What’s the Matter With Kansas?

laura kelly state of the state

Governor Laura Kelly

Here is The Wichita Eagle:

Easter looming, Kansas Republican leaders on Wednesday revoked Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s order limiting religious gatherings to 10 people as the state’s coronavirus death toll jumped 40 percent.

House and Senate leaders — meeting as a body called the Legislative Coordinating Council — voted along party lines to throw out the directive. Their decision came as the number of reported COVID-19 cases in the state climbed to more than 1,000 and the death count ticked up to 38.

Church gatherings have produced three case clusters across the state and health officials fear Easter gatherings could further spread the deadly coronavirus. Pastors and priests now confront a stark choice: forgo in-person services on Christianity’s holiest day or open church buildings and potentially risk exposing parishioners.

Kelly denounced the legislators’ decision at a late afternoon press conference, calling it “shockingly irresponsible” and one likely to cost lives.e legislators’ decision at a late afternoon press conference, calling it “shockingly irresponsible” and one likely to cost lives.

She said she instructed her legal counsel to explore a court challenge. According to the governor, it was unclear whether an overall statewide ban on mass gatherings of more than 10 people remained in effect.

“There are real life consequences to the partisan games Republicans played today,” Kelly said.

Her order had sparked strong backlash among Republicans and religious liberty advocates, who condemned it as a violation of foundational freedoms and an overreach by the governor. One GOP congressional candidate, Adrienne Vallejo Foster, went as far as calling on sheriffs to ignore the order and urging churches to meet while practicing social distancing.

She said she instructed her legal counsel to explore a court challenge. According to the governor, it was unclear whether an overall statewide ban on mass gatherings of more than 10 people remained in effect.

“There are real life consequences to the partisan games Republicans played today,” Kelly said.

Her order had sparked strong backlash among Republicans and religious liberty advocates, who condemned it as a violation of foundational freedoms and an overreach by the governor. One GOP congressional candidate, Adrienne Vallejo Foster, went as far as calling on sheriffs to ignore the order and urging churches to meet while practicing social distancing.

Read the entire piece here.

Governor Laura Kelly was on CNN last night. She said the faith-leaders in Kansas are very supportive of the limits she placed on religious gatherings. It is the GOP politicians, she said, that have a problem with her order.

I wouldn’t be surprised if these same legislators also invoke Romans 13 when they defend Donald Trump’s anti-Christian policies.

Don’t conservative Christian philosophers, political theorists, theologians, and legal scholars believe that civil rights are rooted in a Judeo-Christian understanding of human dignity? If this is true, then what do you do when the protection of these rights place the lives of other in jeopardy?

Trump Thought Kansas City Was in Kansas. Conservative Politico Matt Schlapp Backed Him Up

If you want to understand the state of Republican politics today, just read this tweet from Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union:

Schlapp is referring to Donald Trump’s post-Super Bowl tweet which said:

Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game, and a fantastic comeback, under immense pressure. You represented the Great State of Kansas and, in fact, the entire USA, so very well. Our Country is PROUD OF YOU!

The Kansas City Chiefs, of course, play in Kansas City, MISSOURI. Yes, there is a “Kansas City” in Kansas, but it is not where the Kansas City Chiefs play football.

Since then, Trump has changed the tweet:

Here is Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:

The substantive importance of the initial Trump error is extremely minor. It’s the sort of gaffe that, had a Democratic president committed it, would have supplied hundreds of hours of mocking Fox News programming about out-of-touch coastal elites. (George W. Bush’s reelection campaign was premised largely on John Kerry having mispronounced the name of Green Bay’s football stadium and ordering the wrong kind of cheese on his Philly cheesesteak sandwich.) But since Democrats have an overabundance of serious Trump vulnerabilities to exploit, nobody is going to spend much time on his confusion between the two different Kansas Cities.

The importance, rather, lies in the willingness of his supporters to defend Trump regardless. Trump has taken the long, deep tradition of anti-intellectualism running through the American right and elevated it to almost cultlike status. Trump has created a hierarchy in which loyalty is determined by willingness to defend even his most absurd lies. The dynamic has been on display throughout the Senate trial, where Republicans have vied for his favor by openly declaring their lack of interest in weighing factual evidence. The Trumpiest Republicans are those who will repeat even his most fantastical claims — that Trump never even asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, that Representative Adam Schiff “falsified” a transcript of Trump’s phone call when he paraphrased it, and so on.

For many of Trump’s policy actions, the cruelty is the point. But for some of his more trivial episodes, the stupidity is the point. The gleeful rejection of objective truth, throwing oneself fully into Trumpism, is a marker of tribal loyalty.

Trump obviously has no reason to credit Kansas rather than Missouri with hosting the Super Bowl champions. The point of defending it is to demonstrate that the Trump cult can create its own reality and needn’t make any concession to external truth.

Read the entire piece here.

24 Hours With Kansas History Educators

Kansas 3

This weekend (Sunday and Monday) I made my first visit to Wichita, Kansas.  The Kansas Council of History Education (KCHE) invited me to deliver the keynote address at their annual meeting.  It was held this year on the campus of Newman University.

My address was titled “History for a Democracy.”  I began the talk with three introductory premises:

  1. The current state of American democracy has once again proven that the nation’s founding fathers were right when they connected the strength of the American Republic with an education citizenry
  2. All K-12 teachers are public historians
  3. Our democracy needs public historians

I then spent some time discussing the debate over whether history educators should be teaching “knowledge” or “skills.” This is a debate that culture warriors, radio talk show hosts, politicians, and elected officials lose sleep over, but teachers know that the pundits and bureaucrats often understand very little about what happens in their history classrooms.  Good history teachers integrate facts and skills seamlessly in the history classroom through what we call “historical thinking.”

I concluded the talk with Flannery Burke and Thomas Andrew’s famous 5 “Cs” of historical thinking: change over time, context, causation, contingency, complexity.  I explored the ways these “Cs” are present, and not present, in our public discourse. We talked about:

  • A CNN discussion between Jeffrey Lord and Van Jones on the history of race and Democratic Party.
  • The way the SAT examines reading comprehension
  • Providential history
  • Whether there is really a right and wrong “side” of history
  • The story of the “Umbrella Man” as a way to think about causation
  • The 1619 Project

Thanks to Emily Williams and Nate McAlister of the KCHE for the invitation.  It was also good to see Dave McIntire and Diana Moss, alums of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History “Princeton Seminar” on colonial America.  And thanks to George Washington’s Mount Vernon for sponsoring the lecture.

Here are some pics:

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It was great to see Nathan McAlister, 2010 National History Teacher of the Year

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Great to catch-up with Diana Moss, a Princeton seminar alum who teaches history in Galena, Kansas

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Emily Williams (KCHE President) and Don Gifford of the Kansas State Department of Education

Democracy Cannot Thrive Amid Violence: A Lesson from Kansas

bleeding-kansasMichael Woods, a history professor at Marshall University and the author of Bleeding Kansas: Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border, reminds us that Americans must “reaffirm our dedication to democracy as a process” in the midst of this current election campaign.

Here is a taste of his Journal of the Civil War Era piece on “Bleeding Kansas.”

In our own superheated political climate, Bleeding Kansas might seem disturbingly familiar. Born out of disillusionment and desperation, the struggle in Kansas Territory bred a self-righteous refusal to accept the legitimacy of political rivals – and ultimately released a wave of violence. Whether they fought to protect property, preserve racial privilege, or promote an ideology, participants justified fraud, intimidation, and murder by demonizing their foes. History offers few clear-cut lessons, but it is apparent that democracy cannot thrive amid violence, hectoring, and intolerance. It is precisely when our confidence in “politics as usual” has been shaken that we must shun the temptation to take shortcuts to victory. It is precisely in the high-stakes elections, the ones we are most loath to lose, that we must reaffirm our dedication to democracy as a process. When the process breaks down, everyone loses.

Read the entire post here.

And see our Author’s Corner interview with Woods on his earlier book Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States.

What’s the Matter With Kansas?

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Kansas Populists, circa 1892-93

Last night we noted that Hillary Clinton actually has a shot of winning GOP stronghold South Carolina in November.   Today we hear similar news from Kansas, a state that last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1964.

Here is a taste of Bryan Lowry’s piece at The Wichita Eagle:

The Sunflower State hasn’t gone for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1964, but the latest KSN News Poll has Clinton within 5 percentage points of Republican Donald Trump.

Trump leads Clinton 44 percent to 39 percent in the poll of 566 likely voters, which was conducted by SurveyUSA between Aug. 3 and 7. That’s compared to the 11-point lead Trump had over Clinton in KSN’s July poll and Mitt Romney’s 22-point victory in the state in 2012.

Libertarian Gary Johnson attracted support from 8 percent of respondents, and another 9 percent are undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

The poll also shows that the bulk of Trump’s supporters in Kansas, 60 percent, say their vote is primarily a vote against Clinton, compared to 39 percent who say it is primarily a vote for the real estate mogul.

The overwhelming majority of Clinton’s supporters, 66 percent, say their vote is primarily a vote for the former U.S. secretary of state, compared to 31 percent who say their vote is primarily a vote against Trump.

Read the entire piece here.