Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Take Back Kansas rallies bring board of education campaign out in the open

One of the oddest and nastiest problems with the Christian fundamentalists who grabbed control of the Kansas Board of Education is the fact that they don’t seem to believe in democracy. I call this odd because these can sometimes be the same folks who are screaming the loudest about patriotism and the sanctity of the flag.

Why does this matter to Kansas? Think: evolution slammed in the classroom and an unqualified ideologue hired to run the state’s education department.

Why does this matter to the rest of the United States? Think: evolution undermined and ideologues put in positions of power, and the importance for all of us to actually pay attention to what’s happening in our local campaigns.

Take a look at the case of Iris Van Meter, who has been one of the staunch ultra-conservatives on the Kansas board. As Red State Rabble puts it:
In 2002, Van Meter ran a stealth campaign. She made no public appearances but defeated incumbent moderate Val DeFever of Independence just the same.

"It's scary," said Val DeFever after the election. "Someone could never leave their living room, never meet the public, and win public office."
All candidates may try to avoid taking strong stands on issues, but failing to even appear is a new low. This has been a common pattern in Kansas as the ultra conservatives have taken over large chunks of the government. Although Van Meter has announced she isn’t running again in November, her son-in-law Brad Patzer is vying for her seat, so it pays to watch what’s happening.

Meanwhile, the MAINstream Coalition, Kansas Alliance for Education and Kansas Families United for Public Education have taken the somewhat “wild” approach of attempting to actually talk about issues. This caught the eye of the Hutchinson News editorial writers, who praised the coalition today.
Credit the coalition of groups organizing "Take Back Kansas" rallies around the state this spring for eschewing stealth campaign tactics.

Those involved have spelled out their serious concerns with radical decisions made by social conservatives serving on the Kansas Board of Education, recruited candidates who offer alternative ideas for voters to consider and made an open appeal for political support.

That's how the founders anticipated citizens would participate in our representative democracy - out in the open, willing to engage in an informed debate and focused on issues of public importance.
A Take Back Kansas rally is scheduled for 7 pm tomorrow in the Justice Theater at Hutchinson Community College's Shears Technology Center. A second rally is scheduled for later in the month in Johnson County. The editorial notes:
Office seekers who pursue a narrow agenda or plot to make highly controversial changes prefer to limit participation in elections. They attempt to communicate only to a loyal base of supporters and concentrate on voter turnout more than on voter enlightenment. Social conservatives rely on such stealth campaign tactics to win elections.
You can bet the fundamentalists are paying attention and know who to vote for. Do we?

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