There was thunder and lightning in one of the reddest of the red states last night.
In Kansas. Dorothy’s Kansas. A place that had a book written about it (No. Not the Wizard): “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”
“Not long ago, Kansas would have responded to the current situation by making the bastards pay. This would have been a political certainty, as predictable as what happens when you touch a match to a puddle of gasoline. When business screwed the farmers and the workers – when it implemented monopoly strategies invasive beyond the Populists’ furthest imaginings – when it ripped off shareholders and casually tossed thousands out of work – you could be damned sure about what would follow.Not these days. Out here the gravity of discontent pulls in only one direction: to the right, to the right, further to the right. Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there’s a good chance they’ll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.”
— Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (2004), pp. 67–68
Yes, that’s Kansas. Dyed Blond Don carried the state easily over Old Joe. Wasn’t even close. Stop anyone on a street and you are likely to encounter an election denier. Kansas got that way, moving from radical left wing to arch conservative when the Democrats adopted conservative economic policy. Thus the Kansas left disappeared and is now consumed over explosive social issues like abortion and gay marriage rather than economics.
And then came the overturn of Roe by a Court stacked by a bunch of good Catholic boys and girls who had no problems lying about their intentions in front of Congressional committees. I mean, the word “abortion” is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. The arrogant Alito, who thinks he is the second coming is really a horse’s ass.
Well the pro-birthers celebrated everywhere, including Kansas. The Republican legislature would surely move to ban abortion in this reddest of red states.
But there was a problem which had to be solved first.
The Kansas state constitution guarantees “bodily integrity.” When asked to rule on the state’s ability to ban abortion. the Kansas Supremes said “eh no.” You have to change the state constitution if you want to do that.
The first section of the Kansas Bill of Rights, included in its state constitution from 1859, was cribbed almost verbatim from the Declaration of Independence. It holds that “all men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In 2019, the Kansas state Supreme Court cited those words in finding that the state constitution “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. This right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life—decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.”
A slap in the face to Sam Alito, if you ask me. (Nobody has)
And so the pro-birthers anxious to get moving in order to ban 10 year old girls from getting abortions when raped by their step-fathers, put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for a vote.
The referendum was attached to a primary vote in which only registered Republicans turnout tovote and turnout is therefore usually low.
It was entitled “Value Them Both.” How trite. It was purposely worded vaguely so that the voter had to vote “No” to maintain abortion rights under the state constitution. Robo calls followed, attempting to confuse the vote.
Now everyone in Kansas, especially the pro-birthers expected this tiny change to the state constitution would sail through to approval. I mean, who votes in a Republican primary election in a Republican state?
Kansas voters turned out by the hundreds of thousands; turned out at the level of a Presidential election. Kansas voters recognized this move for what it was – an effort to use the majority rule of the GOP to create an oppressive law. It was from the start a campaign to strip rights from others, an example of democracy at its worst. And on Tuesday, that campaign failed.
In a rousing and stunning victory, the effort to change the state constitution was crushed 60% – 40%. It is the first obvious evidence that, even in the reddest of states, a majority exists to maintain abortion rights.
And it may serve as a warning to other pols. Even in Republican strongholds, where only Republicans win, you can be defeated on a social issue.