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August 02, 2006

Sanity Returning to Kansas

Kansas Republican voters swapped out a couple of conservative incumbents for a couple of moderate candidates for the State School Board.  Since the Democratic candidates are also moderates, this means that the State School Board will return to having science standards that actually have to do with science.  They will go from being 6-4 in favor of a curriculum that promotes Intelligent Design to 6-4 being in favor of curriculum that teaches science and history in a manner consistent with the norms of the academic world.  The School Board will likely revisit every recent decision related to the teaching of evolution - and who knows what other subjects (Health Ed, anyone?).  The NYT has the details.

I think this vote can be traced to two factors, both highly positive.  First, the American public is catching onto the idiocy of Intelligent Design and people who live in jurisdictions that vote for ID are faced with ridicule.  Every single attempt to impose ID through school boards in the last 18 months has failed.  The Panda's Thumb. a blog that monitors the ID movement, put a brief history of the recent wins in a post yesterday.  Here's the summary:

The ID movement has been pushing the “intelligent design” strategy for 16 years now, and what has it accomplished? What has the Discovery Institute got to show for the several million bucks it has spent on ID each year for the last 10 years? In three very different forums (court, board politics, and elections), their approach has been rejected. Despite a lot of propaganda claiming they are doing research, the ID movement has nothing but a handful of articles, all of which, upon inspection, fail to be (a) peer-reviewed, (b) original research, and/or (c} actually supportive of ID.

Again and again, people eventually figure out that ID is not really science, and that instead it is a shell game that really has no substance or mission other than to push the specific religious view of special creation in the public schools. And the predictable results followed.

Secondly, I think that this vote is related to the "purpling" of Kansas.  This historically populist state has been under the sway of the right wing of the Republican Party like few others.  Slowly, over the last couple of years, we've been seeing a transition that is encouraged by Governor Kathleen Sibelius, a remarkable Democratic governor who has  pulled some key moderate Republicans over to the Democratic Party recently.   

Here's a piece of a post by Pete Ross over on the Emerging Democratic Majority blog:

Paul Harris of the Guardian Unlimited Observer reports on the resignation of the Kansas GOP Chairman Mark Parkinson and his candidacy for Deputy Governor --- as a Democrat. Writes Harris:

His defection to the Democrats sent shockwaves through a state deeply associated with the national Republican cause and the evangelical conservatives at its base. Nor was it just Parkinson's leave-taking that left Republicans spluttering with rage and talking of betrayal. It was that as he left Parkinson lambasted his former party's obsession with conservative and religious issues such as gay marriage, evolution and abortion.

Sitting in his headquarters, the new Democrat is sticking to his guns. Republicans in Kansas, he says, have let down their own people. 'They were fixated on ideological issues that really don't matter to people's everyday lives. What matters is improving schools and creating jobs,' he said. 'I got tired of the theological debate over whether Charles Darwin was right.'

Later in the article he pinpoints one of the main reasons.

Democratic Governer Kathleen Sibelius seems to be the high powered leverage point in Kansas politics inspiring Democrats to take the fight to the GOP. 

..she has impressed by reaching the middle-ground voters in a startlingly successful first term. Shunning the hot-button social issues, she has focused on education, jobs and health. This has earned her approval ratings touching 68 per cent in a state that was overwhelmingly pro-Bush in 2004.

Sibelius has cracked the political holy grail: persuading heartland Republicans to vote Democrat. 'Her style works here, and then bringing over Parkinson to the Democrats has been the coup of all coups,' said Professor Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University near Topeka.

The 2006 Democratic Party slogan in Kansas is "Hope in the Heartland".  Yep.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 2, 2006 at 05:48 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


If the they can continue on this path, and maybe even win both houses of the legislature, we'll no longer need to ask, "What's the Matter With Kansas"?

Posted by: mickey | Aug 2, 2006 9:52:03 PM

And wouldn't that be great?

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 3, 2006 9:40:17 PM

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