A statewide poll conducted by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University finds that Kansans are extremely dissatisfied with Republican Governor Sam Brownback and many of his policies. The ”Kansas Speaks” survey, released on October 25th, reveals a political paradox. Kansans dislike the Republican Governor and his policies, but when they had the chance to remove him from office, they couldn’t muster the courage to do it.
According to the survey, 61 percent of Kansans believe Governor Brownback’s tax policies have been a “failure” or a “tremendous failure.” 84 percent oppose requiring colleges to allow firearms on campus. 63 percent want to raise taxes on high income earners. 62 percent support Medicaid expansion. In other words, a majority of Kansans disagree with the Governor they elected twice. They disagree with him on a wide range of critical issues.
Only 18 percent of Kansans are satisfied with Governor Brownback’s job performance in the deeply Republican state, making him considerably less popular than Democratic President Barack Obama. 28 percent of Kansans are satisfied with Barack Obama’s job performance.
It would be easy to sympathize with the good folks of Kansas, because they are indeed suffering under one of the nation’s worst governors. Yet, they have only themselves to blame, because their wounds are largely self-inflicted.
After enduring Brownback’s disastrous first term, the masochistic Kansas electorate decided to vote themselves another round of pain, by reelecting him in 2014. Voters in Kansas are so programmed to vote for the person with the (R) by their name, that they seem almost incapable of doing anything else, even when their livelihoods are at stake.
Over a decade ago, Thomas Frank wrote his influential book, What’s the Matter with Kansas. The book argued that Kansans who voted Republican were foolishly voting against their own interests. Kansans were described as:
Sturdy patriots reciting the Pledge while they resolutely strangle their own life chances… small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land… devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care… hardened blue-collar workers in Midwestern burgs cheering as they deliver up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life.
Over a decade after Frank wrote his book, his description still rings true, as Kansans have twice elected Governor Brownback, only to see him implement policies that work against most of the state’s residents.
The “Kansas Speaks” survey sends a message that Kansans are fed up with Governor Brownback’s devastating policies. Unfortunately, those aggrieved voters failed to express their dissatisfaction at the polls in November 2014, when their collective power could have made a difference. One can only hope they have learned from their mistake, but chances are in the next election, those disgruntled voters will pull the lever for Republicans yet again. Its hard to rescue people from their misery, when they seem so determined to make sure it persists.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.