Friday, February 03, 2006

The real red-state enemy is despair

It’s the end of the week, and I do believe that my brain went up in a puff of smoke earlier this afternoon as I wrestled with a particularly thorny problem at work. (Yes, I do have a job.)

But there’s been something niggling at the back of my mind for about a month now. Befuddled as I may be tonight, I’d like to continue a discussion I attempted to start in my first post on this blog. What I want to talk about is the real reason progressive and moderate ideas are being defeated out here in RedStateLand.

Let me know what you think. Am I crazy, or could I be right that there is, let’s say an enemy within that is undermining everything we try to do in Kansas?

The culprit isn’t the religious right, the ultra conservatives or the Republican Party. It’s not homophobia or short sidedness or even ignorance.

The real enemy, I think, is despair.

Are we so certain that the middle of the country is the fortress of the theocrat and the reactionary that we don’t even try to get our ideas across? Are we being beaten at the ballot box because we declare defeat before we even start to work? Are our national organizations so certain of defeat here that they don't provide us with any of the resources we need to win? If we don’t do the educational and organizing work, then how do we know how much progress we actually can make?

Frederick Clarkson over at Talk2Action has this to say.
Many Americans, regardless of their political orientation, seem genuinely baffled and obsessed about one or another factor in the rise to power of the Christian Right: they look to issues of funding, mass media, megachurches, dominionism, and so on. It is all of these and more. However, following the logic of Occam's Razor, that the best explanation is usually the simplest, I offer this: the Christian Right social movement, fueled by the growing influence of dominionist ideology, gained political influence because it was sufficiently well organized and willing to struggle for power. And now they are exercising it.

In other words, the religious right is on the rise because its members organized and are willing to fight. The dedication of their foot soldiers was well documented in Thomas Franks’ book "What’s The Matter With Kansas."

Here in the Sunflower State, it is easy to look at the results of recent elections and feel overwhelmed. I’m not denying that.

Last spring, for example, a ban on marriage or any kind of legal benefits for same-sex couples passed by an overwhelming 70 percent to 30 percent vote. Looking at that you would think the fight for fair laws for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Kansans is lost. But I don’t think it is. And I don’t think other moderate and progressive causes are lost, either.

I’m talking about the struggle for LGBT equality because I know that topic the best. But what I have to say is applicable to any other moderate or progressive cause.

The truth is that the constitutional ban would never have been on the ballot if there had been a slight change in the makeup of the Kansas Legislature. We defeated the proposal in the Legislature in 2004. We could have defeated it in Topeka again in 2005 if a few legislative seats had changed hands.

To do that, of course, you have to win elections.

Here’s the kicker, though. To win elections in Kansas, you don’t need much. You can win a seat in the House of Representatives with no more than about 4,900 votes, or sometimes less. The margin of victory can be as small as 300 votes or even 100. The margin in primary elections is even smaller.

What you have to do, though, is find people who are willing to give money (even a little makes a huge difference in Kansas). You need people to go door to door, to stuff envelopes and to work on getting out the vote.

I find it interesting that even though we lost badly in the amendment fight, we still registered “no” votes in every Kansas county. We also increased the size of the no vote in a very short period of time. In March, the anti-amendment organization, Kansans For Fairness, commissioned a poll that found that only 18 percent of the voters planned to vote against the ban.

One month later, we had increased the no vote by another 12 points. That happened in a short period of time and without large amounts of money. Our one TV commercial played on a cable channels at odd hours of the day. Imagine what would have happened if the campaign had lasted six months or a year. Imagine what would have happened if we had time to raise the money we needed to run a real education campaign in the state.

It’s true that in places like Stanton County in far west Kansas, only 62 people voted against the ban, but then again, only 471 people voted for it. Those figures aren’t typos. The total vote in that county was a whopping 533. What would have happened if we could have gotten our message out there?

Most of all, I want you to imagine what can happen now.

What if fair-minded Kansans who believe in the separation of church dedicated themselves to working all over the state?

What if people who believe in effective education gave up some weekends and evenings to defeat the anti-science members of the State Board of Education?

What if those of us who believe that people in need deserve our help decided to stuff envelopes and walk door to door for candidates who won't cut social service funding?

If we did all that, anything could happen.

The process of change is already starting. The Mainstream Coalition has made a fantastic start. Kansans from around the state are organizing to throw the reactionary members of the State Board of Education out of office.

This is only the beginning. The only thing that can stop us is ourselves.

To find a way to start your work, look at the Kansas Links in the right column of this blog, or check out Red State Rabble's Take Back Kansas Resource Guide.

No comments: