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July 01, 2005

Nothing. Nothing Is The Matter With Kansas.

Democrats are really off track with this "What's the Matter With Kansas" game. Andrei Cherny's new iteration of it just proves how much. Road tripping through the state, he stopped off in a small city, heard a story of a desperate women, and caromed off into ruminations about how we've failed the natives there. Why?

First off, what is the matter with Kansas? Particularly as opposed to, say, Arkansas, or Tennessee, or Oregon. Kansas has middling unemployment (that's better than the presumably right-thinking California), a per capita income firmly in the nation's middle (Arkansas, incidentally, has the lowest), a female Democratic governor, and a poverty level 2.1% below the national average. So tell me again, what's the matter with Kansas? Because though we keep making the state sound like it's crammed with abortion-hating hicks too stupid to mark the ballot that'd help pull them out of poverty, none of that's actually going on. Instead, the real problem seems to be that the state just doesn't vote Democratic very often. But on a national level, they never have, so unless there's something surprising about the state that rejected FDR rejecting John Kerry, I wouldn't get my knickers in a bunch over it.

Worse, if you were a Kansan, already predisposed against Democrats, exactly how pleased would you be by a national progressive conversation entitled "What's the Matter With You and Everyone You Know?" You'd shake your head, curse those condescending Democratic elitists, feel six times better about never voting for them, and wonder how such a nice girl as Kathleen Sebelius came out of such a nasty party as that.

So look: I wish Kansas would vote for us. If they were liberal, I wouldn't have to play the moderate every time I visit my girlfriend's family. But there is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing strange about it. They are just not voting Democrat. And, stunningly enough, their economy has survived the choice. As it turns out, which party you vote into office does not decide what the next year's unemployment numbers look like.

Democrats should stop kidding themselves. Kansans are not sacrificing their economic interests to vote Republican, at least not in any large sense. They're buffeted by the same forces we all are, and Democrats, though we can help out on health care and so forth, are powerless to stop those. And this isn't just a question of Democrats being more populist, Kansas voted against FDR! So let's stop pretending that Kansans are killing themselves by pulling the Republican lever, they're not. And let's stop looking down our nose at a state that's doing just fine. If we want to craft a better appeal, I'm happy to help. But stop pretending there's something the matter with Kansas. The problem lies with Democrats.

Update: More fun almanac info. The main benefit Democrats could give Kansans is health care access, right? Well, 11% of Kansans are uninsured, 4.6% less than the national average. Moreover, Kansas's health care delivers high quality service, 18th best in the nation. Shockingly, they're doing just fine without our help. The relationship between Democrats and economic equality is just not, at least on the state level, as linear as we'd like to believe.

July 1, 2005 in Democrats | Permalink

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Comments

Thanks, Ezra. What really is *the matter* with Kansas is what's the matter with a lot of the country: people don't pay attention to smaller, local elections (school board, etc...) and those can be hijacked by those who are loud and interested in doctrine and not compromise, Republican or Democrat. And don't think that doesn't happen in cities controlled by Democrats.

Also, what's really wrong with Kansas is that their basketball program seems to be imploding.

Posted by: Chris Rasmussen | Jul 1, 2005 1:14:57 PM

Chris: My girlfriend says, "True, because Roy left".

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 1, 2005 1:21:01 PM

And she's just dead, dead right.

Tell you girlfriend that yesterday was the day that Kansas officially went from "top-tier" program to just another one. And it didn't just have to do with Giddens leaving, but it had a lot to do with Self hiring an assistant coach who just happens to be the father of a prized recruit. Roy wouldn't do that and proved he didn't have to -- the fact that Self has to means they're on the decline.

They'll make the tournament as a 6-8 seed b/c they are talented, even w/o Giddens. But the days when we can just chalk up Big 12 championships are over.

Posted by: Chris Rasmussen | Jul 1, 2005 1:50:02 PM

Bleeding Kansas, indeed. As a Texas fan I'm excited to see a little room at the top for the 'Horns but disheartened that overall the conference won't be so competitive.

Posted by: Kriston | Jul 1, 2005 2:53:07 PM

Ezra You and Matt are smarter than that. Franke
didn't right his book as a guide to winning the electoral votes of Kansas. The question was 'what can the Democratic Party offer people like this.' And your answer seems to be well not much except not snickering at them. So the Dems promise not to look down on you and the Republicans come in and say we will protect you from the heathen baby-killing sodomites and presto Dems lose throughout the middle west. It doesn't take much to beat nothing. Why does it seem whenever the case for populist economic policies bubble to the top social liberals reach to turn off the heat.

Posted by: ghostofRFK | Jul 1, 2005 3:49:07 PM

Chris,

Hiring Danny Manning's father was part of the deal when Larry Brown got him to come to KU. I'm not saying I approve of the action, but it's done well for us in the past.

As for Giddens, good riddance. He was a distraction anyway, whose discipline never lived up to his talent. The next couple of years may be "re-building" years, but KU will always be a top-tier program.

And Ezra, thanks for your post on Kansas. I worked for Kathleen Sebelius for a couple of summers when she was Insurance Commissioner - a great leader and a great person.

Posted by: Frank | Jul 1, 2005 4:26:14 PM

Because Kansas will never go Democratic, it makes an excellent case study. Yes, it's rural and has a middling national income, and it contains a constituency that Democrats would like to appeal to. However, because it will never, ever have any chance of voting for Democrats, they make a good target which can be dissected, analyzed, and criticized. Writing a similar book, "What's the matter with Missouri?" in which rural voters are considered similarly manipulated by the Republican party would be more damaging because, you know, Missourans are actually voters that Democrats want to appeal to.

So Kansas is used as a laboratory in which to understand and experiment with voter attitudes without consequence-- Democrats have little to lose there-- and the lessons can be applied elsewhere.

Posted by: Constantine | Jul 1, 2005 5:58:36 PM

I have to do a bit of a fuzzy math check. Kansas also has 13.3% (versus 12.4% nationwide) of its population over 65, and 26.5% (versus 25.7% nationwide) of its population under 18. That reduces the available labor force by about 2.8%, which is certainly enough to keep their employment rate below the national average (assuming you need to do the same amount of work to sustain the same number of people).

It would also be instructive to examine the Labor Force Participation Rate in Kansas. Are there really a bunch of barefoot & pregnant moms who just don't go looking for work? (my hunch is there are not; South Dakota has one of the highest rates of working mothers in the country). But, still, worth looking at the real numbers

Posted by: Electoral Math | Jul 1, 2005 6:23:35 PM

What you say is correct, however there is at least one thing you missed. The creeping IDiots and their effort to replace a real education with such evidenced theories as a flat earth, geocentrism and of course creationism. All this under the guise of SCIENCE. How terrific. Keep talking about basketball. I wonder why what the ghostofRFK said rings so true.

Posted by: evilchemistry | Jul 1, 2005 7:28:09 PM

The creeping IDiots and their effort to replace a real education with such evidenced theories as a flat earth, geocentrism and of course creationism.

Uh, the same gang seems to be running amok here in Ohio too, but I don't see anyone asking "What's The Matter With Ohio?"

(What is the matter with Ohio? Four words: Lack of Democratic leadership.)

Posted by: Doug | Jul 2, 2005 12:54:39 AM

Actually, KS has had quite a few Democratic governors, and the Congressional district I am in has had a Democrat for about 3 terms now. KS is a mix, though maybe not the mix that the national Democratic party would like.

Posted by: Scorpio | Jul 2, 2005 3:01:38 AM

On the health care issue:

States with the lowest percentage of uninsured adults:

1 Minn 8.3
2 Hawa 9.8
3 Del. 10.2
4 D.C. 11.0
5 Mass 11.2
6 Wis. 11.7
7 Vt. 11.8
8 Conn 12.5
9 Mich 13.0
10 Pa. 13.0

All are blue states.

States with the highest proportion of uninsured adults:

1 Texa 30.7
2 La. 26.4
3 N.M. 26.0
4 Nev. 23.9
5 Okla 23.6
6 Fla. 23.5
7 W.Va 23.5
8 Ark. 23.3
9 Mont 22.8
10 Miss 22.7

All are red states.

What was that again about the link between Democrats and economic equality?

Posted by: Tom Geraghty | Jul 2, 2005 6:50:04 AM

Tom,

Some of those "blue states" have red governors/legislatures, while some of the "red states" you mentioned have blue governors/legislatures. The correlation between "Democrats and economic equality" is hardly perfect.

Posted by: Frank Harrison | Jul 2, 2005 8:05:41 AM

Frank,

There's no question that compared to the "red state" list, Democrats are far more likely to be in power, and Republicans are far more likely to be of the moderate variety in the "blue states" that I listed. Those are some of the most liberal states in the country. I really fail to see very much problem with the contrast, but if you have actual information on who voted for and signed health policy bills, and who is responsible for keeping up the funding for those programs in thos states, I'm all ears.

Posted by: Tom Geraghty | Jul 2, 2005 10:52:49 PM

Did some more digging, and you may have a point on this issue of blue states and inequality.

This study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that of the 19 states with the highest income inequality (measured as average income of top 5% of the income distribution divded by that of the bottom 5%), 13 are red states (AZ, LA, NM, TX, KY, VA, AL, GA, FL, WV, MS, NC, OK). States with above-average poverty rates tend to be red too (red states tend to do worse on a whole host of social indicators, including health and education).

But it also shows that, of the 19 states with the lowest income inequality, 13 are red states (SD, MO, SC, NV, ID, NE, WY, AL, CO, ND, IA, IN, UT).

Further, since the late 1970s income inequality has tended to increase far more in blue states than red states. Of the 16 states with the largest increase in inequality between 1978 and 1998, 13 are blue.

Interestingly, one of the red states in that group happens to be Kansas.

Posted by: Tom Geraghty | Jul 3, 2005 3:29:14 AM

Cherny's post is another part of that "Democrats have no ideas" drivel. He doesn't even take to the two minutes to google '"John Kerry" Education,' where the second link more than adequately explains the relative novelty of Kerry's education plan. Incidentally, of all of Kerry's policies I thought his education plan was amongst his best.

It's hard to judge the Kansas basketball team from this year's results, because it became pretty obvious about halfway through the season that they just weren't hungry. That could be bad coaching, loyalty to Roy, bad player attitudes, or any number of things. We'll have to see what happens in the next couple of years. Here's hoping ISU will continue its trend started this year. Top ten recruiting class, baby!

Posted by: Drew Miller | Jul 3, 2005 9:28:12 PM

Cherny's post is another part of that "Democrats have no ideas" drivel. He doesn't even take to the two minutes to google '"John Kerry" Education,' where the second link more than adequately explains the relative novelty of Kerry's education plan. Incidentally, of all of Kerry's policies I thought his education plan was amongst his best.

It's hard to judge the Kansas basketball team from this year's results, because it became pretty obvious about halfway through the season that they just weren't hungry. That could be bad coaching, loyalty to Roy, bad player attitudes, or any number of things. We'll have to see what happens in the next couple of years. Here's hoping ISU will continue its trend started this year. Top ten recruiting class, baby!

Posted by: Drew Miller | Jul 3, 2005 9:35:47 PM

Cherny's post is another part of that "Democrats have no ideas" drivel. He doesn't even take to the two minutes to google '"John Kerry" Education,' where the second link more than adequately explains the relative novelty of Kerry's education plan. Incidentally, of all of Kerry's policies I thought his education plan was amongst his best.

It's hard to judge the Kansas basketball team from this year's results, because it became pretty obvious about halfway through the season that they just weren't hungry. That could be bad coaching, loyalty to Roy, bad player attitudes, or any number of things. We'll have to see what happens in the next couple of years. Here's hoping ISU will continue its trend started this year. Top ten recruiting class, baby!

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