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“What’s wrong with Kansas?”
After that state’s vote to keep abortion protections in the state constitution, many might respond that “there’s nothing wrong with Kansas.”
Unless this vote was a fluke, what happened in Kansas has sent a signal about the future of American politics.
The Kansas question was first asked by William Allen White in an 1896 classic editorial. He criticized the populism of the state and attacked men who talked about large public spending while leaving their wives struggling to find enough money for household expenses.
In 2004, Thomas Frank, a native Kansan, wrote a book with the question as the title. He argued that the Republicans who controlled the state had adopted policies that hurt the average people who loyally elected them. White’s conservatism had won the day.
Kansas is often considered a “solid red” state, thoroughly conservative and Republican. Seen this way, the abortion vote represented a historic break with what had become the deeply entrenched character of the state.
But this view of Kansas is at least partially wrong and is becoming more discredited as time goes on. Two things are changing in Kansas that will likely happen across the country.
Kansas is becoming more urban, according to the US Census. We may think of their grain fields, but city-based services are winning. Democrats are beginning to gain in Kansas’ growing cities and suburbs, while Republicans lead in shrinking rural towns.
But the vote in favor of the election both in small towns and cities finished 2020 Joe Biden votes. This may have been caused by the growing power of women in politics. “Solid red” Kansas has a woman as governor and one of its four seats in the US House. Both are Democrats.
After the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the voter register shot up in Kansas, where a state referendum was scheduled to undermine abortion. The Republican legislature calculated that a low turnout, especially for the Republican primaries, would ensure its passage.
But turnout was high, reflecting an increase in new registrants. about 70 percent of newly registered voters were women. Although there is no way of knowing how they voted, it is likely that they were motivated to register and vote by the need to protect abortion after Roe was overturned.
Nationally, the population mix of the electorate is changing. A lot of attention is given to Latinos and African Americans. Are Latino voters innately conservative and likely to abandon Democrats? Faced with voter suppression, will African Americans be discouraged from voting?
One day, the majority of the American electorate will be made up of minorities. But this preview misses the most obvious group, one that isn’t a minority: women. Their more active political participation could have a far greater impact than the growth of minority power.
More women’s involvement is very likely to benefit Democrats. In 2022, nearly a third of state legislators are women and two-thirds of them are Democrats.
Maine can be a good example of women in politics. this ranks seventh in percentage of female legislators. It has a history of female participants and three of its US senators have been women, all Republicans. As urbanization grows in southern Maine, the state appears to be leaning more toward Democrats.
Some experts seem blind to the change that is taking place. They criticize Democrats for abandoning unionized industrial workers in favor of more educated suburban women. They suggest the GOP is gaining ground as it picks up blue-collar Democrats.
That’s one theory, and it’s somewhat supported by traditionally Democratic states like Pennsylvania and Michigan that have become battlefields. And then, comes Kansas.
It would be easy to overturn the vote that is about abortion. Indeed, Kansas’ reaction to Roe’s reversal may have revealed what Democrats knew. The country is changing and they go where the votes are.
The number of people with university degrees has increased greatly and now represents 41 percent of the population Women outnumber men among university graduates and its share of the total keeps increasing.
Among people aged 25 and over, there are more women who have them finished university than men who have finished high school. And there are fewer of them union members than women with university degrees.
In short, the conventional wisdom about democratic prospects may be unwise and too conventional. It explains why the GOP clings to power in the US Senate, the last place rural states can block federal legislation. But Republicans need to watch Kansas.
The vote suggests there was more to it than the abortion issue. A combination of more and better educated women and urban growth are the main drivers of political change.