Saturday, November 19, 2016

From What's the Matter with Kansas: Heartland Pt 4

The next section of the book looks at the formation of the Republican control in Kansas. This quote might be one the most meaningful in the entire book:
Out here, remember, the gravity of discontent pulls to the right, to the right, farther to the right. The standard reaction of Kansas to the vulgar machinations of the state's self-perpetuating ruling class, to its cronyism and its brazen flaunting of its wealth, to its business scandals and the grinding destruction of farm communities, is to push ever deeper into the alienated right wing world of the culture wars.
So the way to cope with the unfairness of the universe, is to assert your righteousness and victimhood. Fox News feeds your knowledge that you are "unfairly and outrageously persecuted." It becomes identity. They become the victims of "unspeakable persecution by the ruling class, that is, liberals." By taking on the role of victim, conservatives are absolved of responsibility for their failures and justifies their rage and hatred for "depraved liberal elite". Worse, there are even those like Dwight Sutherland Jr from Kansas City, who argue splinter issues like abortion, gun control and evolution is Democratic strategy to keep conservatives in check. (I'm really not sure what the man is smokin'.)

The author also takes a look at Kansas City media figure Jack Cashill who is a class warrior. On the one hand he criticizes privilege, while with the other hand he fawns over the region's business leaders. His skill lies in the ability to "make sense of the average person's disgruntlement while exempting laisssez-faire capitalism from any culpability." Mutual outrage against a common enemy like liberals allows disparate members of the community to be united.

Significantly, Cashill argued that by 1994, after two years of Democrat leadership in Washington, the Midwest "were said to be living under an imposed federal regime that we were unable to question and powerless to control. Like the vanquished Confederacy under reconstruction, we were a conquered people." So all that assistance with federal jobs (and benefits), help with schools, aid to the housing authority and prosecution of a corrupt governor were turned into being called control!

Tim Golba works on the line at the Pepsi bottling company, making it his life's mission to help increase the power of Kansas' conservative moment through Kansans for Life during the 80s and 90s. He recruited hard-line abortion conservatives. For him, it's all about principals: "They're all these business people, they have a ton of money, some of the wealthiest people in the country, but we've been able to beat them because they have no base." He believes Kansans don't vote for economic issues such as taxes or the economy. They vote to strike a blow for the cultural war. The same can be said for Trump's presidency. He has only a vague understanding of foreign policy, how to build a cabinet, how to fund infrastructure, or how to make taxes fair. But voters saw voting for him as a blow in the cultural war, despite his millions.

Then there's Kay O'Connor who argued women's suffrage was a symptom of America's moral decline. She thinks government unions, especially teacher's unions, cause problems. She thinks tax cuts and free enterprise is going to fix most everything. She opposes progressive taxes, which she thinks is theft but is not wealthy herself. Her solution to urban decline is school vouchers and the low-wage economy. Market forces will fix it all. (OMG -- really????!!!!) In her world, everyone has a place and should be happy in their station. She undermines women, declaring she is obedient to my husband in all things moral". Despite this conservative Christian stance, she runs her campaign, is authoritative and is every bit an equal despite her determination to restore some sort of mythic social order of the past.

Mark Gietzen, director of a Wichita Christian singles network, served as chairman of the local Republican party in the 90s. The Summer of Mercy changed the party forever, according to him. Thousands of conservative recruits campaigned door to door, for the first time, building a social movement that "shouted their fighting creed to every resident of the city, sharpening the differences, polarizing the electorate, letting everyone know the stakes." Meanwhile, the rival movement that traditionally spoke for the working class became Clinton's New Democrats. While the intent had been to accommodate the right with an emphasis on free market. Instead, they looked "dispirited, weak, spent." By removing basic economic issues from the table, only social issues were left to distinguish the parties. Soon pamphlets like Is It a Sin for a Christian to Be a Registered Democrat Voter in America Today? began circulating. And you wonder why Hillary Clinton couldn't win the heartland? Think about it. The Democratic party is about to make the same mistake again. Today I heard the man trying to be the new party chair arguing all the things we have in common like infrastructure and we need to work together. The Democratic party has forgotten what should have been learning from Bill Clinton's New Democratics. This talk from a one down position is going to look dispirited, weak and spent. And they will run right over us, building the wall, setting up Muslim interment camps, and putting more gilding in Trump Tower.

Ultimately, as a result of the Democratic representative at the time voting for NAFTA which was originally proposed by republicans, republicans began separating themselves from Democrats by issues of abortions and guns. The next election was won by a Republican. "The inversion was complete: the Democrat could only count on support from the professional people who felt embarrassed by the Summer of Mercy and its aftermath." The polarization of the Heartland from the coasts was complete.

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