Kansas Politics and Government: The Clash of Political Cultures

Kansas Politics and Government: The Clash of Political Cultures

Kansas Politics and Government: The Clash of Political Cultures

Kansas Politics and Government: The Clash of Political Cultures

Synopsis

The rich history of Kansas politics continues to generate an abundant literature. The state's beginning as "Bleeding Kansas" followed by Prohibition, populism, the Progressive Era, and the Dust Bowl, through to the present day, have given local and national writers and scholars an intriguing topic for exploration. While historians and biographers shed light on pieces of this history, journalists focus on current political affairs in the state. Rarely, however, are past and present connected to fully illuminate an understanding of Kansas politics and government. This volume uses the prism of political cultures to interpret Kansas politics and disclose the intimate connections between the state's past and its current politics. The framework of political cultures evolves from underlying political preferences for liberty, order, and equality, and these preferences form the basis for the active political cultures of individualism, hierarchy, and egalitarianism. This comprehensive examination of Kansas political institutions argues that Kansas politics, historically and presently, may best be understood as a clash of political cultures.

Excerpt

Few news stories in recent memory have come to symbolize Kansas politics in the twenty-first century more than the controversy over the inclusion of Darwin’s theory of evolution in the science standards for Kansas public schools. This saga was not Kansas’ first brush with the issue, but it is the state’s most memorable one. in 1999 six Republicans on the Kansas State Board of Education voted to eliminate references to “macroevolution” and the “big bang” theory from the state’s science standards. Their decision set off a firestorm of criticism both inside and outside Kansas. National science groups refused to grant the board its copyrighted materials. Republican Governor William Graves ridiculed the decision as “terrible and tragic.” Late night tv comedians quipped that Kansas had become “Y1K compliant.” For its part the board’s majority noted that its decision did not preclude any local school board in Kansas from allowing its science teachers to teach macroevolution or the big bang theory but that state assessment tests for science would not include questions on these topics.

The board’s vote mobilized a slate of self-proclaimed moderate Republican candidates to challenge four of the six antievolution Republicans who stood for reelection in the 2000 gop primaries. Three moderate Republicans won both the primary and the general election. Upon taking office in 2001, the new board’s first order of business was to reinstate the old science standards that included discussion of evolution and the big bang theory. This story would have ended in most states but not in Kansas.

In the wake of the 2000 Republican primary Kris Van Meteren, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Assembly, which is a voice for the evangelical wing of the Kansas gop, stated, “Next time, when all the liberals are up, you can rest assured we’ll be going after them.” Van Meteren made good on his promise. in the 2002 gop primary two Republicans en-

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