Moderates forged a smarter, better Kansas

Liberal Democrats believe that with enough tax money, government can cure all ills and make the world just right. Very conservative Republi­cans, who control the party, believe that government is evil and it needs to be starved, shrunk and hated. They believe that if we cut taxes the wealthy will get wealthier and will create jobs for the “least of these” and all will be good.

In the middle are the hated moderates. Hated in recent years since the far-right Republicans have established a litmus test of purity in order to be a “real” Republican and not a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Further, the moderates, with all of their impurities, are being seriously targeted at the polls by large corporate dollars, evangelical dollars and foot soldiers.

Historically, the moderates of both parties have come together to make us a better, smarter and safer people. In Kansas, the leadership of moderates for nearly 100 years created: quality K-12 education; excellent universities; superb highways; a safety net for the poor, disabled and aged; support for local government; a balanced tax system that sought parity of taxation (1/3 property, 1/3 income, 1/3 sales); and government with respect and civility.

All has changed. Funding for K-12 education is being cut and the far right says we are spending too much on administration. But we cut administrative cost to the bone. They propose we should pay mothers to home-school children whether qualified to teach or not. They like school vouchers so parents can use taxpayer dollars to support their religious schools.

The far right says that higher education is only for the elite of our society. They forget that the GI Bill was one of the most important programs in America’s history and created the world’s greatest industrial and service economy. They want business to magically locate to Kansas, but they won’t pay for the required educated workforce that business needs.

For many years, funding for higher education has been reduced by the legislature. The middle class is being priced out of higher education in Kansas. Does anyone care?

Observers of Congress describe the atmosphere in Washington as “mean.” The Kansas Legislature is little better. But the reality is that we are getting the kind of government we deserve in Topeka and in Washington. In the all-important Republican primaries, moderates give the far right election victories by not voting.

An astute observer said that you can tell politicians because they always have a finger in the air.

They wet their finger to see which way the wind is blowing and then they follow. In order to change the conduct of politicians, we must “change the wind.”

People have changed the wind throughout our national and state history and it can be done again.

Notably, the historic issues in our nation such as slavery, women’s rights, voting rights, fair housing, public accommodations, environmental concerns, employment rights and many other human rights issues became law because people changed the wind. Universal health care is currently “blowing in the wind.”

In Kansas, if we want to reverse the failure of our government to support K-12 and higher education, we must change the wind.

If conservatives, independents, moderates and liberals really want change, they can make it happen. It will require strong leadership to mobilize parents (especially moms), teachers, students and thousands of caring people who believe we have followed the wrong course in Kansas and will change the wind.

It can be done, if we have the will to do it.

The effort must be enormous or the far-right ideologues will continue to destroy hope for our children’s future.

The question is: Do we really care?

by Dick Bond

Former Kansas Senate president

Dick Bond of Overland Park is a former Kansas senator, Senate president, Board of Regents chairman, congressional chief of staff, banker and Johnson County civic leader.