Richard Crowson: Confronting Fence Posts
Wichita. It ain’t Seattle. Or is it?
Recently I’ve found myself engaged in conversations with different friends about how it feels to be a progressive in an extremely conservative place like Wichita, Kansas. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I believe Wichita has a growing and thriving community of liberals. Some of us find it uncomfortable speaking out. I know that I have been in situations where a vociferous person of extreme conservative bent was loudly proclaiming insults to liberal and even moderate causes. I said nothing. And afterward I was consumed with guilt for quietly acquiescing to a viewpoint I deplored. People thank me for expressing my views in cartoons and commentaries, but I am sadly inconsistent in my private life.
Our perception is that we progressives are in the minority. Kansas has a famously long tradition of Republican dominance. Dyed-in-the-wool Democrats are known as “yellow dog Democrats” because they would vote for a yellow dog as long as it ran as a Democrat. But around here we have what I call “fence post Republicans.” They would and often do, vote for a fence post for public office as long as it ran as an ultraconservative Republican. There are currently many fence posts in the Kansas Legislature proving the point.
So liberals hold their tongues. But we are out here. And our numbers are growing. As the Republican Party moves further and further to the fringe conservative right, many more traditional Kassebaum-style Republicans find themselves classified as liberals. Welcome to the fold, folks. Here’s hoping you bring the Kansas tradition of Republican outspokenness to our group.
We have some fence posts that need confronting.