon’s) and Albertson’s move to merge, they ring the bell against regulation. They remain unaware or silent about the 1980s coup under Republican President Ronald Reagan that allowed such monopolistic mergers to run rampant.

Other inflationary examples from the Washington Post: “BP posted eye-popping second-quarter profits worth $8.5 billion, its biggest windfall in 14 years. ExxonMobil went one further — its $17.9 billion in net income was its largest-ever quarterly profit.”

Collectively, our leadership is unequal to the task.

They seldom, if ever, recognize cascading dangers to Kansas and the planet. Once-defeated cholera is now spreading in Africa, an unparalleled third of Pakistan was flooded, and soon today’s millions of climate refugees will become billions.

Nationally, Lake Meade shrivels and Colorado River water use is reduced 20% — in this year alone. Kansas is not exempt. Water from the Ogallala Aquifer will disappear in 25 years, and silted-in Tuttle reservoir will also shrivel the northeast Kansas water supply. Less water requires more smarts.

As long as teachers are forced to report all lessons, women’s rights are restricted, and libraries have no books referring to race, transgender or gay people, the powers that be think we’re safe. Their modus operandi seems to be: “My morality first, your welfare last.”

Republicans vote for freedom yet are everywhere in chains.

As John Cassidy wrote: “The freedom to make one’s own decisions about reproduction and health. To vote. To choose one’s dating and life partners. To hold elections without worrying about an authoritarian putsch. To send one’s kids to school without fear of a madman armed with an AR-15. These are rights that threaten them. Freedom is a many-sided thing, and no political party has a monopoly on it.”

Our own Jason Probst, a Democratic state representative from Hutchinson, said it best: “Kansas, as a whole, isn’t nearly as extreme as our political rhetoric makes it seem. If we are ever going to force our policy to reflect the broader values of this state, it’s going to take more people voting for people who more accurately represent the will of Kansas voters — and not just a small faction that seems to have overtaken one party.”

Let’s talk better and vote smarter.

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David Norlin
David Norlin

David Norlin of Salina is a retired teacher at Cloud County Community College, where he was department chair of Communications/English, specializing in media. He has twice run for the Kansas Legislature and has served on and chaired Salina’s Human Relations Commission, Planning Commission, and Access TV. He is an occasional columnist for the Salina Journal.